MEET a forward-thinking Ellesmere Port school's newest recruit – an adorable Labrador puppy called Gus.

The exciting four-legged addition to the Woodlands Primary School family has been brought in to help boost the health and wellbeing of its pupils and staff.

Innovative headteacher Victoria Carr also believes Gus has the potential to aid children's learning, inspire them to be socially conscious and even promote healthy eating.

In time it is hoped Gus can be trained to become a therapy dog but if that doesn't prove possible he will remain the school's companion pooch for life.

Gus will live with Dr Carr outside of school hours – highlighting both her commitment to Woodlands and the life-enhancing role a dog can play in an educational setting – and is currently familiarising himself with his new environment on Eddisbury Road.

She along with members of the school leadership team are now trained dog handlers and will eventually introduce Gus to the children once he feels comfortable, and parental consent is in place for those who are happy for pupils to be around him.

Such has been the response to Gus' arrival, which has been documented through his dedicated social media accounts, Dr Carr has been contacted by hundreds of schools seeking advice as they are interested in having a dog of their own.

So how did the idea come about?

Dr Carr told The Standard: "I was having a chat with our wonderful lead admin officer Sue Moss, who has a dog, and she told me she was thinking of training her Cockapoo to become a therapy dog to go into nursing homes.

"I said I had been thinking about it for school and the idea was born. The governors led by Reverend Jackie Bellfield championed it and it went from there.

Woodlands Primary Schools new dog Gus.

Woodlands Primary School's new dog Gus.

"We thought about rehoming a dog but we wanted a puppy we could train from scratch. I got my teenage daughter involved in researching breeds and to look at what other schools have done – she has been a massive help.

"Once the governors agreed to the project I spoke to three different breeders. I didn't care about gender or colour – I just wanted the temperament and personality of the dog to be right.

"In the end we found Gus and we travelled all the way up to Darlington for him! No one could have predicted how calm he would be – he's fantastic.

"It's a massive commitment. Everyone has been putting the hours in for training. But it feels like such a pleasure having him, it's certainly not a chore.

"Hopefully Gus can become a therapy dog but it's a little bit like when you have a guide dog – we don't know how he will react to training yet, certainly not for a couple more years.

"Whatever happens he will always be a companion dog."

Gus may not yet have been introduced to the children, who are currently catching glimpses of the new addition through their classroom window and as they walk past the child gate on the head’s office door, but his positive impact has already been felt.

Dr Carr explained: "After the latest Covid lockdown a lot of children were anxious about coming back to school. With that in mind and knowing we were getting a dog we got them involved in a project.

"It made a big difference. They came up with designs for a harness and even picked his name. They refer to him as 'Gorgeous Gus'.

"There is lots of evidence to show the positive effects a dog can have. They reduce blood pressure and anxiety. When a dog is calm it helps a child to regulate their bodies if they are feeling anxious.

Woodlands Primary Schools new dog Gus.

Woodlands Primary School's new dog Gus.

"Gus will also help teach our children about being good citizens by looking after and caring for an animal. For instance it will hopefully prevent them from littering, knowing he could pick something up.

"It's about taking care of the environment. Gus is on raw food and by explaining the benefits of that it will promote the importance of healthy eating and a good diet.

"But you must remember this is also about the animal. If Gus needs downtime or space then there is a bed under my desk and another in the office."

Dr Carr took over as head of Woodlands two and a half years ago at a time when the school was struggling and in financial difficulty.

Since then school have recovered the deficit and moreover invested in new and inclusive facilities.

Back in February the school had a successful "monitoring" inspection from Ofsted which found that "leaders and those responsible for governance are taking effective action to provide education in the current circumstances".

Dr Carr said: "They were blown away. We have an exceptional team here. I've been in education for 25 years and this feels like the best job I've ever had. I love it.

"Part of the agreement for getting Gus was that I would look after him so it forced me to stay for another ten years!"