2nd October 2020

Just a few days into the new school term, parents of pupils at Glendinning Academy are praising the positive impact of the school on their children - and everyone is loving Rory, the school’s trainee therapy dog.

Glendinning Academy, Wave’s new special free school for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has welcomed its first 54 pupils to their temporary home at Place House in Ashburton while the final works are completed on the permanent building in Newton Abbott.

Recognised as the most successful trust in the country for providing education for pupils who have been excluded from school, Wave also runs six academies based in Cornwall, four academies based in Devon and the Community and Hospital Education Service (CHES) & Torlands based across three centres in Devon and Cornwall. 

By 2023 Glendinning Academy will provide 120 new school places for children and young people between the ages of 7 and 19 who would benefit from a special school environment because of barriers to learning, which include sensory processing needs and anxiety.

“The first few days at our brand new school have gone incredibly well” said Glendinning Academy Principal Jackie Taylor.  “Everyone at Glendinning has worked hard to provide a warm and friendly ethos where pupils can feel secure, are encouraged to talk, are listened to and feel safe”.

Parents of the 54 new pupils certainly agree.  “Meeting the Glendinning Academy team prior to starting really put my son’s and my mind at ease. The staff have a kind and caring attitude towards the children which is a must for a setting like this. Seeing my son step off the transport after his first day with a massive smile on his face felt amazing. He couldn’t wait to tell me about his day and his new friends!” said one parent, while another added “My son has just started at Glendinning and what a positive start it has been. He has always been very shy and introverted but even after only a few days he’s already coming out of his shell. He’s made friends, shared his interests with classmates and teachers and worked independently, his confidence has grown massively and he looks forward to school each day, we look forward to what the future brings at Glendinning.”

 Other parents added “As a family we are so happy to be part of the Wave Trust and a parent at Glendinning Academy. It has been a long time since our son has come home smiling and positive about school but this is what we have every day when comes home. We feel that things have finally clicked into place for him and couldn’t be happier. Thank you to everyone at Glendinning Academy”; and the school has been much needed for so long! My son is eager to get to school in the mornings and is enjoying his day once there.  He has made new friends and can’t wait to move into the new building when it’s ready!”

Other comments included  “The school will be providing an environment for my son to be able to be educated without anxiety and upset,” “ I am so grateful that my child got a place at Glendinning and that the staff have such a positive approach towards learning without putting any pressure on the children” and “there is a clear working link between all staff regardless of status and role, enabling full support to be given to the pupils. Even after a short time, it is clear that there is an understanding and appreciation of our children and it is so refreshing as a parent not to have to fight to have their needs met”.

As well as Jackie and her team of teachers and support staff, there is another member of staff who appears to have already won the hearts of everyone at the school – trainee therapy dog Rory.

While many schools have a dog or other pet on site to help support pupils, Rory will be the first fully trained therapy dog at a Wave academy.

Now just over eight months old Rory, a Portuguese water dog, has been living with a local family while receiving therapy dog training from local company Bale’s Buddies.

“A school therapy dog helps support pupils, not only by offering wellbeing and companionship, but also by being a great tool for the teachers and staff” explained Andrea Keefe, from Bale’s Buddies.

At Bale’s Buddies we train the therapy dogs to respond to pupils’ needs.  Our dogs regularly greet the children at the school gate in the morning. Offering a child the opportunity to walk with the dog towards class is often enough to alleviate their anxiety, allowing for a calm start to the day.  The dog can also assist by providing emotional support on a 1:1 basis. If there are pupils who struggle with certain difficult transitions throughout the day, such as a noisy or busy playground, the dog can come to sit with them diverting the focus away from the disturbance and onto the dog.”

The therapy dogs are trained to recognise changes in a child’s behaviour and then to react – either by alerting an adult in the room or by interacting directly with the child.  “If a child is on the verge of becoming distressed, the dog can go up to the child and apply their weight onto the child, using their body as a sensory distraction” explained Andrea.  “Known as Deep Pressure Therapy, this will settle the child and diffuse the situation”.

Rory is currently being sponsored by Newton Abbot Rotary Club, who are meeting the costs of his first two years of training.  However the school also needs to raise money to ensure Rory’s on-going costs are met and would like to hear from any individual or company who are interested in supporting Rory.

Rory has already become a firm favourite with staff and pupils at Glendinning” said Bea Mukherjee, from Wave. “We have also seen the difference he can make to children who are struggling to cope in the classroom or in the playground”.

Rory has certainly won the heart of one new pupil at Glendinning.  “My daughter said it’s the best school ever and she loves Rory”  said one parent.  “She told me everyone is like me and I have a friend already and even I don't find talking hard to people scary.”

“We are incredibly grateful to members of the Newton Abbot Rotary Club for their generosity and to Bales Buddies Ltd for the fantastic training they are giving Rory” said Bea.  “We would love to hear from anyone who is interested in sponsoring him so please get in touch with the school by emailing glendinning@waveedu.org if you would like to find out how you can help”.

For further information about Glendinning Academy please visit the Wave Trust website www.wavemat.org/our-academies/glendinning-academy .

For more information about Newton Abbot Rotary Club please email martrcna@outlook.com  For details about Bales Buddies and the work of school therapy dogs please email enquiries@balesbuddies.org  or visit the Bales Buddies website : https://www.balesbuddies.org/school-therapy-dogs