Hilary Goldsmith is the director of Finance & Operations at Varndean School. She joined the school in January 2016 and, as a passionate believer in animal therapy, quickly saw an opportunity to combine this with the school’s existing pastoral provision. “Varndean is a unique place where we embrace opportunities to innovate and re-think the status quo. Bringing animals to Varndean has tapped into the rich seam of nurture, wellbeing and care on which the school rightly prides itself.”
When we think of innovation in schools, we usually imagine a new piece of equipment, a new software programme that will change the way we deliver a subject, or track progress, measure attainment, something tangible that comes with a price tag. But actually, innovation is just about doing things differently; it's thinking about how and why we do what we do and trying out a way of doing it differently with a bit of imagination.
It was just over a year ago that Innovate My School published an article about a school in Brighton that had brought in some goats to support their pastoral provision. That was us. Two weeks after Innovate My School made us famous, we were getting up at 4am for our first live TV appearance, on Good Morning Britain, after the TES ran a story on us which was picked up by the national media. Since then it's all gone a bit bonkers, and our hairy resources are now superstars in their own right.
In September 2016, something very exciting happened here at Varndean School in Brighton. Five short, fluffy, slight tubby pygmy goats entered our lives for the first time and have barged, bleated and bumped their way into our hearts and our school community ever since. The first four goats, Maya, Bertie, Alan and Ethel are named after our four school bases - Angelou, Russell, Turing and Ellis. The last one, William, is named after our headteacher, William Deighan.