Extract from The Estyn Inspection Report for Cardiff High School March 2019
'Care, Support and Guidance' page 8 of report.
There is extensive and highly effective individualised support for vulnerable pupils.
Access to programmes to develop social and emotional skills, the nurture centre and the imaginative use of therapeutic animal assisted activities, where pupils interact with a ‘therapy dog’ to relieve anxiety enable these pupils to thrive, and develop their self-confidence and self-esteem. This is a particular strength of the school.
Letter of Endorsement from Adamsdown Primary School
As a school we were looking to explore the impact of using a dog to build relationships with children exhibiting difficulties with expressing their feelings. Since our work began with Therapeutic Activities Group we have seen the sessions impact in a positive way immediately.
Children who struggle to regulate their emotions have been observed to display improved communication skills and have gained a great deal from the experience of building positive relationships with the trainers and dog. Regular feedback is provided so we can track the children's emotional development.
Not only do individual children benefit, but the whole school community has also enjoyed having Sam and Trixie on site. Trixie is a well-behaved dog who has brought a great deal of happiness and fun to Adamsdown Primary School.
Letter of Endorsement From Whitchurch High School (Mainstream)
.........The Baxter Project is an excellent way to allow pupils to talk the background potentially behind some of these behaviours and eventually on how to more forward through making better choices.
As a school we have seen an improvement with those pupils engaging with the program, both in terms of general behaviour and their wellbeing. Pupil feedback has also been positive, highlighting that the sessions are an aid in improving their conduct in school as well as the ease with which they have built a relationship with Dave and his team.
The Baxter Project is a great intervention and very easy to work with, being very flexible and understanding to the school's needs. In addition to this, the formalised feedback on the development of the pupils as they progress through the sessions has been excellent.
I would recommend The Baxter Project for mainstream provision and am confident that Dave and his team would be an asset to your existing support network for pupils.
Letter of Endorsement From Whitchurch High School (SRB)
It is my pleasure to recommend The Baxter Project.
The project has been active in Whitchurch High School for a year and the results have been remarkable. The pupils the project work with are particularly challenging or vulnerable. Some of the pupils that engage with the programme have significant barriers to learning and managing their emotions. We are seeing tangible improvements in confidence, engagement and attendance, as well as a reduction in aggression, impulsive outbursts and low-level disruption. Pupils are getting involved in discussions, answering questions or expressing opinions and lessons overall have become more dynamic and enjoyable for all involved.....
....We at Whitchurch High School pride ourselves on our commitment to pupil wellbeing and The Baxter Project embodies this commitment. We are delighted with the progress that has been made and as such we would highly recommend the service to any institution that works with young people.
Letter of Endorsement From Cardiff West CHS
Dave O’Driscoll and his dog Baxter have been a regular feature at Cardiff West Community High School since May 2019. We would highly recommend this service to anyone who works with young people that have experienced trauma.
Dave and Baxter meet individually with pupils for a one hour walk on a bi-weekly basis. The pupils they work with display a range of complex behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. Dave has very quickly developed positive relationships with these pupils and they really look forward to their time with him. There is a clear level of trust, particularly between him and the pupils he has worked with over a longer period. Many of them have felt able to offload concerns and worries that we believe they otherwise would not have discussed.
Dave himself is punctual, friendly and approachable. He adapts to any unforeseen changes and copes brilliantly in a busy school environment with lots of challenges. He really embodies our inclusive school ethos.
It is for the reasons stated above that I would not hesitate in recommending this service to others.
Letter of Endorsement from Cardiff High School
Since joining us in October of 2018, Dave and his animal assisted therapy work has proved to be an incredibly positive asset to the school.
Having come from a background of youth work, Dave is able to work confidently with pupils of all ages and abilities, irrespective of their often complex issues.
For many of our young people, having the opportunity to receive therapeutic support outside of the classroom, with an adult who is not linked to the academic side of the school is very well received.
We have worked with Dave to track and monitor our learners as they participate in the programme, and have been delighted by the positive impact it has had in a number of ways, including raising self-esteem, managing anger and combatting school phobia.
Our recent Estyn report (2019) highlighted the school’s “extensive and highly effective individualised support for vulnerable pupils”, and made specific reference to “the imaginative use of therapeutic animal assisted activities”.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this programme to any school and fully endorse the positive impact that this has on vulnerable young adults at a crucial time in their lives.
