The newest addition to St Joseph’s Primary School is not your average student — he’s golden and fluffy and very friendly.
But Banjo the therapy dog is taking his studies very seriously, especially his role as therapy dog and companion to students in need.
Labrador puppy Banjo, 15 weeks old, has recently arrived at the school through the Dogs Connect program and trainer Grant Shannon.
Principal Lucy Keath said Banjo’s presence was designed to support and encourage students.
‘‘Banjo will work with the children who might be struggling with their learning or socialising, they get to spend time with Banjo,’’ she said.
‘‘Or if they’re lonely in the yard, or upset, they can come and spend time with him.’’
Banjo would also assist with children who may be in trouble and help distract them from bad behaviour.
Mrs Keath said Banjo had already proved to be a hit, with students, families and the staff.
‘‘He’s only part-time at the moment, because he does get really tired,’’ she said.
‘‘Eventually he’ll get a timetable and he’ll spend time in all the year levels with all the classes, depending on the needs of the students.
‘‘He’s already had a positive impact on the students.
‘‘We believe if students are happy and safe, then learning will follow and Banjo will assist with that.’’
Mrs Keath said notes about Banjo had been sent home to parents, and if children were a little scared or unsure around dogs, they wouldn’t have to go near Banjo, but she hoped over time that the dog’s presence would help reduce their fear of dogs.
There are also strict rules about him being at the school.
‘‘He is a working dog, and he is here to do a job,’’ Mrs Keath said.
Student Lylah Shannon said she thought having Banjo at school was great and the students enjoyed having him around: although he did have some strange eating habits.
‘‘He eats everything,’’ Lylah said.
Banjo currently lives with deputy principal Sarah Iddles’ family and is having sleepovers at what will be her second home with Mrs Keath’s family.