Meet the classroom helpers enlisted at Blue Mountains Grammar School to support their students through the HSC.
Man’s best friend – in the form of two mini fox terriers called Tazzi and Titan – are part of the HSC plan at the Wentworth Falls grammar school, putting their best paw forward for the first time to calm the students before their major exams.
Learne Brischetto from PAWS Pet Therapy said they were “helping relax” the students and the teachers, calling it a bit of “thinking outside the box” by the school.
“It’s been greatly received by students and staff,” Mrs Brischetto said, whose son Dominic is doing his HSC there and initially suggested the idea.
“We [PAWS Pet Therapy] had just been at the universities participating in their Mental Health week promotion. Megan Hastie, [the school’s] deputy head thought it was a wonderful idea.”
Dogs aren’t normally allowed at the school but Mrs Hastie said they would now love to “integrate them into the senior school program … there’s such a lot of anxiety out there with kids”.
The dogs spent an hour with the children before the first HSC English exam and backed up again for the second English exam, then maths a week later.
“We thought we’d do the major [exams] the ones which cause the most stress and anxiety. The kids were so excited to be patting the dogs. The teaching staff enjoyed the experience just as much,” Mrs Brischetto said.
“To see the kids smiling and laughing just before the biggest exam period of their high school life was so rewarding and proof at how the dogs can calm and relax people under stressful and sometime difficult situations.
School captain Eleni Vergotis said it was a “brilliant idea”.
“For a moment it took your mind away from this really stressful moment. It put it into perspective that everything is going to be okay.”
Mrs Brischetto also volunteers her dogs in primary school and at Bucklands Nursing Home.
“The dogs love it.I can’t put my uniform on until I’m about to leave as they get so excited to go on the visits.
Paws Pet Therapy is a not-for-profit group. The group also has a program in schools – at Ellison Public and soon at Mt Riverview Primary School – called Paws’n’Tales, which helps with social interactions. It is open to any primary school in the Mountains and sponsored by Andrew Reeves from One Agency Reeves.
Paws has 50 volunteers state-wide but would like to recruit more in the Mountains and Penrith area. Volunteers use their own dogs who are trained in the program.
“We currently have three teams in the Mountains and two teams about to start in Penrith. You only need to be available a minimum of one hour per month which covers one visit or as much as you like.” Call Sharon Stewart on 0418 869 181.