The Varndean Goats – Behaviour, Therapy and Carrots! PP160

GOAT DISCLAIMER – You may notice some strange changes in the audio quality in this episode. This was in no way connected to us goats eating the sound equipment.

This week, Tara Elie visited Varndean School in Brighton. As well as being a co-education state maintained comprehensive school for 11-16 year olds, it’s also home to the famous Varndean Goats!

Varndean’s 5 pygmy goats Alan, Ethel, Maya, Bertrand and William are named after each of the four School namesakes; Maya Angelou, Bertrand Russell, Alan Turing and Ethel Ellis. The fifth goat, William, just happens to share his name with the Headteacher!
Staff and students spend time with the goats every lunchtime at Goat Club, where they can come along and meet the goats, learn how to feed and care for them and maybe even take them for walks around the school grounds. The school are firm believers in the power of animal therapy in supporting students in stressful times, and the power of nurture is a proven tool in the practice of mindfulness and wellbeing.

Schools who have pets are really developing and benefiting from the therapeutic benefits of keeping animals.

What do the goats feel their role is?

The Varndean goats help students to calm down from any negative emotions they might be feeling as well as teaching students how to look after animals properly – an important life skill!

What is the goats’ role in behaviour management?

The goats are so naughty that they make the students’ behaviour seem a lot better! However, the benefit students derive from learning about nurturing, caring and developing relationships with the goats helps them enormously with human relationships as well.

The goats are receptive to humans only when they are gentle and caring and this is a great lesson for everyone.

Why are the Varndean goats so successful?

Part of the reason is because the goats are so well integrated into the life of the school – for staff as well as students. Staff can ‘book the goats and come out with groups of students or individuals to do some work with them.

How do the goats help with wellbeing?

The goats provide a great way of de-stressing for students – it’s impossible not to relax when you are with them.

Are the therapeutic effects just for students?

The goats say that staff open up and show their softer, more loving side when they are with them. This is also appreciated by the students! People can open up to goats without fear of reprisal and often show sides of their characters which are normally hidden.

Another benefit is the outdoor education which is possible. Varndean School has an Eco Club and a Gardening Club as well as lots of outdoor curricular activity. Tara is very impressed with how the students interact with the goats, each other, their teachers and visitors including herself. It encourages leadership and positive activity. For example, working with the goats begins before 8am every morning and students are there to look after them.

The Varndean Goats are helping:

  • With student voice
  • Students who are withdrawn
  • With bereavement
  • With anger management
  • With non-verbal students
  • With stress management
  • Therapeutically with students and adults
  • With hard-to-reach students

Follow the Varndean Goats on Twitter!

Bleat of the Week

Some of our goat friends helped us out with sound effects:

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