Students have ‘flourished’ after alpacas brought to school in Wales

Students have reportedly “flourished” after four alpacas were introduced to a school in Penarth, Wales.

The herd of four Peruvian alpacas join Dexter the dog and several chickens kept at Headlands School, which aims to provide a boost to students’ mental health.

A student at the independent school, Casey Jones, said the animals had a “calming effect” on the students.

“They are lovely and interesting animals that seem to have a calming effect on other students too,” the 15-year-old said.

“This part of school is really good for me… the atmosphere here is great and working with the animals has also helped me a lot.”

With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic still affecting the students, teachers at the school hope the animals will provide a boost to their wellbeing.

“We are redeveloping a huge area of our outdoor space for the alpacas and hens, and have a group of students working with us on the project that have really flourished,” David Gillingham, a teacher overseeing the care of the alpacas, said.

“Their mental health has definitely improved, they love the animals and some are keen to work as landscape gardeners when they leave school.”

Headlands School, with students from seven to 19 years old, is designed for those who have difficulty learning as a result of early trauma, complex emotional and social issues, Autism Spectrum conditions, and Asperger’s Syndrome.

“There is a lot of research stating the positive mental health benefits of pets and interaction with animals,” Maxine Cahill, vice principal for care at the school, said.

“The students here love Dexter, our companion dog, and they have responded so well to the alpacas too.

“The chickens and the chicks they’ve produced have also gone down a storm, and provide something for the students to care for, nurture and enjoy during a very stressful time in their young lives.”