Molly is a Kelpie who belongs to the staff and students at Springfield Central State High School.
She is very social and knows how to work a room.
The moment Molly enters a classroom or staff room, she lifts the mood, often provoking laughter and smiles.
Head of Special Education Services Karen McLaren (pictured) is Molly’s handler.
“It’s not just the kids she has had an immediate impact on but the staff as well,” she said.
“There is a lot of research into the benefits of therapy dogs in other settings but not so much specific to schools. The research I had read really gave me a lot of hope for a positive impact a dog could have in a school setting.
“Our school is growing so much, the stress on kids at exam time and in general, something had to change. We needed something extra, I thought it was worth giving a therapy dog a go. She has just been brilliant, the kids love her.”
Before Molly enters a classroom for the first time, Ms McLaren gives the students a talk about behaviour expectations when Molly is working and how she can help them and their teacher.
“The feedback from different classes is that the children become more focused by increasing the student’s motivation for learning and decreasing their anxiety,” she said.
“Molly is free to roam around the classroom and sit with whoever she wants to. She is also really affectionate.”
Ms McLaren had initially thought she would be best suited to special needs children but Molly’s reach is much wider than that.
“We recently walked in to a classroom that was more challenging than normal. The regular teacher was away, it was the end of the day and we were met with a flying rubber band when we came to the door. The students were being noisy and not listening to the teacher. Molly took over the class and after five minutes the room settled. The students became focused and the teacher was visibly less stressed,” she said.
“That’s Molly’s job and she is perfect in this role.”