One afternoon a week, the pupils at one Banbury Primary school receive a special visit from a four-legged friend whose sole purpose is to make them feel happier.

Lily, a beautiful fox-red labrador, visits Dashwood Academy where students have the opportunity to sit and talk to her.

She is the first dog to attend the academy and belongs to year 5 teacher Blythe Williams who is also head of wellbeing at the school. She welcomed Lily into her home when she was just 16 weeks old and spent months training her and also ensured she completed the Good Citizen award for dogs with flying colours. Run by the prestigious Kennel Club it means Lily is safe to mingle with the children.

Miss Williams decided Lily would be perfect to boost levels of joy at the school having grown up with a labrador. She has also spent time studying about the positive impact dogs can have in schools.

Student Marley Jeffrey eagerly awaits Lily’s arrival and enjoys greeting her.

She explained to the Banbury Guardian: ‘’Lily’s purpose is to bring happiness and joy to the pupils whether it’s social, emotional or learning needs. One afternoon a week we will see a specific group of students who need nurture time. They will sit and talk to Lily about any worries that they have and they seem to find it calming.’’

Lily first arrived at the school at the end of September and the children now adore her with many drawing pictures for her or will eagerly wait by a window to catch a glimpse of her arriving.

Miss Williams said the ultimate goal for Lily will be to become a reading dog. They are now used in a number of schools across the country to help boost the confidence of children as they practise their words. She said: ‘’If children are reading to a dog they don’t feel they are being judged and this can help a great deal in making them feel more comfortable with the words in front of them.’’

Year 5 students at Dashwood with Lily and Miss Williams

Other measures in place to boost wellbeing at Dashwood include working with mental health charity Place2Be which has Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, as its patron.

A working party was set up between Place2Be and Dashwood prior to lockdown, with the charity helping the school with strategies and methods proven to help children feel calm in classrooms.