Snowball effect...Pet guinea pig helps land school a ‘good’ report

Upton Primary School - School Council, Captains and Head Boy and Girl
Upton Primary School - School Council, Captains and Head Boy and Girl

A school’s guinea pig has been given a special mention in a report by education watchdog Ofsted.

Inspectors said much-loved pet ‘Snowball’ was helping children to be caring, following a visit to Upton Primary School last month.

Snowball

Snowball

They said: “Opportunities to look after Snowball, the school pet, inspire pupils to consider their actions and help them understand the importance of being calm and caring.”

Grading the school ‘good’ overall, a step up from its previous ‘requires improvement’ rank in 2015 and 2013, inspectors said pupils’ benefitted from good pastoral care.

Rebecca Chadwick, the school’s learning mentor said: “We got Snowball about a year ago to tie in with our ‘Star Room’, a calming and relaxing nurture room where meetings are held with parents and carers and where children can go if they are ill, hurt or upset.

“I suggested we get a guinea pig so that children had something in there to nurture. If they want to take him home for weekends and holidays they can, and in school they care for his everyday needs.

“He is such a placid, lovely little pet. The children talk to him and he sits on their knees and lets them stroke him. The whole school love him to bits.”

Mrs Chadwick said some children also get the opportunity to visit Mount Pleasant farm to meet and work with animals including goats, pigs and alpacas. She said: “It helps those who might be a bit shy or anxious, and it just gives children a different learning experience.

“It’s had a fantastic effect on the children and it’s really boosted their self-esteem. The children look forward to it.”

Inspectors, which ranked the school ‘good’ in all areas, said pupils made good progress, behaviour was good, standards had risen and effective safeguarding procedures were in place to ensure youngsters were safe. They praised the school’s approach to developing pupils’ vocabulary and building their enthusiasm for reading, with books including ‘Where, oh where is Paddington bear?’.

And they said pupils were keen to be role models, and expressed pride if they were nominated as house captains, school council representatives or head boy and girl.

They said: “The passionate yet relentless leadership of senior leaders, along with the full commitment of staff, has improved the school significantly since the last inspection.”

Inspectors said the school needed to give pupils more opportunities to learn about different faiths and cultures, and develop the quality of the curriculum, beyond English and maths, to improve further.

They also said the school should make sure staff leading group work could better identify if children needed challenging further or additional support.