Some 60 young men and women at the King’s School who are facing their GCSE and A Level examinations in coming weeks, took time off from their revision to spend a day de-stressing with some beautiful canine companions.
The de-stress day included working with animals, fundraising for charity and experiencing Mindfulness sessions, all shown by research to help bring down peoples’ stress levels.
Local vet John Yarwood, who has practised from Wright & Morten Veterinary Practice in Cumberland Street for 40 years, together with top local gun dog trainer Matthew Kerfoot and his son Cyrus, a King’s pupil, brought down 10 working gun dogs that the exam candidates could begin to learn to train for the session.
John, a former King’s pupil, Cambridge graduate and leading light in Cheshire dog working tests and field trials, said: “Dogs do bring down stress levels. People who own dogs have fewer heart attacks and fewer stress related conditions and quite simply they get you out into the countryside. If I didn’t have my dogs I’d never do as much walking as I do now, especially on a dull dismal winter’s day.”
Matthew Kerfoot, who teaches other people how to train their dogs and also takes dogs in for residential training, added: “The great pleasure is training your dog, seeing how it improves and seeing how well it responds. It gives you immense satisfaction to work as a team.”
Ellie Hammonds, 16, who is about to sit 10 GCSEs said: “It’s a big time in our lives, just as I am sure it was for all those who have sat their exams before. You can’t help thinking that it is going to shape your life and you must do your best. I have two dogs myself and they are a source of comfort and joy at this time.”
The doggy de-stress programme also saw a presentation by Support Dogs UK on how dogs continue to offer vital support to the wheelchair users and those with other disabilities. King’s students are supporting the charity will fundraising activities including quizzes and cake sales.
King’s learning support teacher Natalie Davis also staged a number of Mindfulness sessions to teach practical strategies to apply around exam time to help the pupils keep calm and manage stress. The power of Mindfulness is increasingly recognised by big businesses and professional sportsmen and women as a way of improving performance and focusing the mind on what matters. Natalie Davis says: “Research suggests that Mindfulness can help young people to concentrate and learn more effectively, to manage anxiety, to think more clearly and to perform better when under pressure. Our pupils have embraced these sessions just before they start their study leave and exams”
King’s Senior Teacher Ruth Roberts, who organised the de-stress day and has taken a generation of pupils through difficult exam periods, said: “An essential element of examination technique is being able to relax. Just like a sportsperson, you perform better when you are relaxed and the de-stress programme was a way of relieving the strain. Naturally we are also offering exam advice to enable pupils to identify their own strengths and weaknesses and then focus their revision on key areas. We also help them to plan their work programme and offer guidance on how to avoid distractions, such as social media, how to manage their time before and during the exam, and good exam techniques.”