Beautiful Bertha Gives Paws For Thought!

Potteries Educational Trust Academy, Biddulph High School have enlisted the help of Labradoodle Bertha to become the school’s resident dog. Bertha has been specially trained to help improve student attendance and to reduce stress and anxiety. PET academies will soon be able to benefit from this initiative and book Bertha to come and visit them.

Bertha first became a regular resident at Biddulph High School from the tender age of four months old and it was soon realised how important her role was. Bertha has helped to encourage and improve the attendance of a Year 9 pupil who was struggling to be present for almost a year. The student initially would come in to visit Bertha for a few hours and eventually over time their timetable has increased.

Bertha also brings comfort to students with medical conditions who suffer with chronic pain. She will sit and enjoy gentle strokes knowing not to jump up and push to avoid causing pain. This provides students with distraction, calm and joy. She is a great emotional coach who can pick up if a student is angry or upset. Bertha will walk with them to help them through their feelings. Student Summer, Year 10 commented “I can walk her even though my dog isn’t with us anymore, I have Bertha at school to love”

From sixth months old Bertha increased her school visits to twice weekly, where she has spent time with SEND students at lunchtime. She will fill them with confidence as they stroke, walk and talk to her. Now that she is a little older, Bertha is developing her skills to pick up litter, find classrooms and teach students to throw the ball and bring it back. Bertha’s key worker and Teaching Assistant, Ann Rushton says “Bertha is so clever, she goes from gate duty to picking up litter, finding different classrooms, going into lessons and playing fetch. We are incredibly lucky to have beautiful Bertha in our school. The joy on the students’ faces when they see Bertha arrive in their class is so rewarding”.

Bertha is now so popular that she has her own timetable and teachers have to book her. Her first job of the day is ‘gate duty’ where she is greeted with an abundance of smiles and comments. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bertha has continued her regular visits to school to help the vulnerable and students of key workers through their anxieties during this uncertain time. Student James, Year 9 says “oh, I can give her a cuddle because she makes me feel better about everything”

Academies involved in the Potteries Educational Trust have also shown an interest in Bertha visiting them. We have no doubt that she will continue to help many students at Biddulph High School and those members of Potteries Educational Trust for many years to come.