The Westie who sent watchdog barking mad

11th December 2009 at 00:00
Ruff justice for "well socialised" school pooch that Ofsted demanded must be risk-assessed

Original paper headline: Meet Rosie, the 11-year-old Westie who sent watchdog barking mad

An ofsted inspector has ordered a private school to carry out a risk assessment on the headteacher's small dog.

Rosie, an 11-year-old West Highland Terrier, is allowed to wander the corridors of The New School in Exminster, Devon, where she is popular with pupils.

But her presence was noted by an inspector who paid a surprise visit in February. A report on a follow-up inspection, carried out last month, stated that the school had been "required to conduct risk assessments relating to the safety of the premises and the presence of a pet dog".

Michelle Taylor, the school's head, found Rosie 18 months ago at a rescue home for West Highland Terriers. After checking that she was safe with children, and trialling another terrier at the school, she introduced Rosie to the pupils, who range in age from three to seven.

"She potters about the school - she's the most docile animal you've seen in your life," Miss Taylor said. "I can see her right now, looking out the window for squirrels.

"I wanted the school to feel more like a home, and I'd always wanted a Westie. The children love her, and they give her a hug if they're upset."

Miss Taylor, a former inspector with the Independent Schools Inspectorate, said she had been perplexed that the first Ofsted inspector was so concerned about the dog. "I couldn't believe it, to be honest," she said. "Occasionally she will go to the toilet, but the children tell us and we clean it up."

Luckily for the terrier, the second inspector was more positive about her contribution to the school. "This elderly small dog appears well socialised and pupils respond to it readily when it ventures away from the headteacher's office," his report states.

"A risk assessment has been undertaken and pupils have been instructed to wash their hands after handling or stroking the dog. Some pupils were noted doing this. No concerns have been expressed by parents."

The original inspector had also demanded to see the school conduct risk assessments on a range of its activities, including its speech and drama classes and its French club.

The New School, which has just 47 pupils and charges annual fees of pound;4,665, was judged to provide an outstanding education when inspectors carried out a full inspection in 2007.

Its unusual inspection report was brought to the attention of The TES by a reader, in response to a piece about Ofsted in last week's paper by weekly columnist Mike Kent, headteacher of Comber Grove Primary in Camberwell, south London.

Mr Kent said: "First we had inspectors complaining when fences are a little low - presumably giving unsavoury characters the opportunity to reach into the playground. Then they were concerned about the height of school door handles. Now it's an elderly school dog. Really, you couldn't make it up."

An Ofsted spokesperson said: "As an independent school, Ofsted inspects it at the request of the Department for Children, Schools and Families to check that it has met the appropriate regulations, which are listed on the Ofsted website.

"Between the inspection and the progress monitoring visit, Ofsted made a further visit, at the request of the DCSF, to follow up a complaint concerning health and safety of the children owing to poor repair of the building and the presence of a dog."


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