Letter of Endorsement from The Court School
"The Court School is a specialist provision for complex and vulnerable pupils who have a statement for Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD). The impact of the work has been very positive. Dave and the dogs generally work with our most challenging pupils. All of the selected pupils have responded incredibly well to the intervention. They are all keen to engage and have all developed excellent working relationships with Dave and the dogs. The pupils trust Dave and important therapeutic conversations/discussions take place whilst they are out 'walking the dogs'. Dave differentiates his approaches to ensure all pupils get the best out of their allocated session. In particular we have observed an improvement in relation to confidence and self-esteem and in many cases attendance at school has improved and the use of positive handling to regulate behaviour has reduced....
....We are delighted to have Dave, Baxter and Trixie working with us at the Court School and would recommend 'Therapeutic Animal Assisted Activities' unconditionally to any school/provision that prioritises the wellbeing of their pupils."
Letter of Endorsement from Pontypridd High School SEBD unit
"It is my great pleasure to endorse the work of David O'Driscoll and Look Who's Walking. He has worked with the pupils in the SEBD Local Authority provision within our school, building up strong relationships with them.
Our pupils face huge challenges, developing relationships and boundaries. Dave has quickly made connections with the young peopled they look forward to working with him and Baxter the dog. For each individual, one hour session, the pupils return positive, happy and fully involved. Even our most withdrawn pupils have engaged with the project.
Dave's expertise, professionalism and patience with the pupils is paying dividends and I would highly recommend him to organisations who work with challenging children.
Thank you Dave for your excellent service."
Letter of Endorsement from Woodlands High School
"Our school began working with David O’Driscoll in September 2018. We have been impressed with both his professional attitude as well as his commitment to delivering a high quality service for our school.
David works with pupils who have experienced trauma in their lives; going out one a fortnight for an hour long walk with his dog, Baxter.
David very quickly established good relationships with the pupils and they love going out with him each week. It is too soon to evaluate the impact of the sessions but early indications are that the service he provides has a positive impact on our pupils’ wellbeing.
David provides us with thorough interim reports at the end of each half term and we look forward to working with him again this term.
David is punctual and reliable and I have no hesitation in recommending him and his service."
Extract from Cardiff High School Governors' Report 2018/19
Wellbeing Update Presented by Mrs A Yarrow, Deputy Headteacher
As the school cohort continues to grow and the number of pupils with a range of additional learning needs and mental health issues increase year on year, we remain relentless in our pursuit of additional effective strategies to support our vulnerable learners. We pride ourselves in our unique and comprehensive approach to supporting pupil wellbeing but are always keen to explore new initiatives. To this end, we have been particularly pleased with the appointment of an Animal Assisted Therapist. Dave O’Driscoll began working with us in January 2019. To date he has provided therapy to 25 of our very vulnerable pupils. The impact that this has had has been incredibly positive. This includes improved attendance, improved behaviour and a significant change in confidence for specific pupils. As a result of the success of the therapy, the Local Authority have agreed to our request for additional funding to access the Animal Assisted Therapy for an additional day per week in the spring term. This will allow us to offer the support to an additional 5 pupils per week.
"Dave and Baxter have been working with pupils from our school for half a term and we can see the difference they make. We have pupils who present challenging behaviour who have had varied experiences in life. After three sessions we saw quiet and reserved pupils open up to Dave and Baxter. Dave’s calm manner and allowing children to have an opportunity out and about with Baxter has helped pupils communicate in full sentences when they often don’t usually. We’re looking forward to having them back next year to continue their work."
"Dave and Baxter have been working with us for approximately half a term on a trial basis. The pupils with whom we work have complex and significant barriers to learning and many have experienced a significant amount of trauma in their lives. Dave and Baxter have worked closely with these children and have very quickly developed excellent therapeutic relationships that have resulted in the ‘opening up’ and building rapport and trust through Baxter the dog. The trial has certainly worked and I am delighted that Dave and Baxter will be returning to work with us in September on a long-term basis. Thank you Dave and Baxter and we look forward to building on the outstanding work you are undertaking with our pupils – have a nice summer!"