Pedro and Pablo go top of the class at Clapgate Primary as school goats help pupils after lockdown

A school in Belle Isle is taking its learning outside as it returns after lockdown - with the help of two furry classmates.

By Emma Ryan
Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 4:45 am

Pedro and Pablo, the Pygmy goats, have joined the registers at Clapgate Primary School in Belle Isle and, as well as forming part of the school curriculum, they are playing an integral part in improving behaviour and helping challenging pupils as youngsters come out of the other side of lockdowns, closed classrooms and online learning.

The main idea behind getting the goats was another way of getting children outside and teaching them about caring for and looking after animals, responsibility and to give them life experiences that they may be missing out on outside of school.

The goats, who are three months and five months old, were paired together because they had no siblings and came from a farm in Harrogate. They live permanently at the school in their own specially designed and built pen area.

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Pupils at Clapgate Primary School,with the school goats Pablo and Pedro.

Deputy headteacher, Heather Taylor said: "We have done all kinds of research into what kind of thing can help children after lockdown. A lot have been stuck inside and we wanted a new way of getting them outside and giving them a bit of responsibility and ownership of looking after animals. We have a school dog but wanted something they could take complete ownership of, decided upon goats and brought them back on the school minibus which was an adventure in itself."

Before Pedro and Pablo arrived at school the children worked on designing the pen and what they would need in it, such as storage bins, and an animal care after school club runs on Tuesday nights where members can learn more in depth about diet and nutrition for animals as well as treating injuries.

They have been working with the school gardener to plant foods that goats can eat and there are two children employed as full time goat keepers. At weekends and in school holidays, the staff take it in turns to visit the goats and feed, water and even walk them - which is one of their favourite activities.

Ms Taylor added: "One of the best parts of the school day is at 12.30pm and the goats go for a walk. The children are playing and they go out on their lead. They love going for walks but not going back in. They have got hilarious personalities and make the kids laugh because they do all sorts of funny things. They are really friendly and sit on their knees for cuddles, but they do nibble clothes and we have had a few holes in t-shirts.

Learning how to care for the goats is part of school lessons and an after school club.

"But you go out there and there are children, the goats, the school dog and chickens. It is lovely to see and is an experience they might not have otherwise. We wanted to create something unique about our school."

Pedro and Pablo are also encouraging a few budding vets amongst the pupils while others are enjoying the memories they are making.

Tily Whitaker, 10, in year 5 said: "Looking after our lovely goats keeps me active and healthy. Caring for them has helped prepare me for the future because I've realised that I want to work with animals. I understand the responsibilities and love looking after them."

Mija Briedyte, also aged 10, added: "There's so much to do outside at our school. Learning is always exciting because our teachers give us the best experiences. I love the campfire, roasting marshmallows and creating happy memories."

Pupils with Rufus the school dog.

The goats are also helping manage any challenging behaviour, which may have been exacerbated by the lockdown disruption, and staff say the difference that Pedro and Pablo have made has been "a revelation".

In addition to the goats, Clapgate has been developing areas within the school grounds to create an allotment, bug hotels and places where pupils can explore, light camp-fires and learn about the outside world - again with surprising results.

Ms Taylor said: "Outdoors has been massively shown to improve children's mental health and in the first place, where we are, children might not get the same opportunity and we want to give them as much as they can have.

"We found being outside, it encourages team-work, talking to each other and discovering things. Different children find it difficult in a classroom but when you take their learning outside, it opens up a whole new world. It gives more freedom and encourages them to take risks in a safe environment, use their imagination to think about how to use the outside and learn from it. It encourages resilience, independence and we have children that can solve problems, make decisions and lead groups. It is making a big difference."

Pupils toast marshmallows over the outside fire pit.