Headteacher Sue Warrington smiled when she read an article entitled The Google Approach in a recent issue of SecEd.
The story explained how a Cheshire school had drawn inspiration from Google’s habit of giving employees time during their working day to pursue projects they are curious about.
But as Ms Warrington told us, her school has its own very special Google approach – and it is having a remarkable impact on students.
Google is a five-year-old golden retriever who visits Chace Community School in Enfield, north London, once a month, attending assemblies, lessons and learning days.
The dog has been involved in a number of initiatives, from helping anxious year 7s settle into secondary school to engaging year 10s who are struggling with reading in an innovative canine-led literacy project. Google’s owner is Sandy Childs, a former PE teacher who is now outreach manager for the Secondary Behaviour Support Service at Enfield Council.
Ms Childs uses a variety of strategies to help youngsters in the area manage and change their behaviour, but Google is one of her most effective resources. She has had Google since he was 16-months-old and began taking him into schools three years ago. Google is a qualified assistance dog, trained to help the physically disabled. He is also an ambassador and demonstration dog for the charity Dog AID (Assistance in Disability) and always wears a smart red Dog AID jacket.
At Chace Community School the pair launched the Google Literacy Project. Initially trialled with a group of reluctant year 10 readers, the project challenged students to write stories about Google using diary extracts about the dog’s week. It proved so successful in boosting the pupils’ confidence and motivating them to read that it has since been adapted for different students with different needs.
“Our students are absolutely entranced and engaged,” said Ms Warrington. “Google is trained to work with youngsters and he is robust, yet very gentle. If he were a human we’d say that he has great emotional intelligence. He is very calm and students know that they have to behave like that too when they are around him.”
Ms Childs added: “He loves people and has a very positive influence on the children. The impact he has is immeasurable.” CAPTION: Friendly face: Chace Community School students with Google the golden retriever