Muntham House School has an amazing Animal Support facility that provides pupils with a safe environment in which to experience animal support and have the opportunity to spend time, outdoors with a range of animals. Our school animals include chickens, pygmy goats, kune kune pigs and Mediterranean miniature donkeys, all of which are cared for by our children on a daily basis and are a valuable part of our community.
Some pupils may have real challenges with attention, forming relationships and trust. They may struggle to communicate and to form bonds with either their peers or with the adults around them, or have limited life experiences or unsettled and chaotic home lives. Some may be looked after, maybe aggressive or experience behaviour that is challenging for them and those around them.
Having animals in school to support children with this level of complexity has a multi-faceted role to play not just therapeutically, but also educationally, socially, and emotionally – The animals are a non-judgemental friend in what could be a really challenging environment for some children. It has been proven that stroking a pet can reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase oxytocin, our feel-good hormone levels.
Spending time with the animals allows pupils the opportunity to maintain self-control of their emotions and actions. Where they may struggle to empathise with people, they empathise with the animals and try hard not to upset them. They understand more easily the impact of their actions on an animal, which in turn helps them learn about empathy for each other.
Our animals can be a really good way to re-engage a reluctant learner or someone who has been out of school for a long time. They might not be interested in ‘learning’ but there’s lots of teaching and learning that can come from simply just observing and spending time with the animals.
From an educational perspective, having animals within the school not only supports curriculum learning in academic subjects including science and animal care, but it can also support vocational learning.
The school is surrounded by beautiful grounds, woodland, and a small village, the children learn to oversee the full care of the animals at school and enjoy spending time walking the animals around the grounds, to the village shop and experiencing a very calming, relaxing alternative session to their usual day in school.
We work together in stable management, looking after the animal pens and all the tasks involved with fully looking after and caring for the animals. Our school animals offer the children companionship and purpose but more importantly, it remains an amazing tool for enhancing social relationships and emotional resilience whilst being in the presence of some very friendly and calming animals.
DfE No. 938/7003 Charity No. 1105085 Registered Office: Barns Green, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 0NJ