A primary school has brought in a dog named Neo to help children cope with the stresses of life.

Neo is trained by the Dog Mentor Programme, who trains animals to provide children with positive experiences that can help them educationally, developmentally, emotionally and socially.

The loveable hound is soon to receive a gold award for working for the children at Kilburn Grange Primary.

Neo serves as a “non-judgmental support” to help pupils deal with behaviour or emotional problems.

Spending time with Neo helps to improve moods and feeling secure, headteacher Helen Khinich has found.

“Neo has brought our whole school such joy,” she said. “Children, staff and parents love to see Neo around the school to see the progress made with children working with him.”

Neo is her own dog that she recruited as a friendly and cuddly face to help with learning and behaviour during school assembly.

Times Series: Pupil Harry with Neo the dogPupil Harry with Neo the dog (Image: Kilburn Grange)

Pupil Harry, pictured, says: “The moment I see Neo, it makes me feel happy and puts me at ease. I forget all my worries.

"I've learned how to look after dogs and even teach tricks like fist bump. I miss him during school holidays and worry that I won't see him anymore when I go to secondary school. I'll never forget how much he has helped me."

The move to ‘recruit’ Leo follows a report by the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza revealing that as many as eight per cent of schoolchildren in the country had been referred to mental health services in 2022-23. Yet only one-in-four schools and colleges had access to mental health support.

The school has a proactive approach to mental health rather than just reacting to problems. Children are taught how to be aware of their feelings with self-care and overall wellness, supported by the Bellevue Place Education Trust, which runs Kilburn Grange Primary.

It is also in the process of building a ‘ready to learn’ room, a space specifically for children who need extra support, with access to mental health services if needed. Sports are also encouraged to help the youngsters’ wellbeing.

Prospective parents looking for Reception places for next year are being invited to book a tour on June 10 which includes classrooms and specialist teaching spaces, to meet some of the pupils and Early Years staff.