I can only applaud the Government’s plans to make it a ‘default right’ for tenants to keep pets in rented homes. Now get the homeless off the streets into affordable, decent housing, would be my obvious priority message!
Recent Cambridge University research highlighted the significant health benefits from keeping a pet: lowering cholesterol, reducing stress and providing general well being so necessary in today’s lonely society. They also provide a good opportunity to socialise. My party story, endlessly retold gleefully by my daughters, is about my attempt at fame stalking when I shamelessly used my ‘hand bag’ dog, ‘Bailey’ the Papillion, to attempt to fruitlessly engage the socialite, the beautiful petite Paris Hilton, in dog conversation as she entered the Paris shop ‘Jimmy Choos’ with her perfectly groomed Papillion. Maybe my refused entry was due to my dog not wearing a leather jacket or more likely to do with the battered ‘crocks’ that adorned my trotters and brought an understandable dismissive Parisian ‘no, no’ from the security guards and much mirth from my daughters! That attempt at socialising via dog ownership was an unmitigated failure!
The British have a huge affinity with their animals. Britain was the first country in the world to have a national charity when Queen Victoria formed the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and with over half of Britain’s owning a pet, schools need to consider the positive role they can play in the curriculum for the welfare of students and staff. My middle daughter went to Bristol University via a BTEC Level 3 Animal Management course at Halesowen College. She is the only one on her course not to have undertaken the more traditional Triple Science A-level courses but the course would appear to have set her up brilliantly for the demands of an academic degree. In her third year, she has successfully negotiated coursework, practical work experiences travelling to various campuses and a variety of challenging work experiences, an abattoir and distraught farmers to name but two. It would appear that some of the more traditional students have ‘dropped out’, citing an inability to cope with the independence the course requires. Now this is a study of one and does not represent a huge study. However, for some of my non-academic students their best days where they demand the least attention is when they are undertaking their Foundation Learning Level 1 courses, working in the garden, managing our unruly chickens, working together. They use skills and common sense which are often lacking in the so called brighter students.
Schools have to be given the funds to properly fund courses that lead to jobs. There are only two places in the country, Hereford and London, where you can learn to be a Farrier. Doulton and Carter gleefully told me their half term would be a week of ‘trapping’, ‘horse riding’ and ‘ferreting’, my plea for history homework would have to wait! The excitement and joy of being outdoors so brilliantly represented in the 1960s book ‘Kes’ still applies today. Consign and trap our students in a short sighted, narrow curriculum that leads to league table idiocy and you will need mental wealth trainers and mental wealth counsellors. Freeing up the curriculum with no labelling or setting of students allows all to thrive, something that does not always occur. Unlike Jimmy Choos, schools need to allow dogs in and students out of the classroom.