CHILDREN have welcomed a new classmate to their school - except this newcomer has floppy ears, walks on all fours and has a wagging tail.

Sammy, the three-year-old cocker spaniel, visits St Andrew’s Primary School, in Bishop Auckland, alongside owner and headteacher Nicola James.

She started bringing Sammy to the school during reading time in hopes that he could help children with social and emotional issues.

She rescued the pooch from Dogs Trust, and has been working with trainer Lee Ferry, from School of Dogs, to improve Sammy’s training.

She said: “Introducing a dog into our school family has already been a positive move.

“Children are excited to come to school and meet him and they all look forward to reading with him.

“For those children with social or emotional needs, Sammy will have a calming influence on them and teach them about resilience, compassion and respect - some of our core values.

“Not only has Sammy helped the children, but he has supported the wellbeing of the staff also, and they always look forward to his visits.”

Mr Ferry added: “Sammy’s training to be a school dog has taken many weeks to complete.

“He has been outstanding. As a re-homed rescue dog, he had no previous obedience training.

“We have taught Sammy complex skills, which help him to stay relaxed with the children in an active school environment.

“Sammy has learnt to settle and stay calm when the children are reading to him, and it’s clear to see how much he enjoys being part of the school.”

Mr Ferry also holds dog training classes every Tuesday immediately after school.

He said: “The class focuses on educating children about safety and positivity around dogs.

“It will hopefully help them in the future if they ever get their own dogs, as they will know the proper way to train them.

“Since beginning the class about five weeks ago, confidence has grown so much in the children and they have noticeably improved when training their dogs on their own.

“It has also definitely improved the behaviour of the dogs since their first class.”

The youngsters establish a connection with their canine friends, teaching them to sit and rewarding good behaviour with treats.

As each dog progresses throughout the training sessions, the children are awarded certificates in acknowledgement of their hard work.

Elliott Brown, seven, said: “I like the class because you get to meet loads of dogs and watch them play.

“You can train them and give them treats - it’s really fun.”

Scarlett Paterson, eight, said: “I like the class because it’s good for Lola to get trained.

“I want to work with Dogs Trust when I’m older because I think they’re inspiring.”

Mrs James said: “The after-school club has enabled pupils to try something different and enjoy time with parents and their dogs.”