CBBC Newsround reports on Oaklands School’s visit by the Dinky Ponies, June 2024

Oaklands School, located in Charnham Park in Hungerford, is going to be featured on the CBBC TV programme, Newsround, when it reports on the benefits of therapy animals visiting children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in schools.

The school, which opened in September 2023, is a co-educational, independent Special Educational Needs (SEN) day school. It provides specialist support for pupils with unique learning profiles including autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and associated communication and language needs, as well as social, emotional and mental health needs.

Swindon based Sarah Woodland regularly brings her miniature Shetland ponies, known as the Dinky Ponies, into school so the pupils can interact with them by stroking and grooming them and decorating their manes with colourful bows.

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience the world differently, which means they often struggle with day-to-day activities. Studies have shown that interacting with animals (animal therapy) can help autistic children with their social and emotional development and can have a positive impact on their wellbeing. Some of the benefits include:

  • Helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Helping to improve social skills.
  • Helping with language development and communication skills.
  • Teaching children about empathy and how to care for something.
  • Giving a sense of responsibility and pride.

The visit Sarah and her Dinky Ponies made to school on Tuesday 4 June was extra special as it was filmed by the crew from the popular CBBC show, Newsround. The Newsround crew spent several hours filming the children interacting with the ponies around the school and reporter, Nina Blissett, interviewed several students, including Jamie (Year 9) and Nicole (Year 3).

Oaklands School Acting Headteacher, Georgios Chatzakis, said:We are thrilled to have Sarah Woodland and her Dinky Ponies visit our school regularly. The joy and therapeutic benefits they bring to our pupils are truly remarkable. Interacting with the ponies helps our pupils develop essential social and emotional skills in a unique and engaging way. The positive impact on their wellbeing has been significant, which is why we have made these visits a regular part of our programme. Each visit is a memorable experience for everyone involved.’

“I love taking the ponies on regular visits to schools,” Dinky Ponies owner, Sarah Woodland, said. “It allows me to witness the improvement first hand that the children show when dealing with the ponies. The rapport they build with me and the ponies, and the happiness it brings, really is very special. Some children feel very anxious and worried about meeting and dealing with the ponies on our first visit. But even after only a few meetings it’s very clear how confident and relaxed they have become working with the ponies, which is fabulous to see.”

The Newsround report featuring Oaklands School and its visit by the Dinky Ponies is due to be aired on CBBC on Monday 24 June (information correct at the time of writing). You can also catch up on www.bbc.co.uk/newsround or on the BBC iPlayer.

To find out more about Oaklands School please visit www.oaklands-school.co.uk, call 01488 757367 or email info@oaklands-school.co.uk

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