Press release

Graduate proves dogs are a pupil’s best friend

Published on 21 June 2019

Well known for sniffing out crime and aiding the disabled, dogs might soon find themselves a spot in school, according to a Headteacher from a remote school in the Highlands who will graduate from the University of Dundee this week

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Miss Islean Gibson, Principal at Kinloch Rannoch Primary School, will graduate on Friday 21 June with a Masters in Leading Learning and Teaching.

She says her school’s recent study into the self-efficacy of students when surrounded by canine classmates shows marked improvement in both the academic skills and wellbeing of pupils, as well as the pups.

Working with two of her P7 pupils who will be named authors on her dissertation, the entire school of 22 children agreed upon a self-efficacy scale before they introduced the dogs into class. Several months later their results showed a significant spike in confidence, overall grades and happiness amongst pupils.

“We saw immediate improvements because of the introduction of the dogs,” said Islean.

“Pupils who were not in a good place emotionally would be given time with the dogs and they quickly became more positive in class. Likewise, when a student was struggling with maths, having one of the dogs sitting with them soon helped them relax and think about their problems in a new way.

“We were tremendously lucky that not one person in school had any sort of allergy or aversion to dogs, so what we’ve been able to show is that from nursery to P7, dogs are a great boost to morale and motivation in the classroom - something I would encourage other schools to look into.

“What also stood out for us was how all the dogs, no matter how old, really came to life in the classroom because, in turn, they were getting attention and affection in class. They could also sense things that we might not have noticed until much later. For example, they would make a beeline for a child whose blood sugars had begun to drop and let us know something was up.”

Inspired to return to University after taking a free distance learning module, Miss Gibson decided to pursue her Postgraduate Certificate in Leading, Learning and Teaching from the University of Dundee alongside her day job.

“Being part of this type of learning journey and being able to see that there is more to education than just school has been an eye-opener for everyone in the school community,” she added.

“I hope it inspires my pupils, my staff and their families to see you can come back to education at any time of your life and gain success. But most importantly this success comes from having such an amazing support network to learn with you, care for you and keep you going. It was only made possible by my school community and the amazing tutors at the University.”

Thousands of new graduates will cross the stage over the course of the University’s Summer Graduation this week, creating one of the major celebrations in the city’s calendar. Miss Gibson will graduate on Friday 21 June, surrounded by her family as well as her school and their canine classmates.


Press Office, University of Dundee
Story category Student work/achievement