Drive down a winding country lane in rural Warwickshire and you will find the idyllic setting of Northleigh House School. The school, based in a country house, was established in 2012 for children who cannot study in a mainstream setting. Those who have experienced bullying, anxiety or have been unable to cope in larger school settings can learn in this safe, calm and creative environment. The staff at Northleigh are dedicated to encouraging learning and development in their students in as many ways as possible – including meeting two of Donkey Sanctuary Birmingham’s fantastic donkeys!
The students met 10 year old Skittles and 9 year old Jimmy, two donkeys who came over from Ireland as relinquishments from Irish farms. Both Jimmy and Skittles were identified as donkeys with calm and curious temperaments that would make them ideal for interacting with children, vulnerable adults and the general public. The two donkeys travelled to Northleigh House School, sharing the warm sunshine and tasty grass with chickens and sheep in a field next to the country house.
The twenty students were able to meet Jimmy and Skittles and had the opportunity to stroke them, groom their soft coats and to ask questions about where they were from and donkeys in general. Not only were the students gentle, observant and compassionate with our two boys, they also asked extremely insightful questions. ‘What is a donkey ‘year’ equivalent to in human years?’ ‘Why do donkeys have a stripe running down their back?’ ‘What are the reasons for having a Donkey Sanctuary?’ All of these questions whilst methodically grooming the donkeys’ coats and scratching them in all their favourite spots.
On speaking to the Head Teacher and School Director once the children had said goodbye, we heard that they had considered the afternoon’s session very beneficial. The act of caring for, interacting with and learning about these gentle creatures fit in perfectly with the mission statement of the school, aiming to produce compassion, confidence and self-esteem in their students.
It was clear to us that having the opportunity of donkey interaction can break down barriers. Overcoming a barrier to learning may just be the confidence to ask a question, prompted by a cute donkey face. It may be the pride in making a donkey’s coat shine in the sun with just a grooming brush. Or it may be the independent act of stepping forward, reaching out and connecting with our gentle donkeys.
You can help children learn
Jimmy is one of our adorable adoption donkeys and when you adopt a donkey, your money goes towards their care as well as towards providing outreach visits to schools like Northleigh House.