Feature: Animal therapy helping pupils at special needs school in Redbourn

PUBLISHED: 09:52 01 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:52 01 March 2019

Matt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, brings in his golden labrador, Maple. Picture: Esther Harbord

Matt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, brings in his golden labrador, Maple. Picture: Esther Harbord

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A special needs school in Redbourn has been adopting a variety of animals as therapy for their pupils. Esther Harbord visited the school to find out all about it.

Matt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, brings in his golden labrador, Maple. Picture: Esther HarbordMatt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, brings in his golden labrador, Maple. Picture: Esther Harbord

Recently I paid a visit to St Luke’s in Redbourn, a school for children with special educational needs, to meet the students and staff and to find out about all the animals they have and why they have them.

The animals include donkeys, sheep, a budgie, a chameleon, lizards and Joe the parrot.

They help the students learn practical skills such as handling, communication, and care, as well as creating a calm and supportive environment.

Matt Colley, the school’s animal care teacher, has been working hard during his nine years at St Luke’s to develop the diversity of the animals.

Matt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, with a hedgehog. Picture: Esther HarbordMatt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, with a hedgehog. Picture: Esther Harbord

He is in the process of learning more about Animal Therapy and how it can be incorporated into teaching and learning at the school, which the staff say has been hugely beneficial for the children over the years.

Matt brings in his own golden labrador, Maple, a happy, friendly dog who is much loved by all. Teachers can request her in their lessons, or for a specific pupil.

She helps relieve stresses and contributes to a calm and safe environment.

The school is currently in the process of developing their knowledge and use of ‘Animal Assisted Therapy’. They are working with Middlesex University, whose aim is to promote the use of this type of therapy and gain more support for this work from the NHS.

Joe the parrot at St Luke's School in Redbourn. Picture: Esther HarbordJoe the parrot at St Luke's School in Redbourn. Picture: Esther Harbord

Matt said: “Here at St Luke’s we believe in the therapeutic benefits of engaging with animals.

“Supported by Middlesex University we are working hard to maximise the benefits that animal therapy can bring our children, reducing stress and providing comfort to those that need it.”

The school is a delightful place to be; vibrant yet also tranquil.

It is evident that the use of animals in the school has been hugely positive to the students and is continuing to grow.

Matt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, with a lizard. Picture: Esther HarbordMatt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, with a lizard. Picture: Esther Harbord

Maple is dearly loved and she is an asset to the school. The dedication of the teachers and Matt is inspiring, the students are happy and the future of the school looks bright.

Matt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, brings in his golden labrador, Maple. Picture: Esther HarbordMatt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, brings in his golden labrador, Maple. Picture: Esther Harbord

St Luke's School keep a hedgehog as animal therapy for its pupils. Picture: Esther HarbordSt Luke's School keep a hedgehog as animal therapy for its pupils. Picture: Esther Harbord

St Luke's School keep a variety of animals to use as therapy for the pupils. Picture: Esther HarbordSt Luke's School keep a variety of animals to use as therapy for the pupils. Picture: Esther Harbord

Matt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, brings in his golden labrador, Maple. Picture: Submitted by Esther HarbordMatt Colley, animal care teacher at St Luke's School in Redbourn, brings in his golden labrador, Maple. Picture: Submitted by Esther Harbord

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