We have appointed a new Head of Wellbeing at St Wystan’s School. He is about 7cm high, doesn’t yet talk, feels quite scaly and brings a smile to the faces of every pupil at our school. Meet Tiny – our new school pet!

A school pet had become the hottest topic of conversation at St Wystan’s School Council (our forum for pupil voice) meetings. Staff of our small independent school knew that the time had come, to investigate, which pet really would suit our school and along came a tiny (in name and nature) horsefield tortoise.

‘Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.’ George Eliot

The benefits of pets are well-known and there is much research to back up the old phrase ‘man’s best friend’. There is power in a loyal companion, who gives unconditional love, never asks questions, never judges one’s actions and gives endless friendship. A study conducted by Matt Cassel, from the University of Cambridge, found that children were more likely to turn to a pet for comfort, when faced with adversity, than they were to a sibling. In my own household, we have both a cat and a dog, and there is something infinitely reassuring that my son, as he heads into his teenage years, will have a pet to love him, even when the worst side effects of hormones hit!

At St Wystan’s, we know the children who might need some time with our tortoise; those who might need a stroke of the shell and a comforting word with Tiny. It is thought that pets can help to develop pupils’ empathy, as well as their sense of responsibility, as they begin to take on care of tortoise duties. For some children, this will be the very first time they have ever taken care of another living thing.

At St Wystan’s we are very proud of the personal development our pupils make and this forms a large part of our School ethos and pastoral care. We are delighted that Tiny, the tortoise, ties in with our PSHCEE curriculum, helping our pupils to develop care and compassion, as well as build confidence with animals.

As Deputy Headteacher, it is a joy to watch our pupils’ fascination every time they meet and look after Tiny. He will bring many years of fun and learning to St Wystan’s School!