Bruno the dog boosts pupils’ reading skills and gives Ofsted inspectors ‘paws for thought’

Cockfield got a 'Good' Ofsted report with help from Bruno the dog who the pupils read to''Pictured: Bruno enjoying the reading session along with Charlie James, Sophie Miles, Dick Bayes (Bruno's owner) and Liam Cox ANL-150720-114256009

Cockfield got a 'Good' Ofsted report with help from Bruno the dog who the pupils read to''Pictured: Bruno enjoying the reading session along with Charlie James, Sophie Miles, Dick Bayes (Bruno's owner) and Liam Cox ANL-150720-114256009

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The chance for pupils to read to a dog to boost confidence are among the varied initiatives which have propelled a village school to a ‘good’ Ofsted rating.

Cockfield Primary School, which was rated as ‘requires improvement’ two years ago, has been praised for providing an ‘exciting and varied curriculum enriched by many educational visits and special events’.

Inspectors said headteacher Trudie Harkin, who started in September 2013 - two months after the last inspection, has brought about ‘improvements in the quality of teaching and is systematically raising pupils’ achievement’.

One initiative highlighted in the report is the chance for pupils to read to Bruno the chocolate labrador, who belongs to school governor Dick Bayes, to improve their skills and confidence.

Mrs Harkin said: “I was aware dogs can bring that calming influence. I had some children I was teaching who lacked confidence reading aloud in a class setting and to develop that expression and fluency by reading to the dog, they felt less pressure.

“They’ve responded really well and the inspectorate picked up on that.”

Inspectors said Mrs Harkin has ‘successfully put in place many essential systems that were lacking at the time of the last inspection and has brought the school to a position where it is well placed to improve further’.

On how improvements were made, she said she redesigned the school team and made use of the county council’s Raising the Bar programme with ‘fantastic’ support from the governing body.

She also ensured the curriculum was relevant to the school - making use of their rural setting as well as engaging with the community.

“Obviously we don’t do things just for Ofsted, we do it because that’s what our children deserve,” Mrs Harkin said.

“We were all on a journey really in having to improve ourselves. It’s great that so many good points were highlighted in the report and there were some things we can build on quite quickly and we were close to outstanding in some areas. We will keep on going - we have three new teachers arriving in September and our team is going from strength to strength.”

She thanked the governing body, staff and senior teacher Jane Vickerton, who is leaving the school as her husband has got a job in Europe.