High-tech tour to ease fears of ‘big school’

Gloucestershire school maps buildings with 360-degree camera to calm younger pupils' anxieties

Catherine Lough

vr tour

It has been a perennial fear of Year 6s – getting lost in the maze of corridors as you try to make your way between lessons at secondary school.

But now one secondary school has launched a virtual-reality map of its buildings to help new pupils find their way around before they arrive.

Pupils can use the technology, similar to Google Street View, to explore the corridors at Newent Community School and Sixth Form Centre, Gloucestershire. They can see the art block, swimming pool – or even visit the skeleton in a science classroom.

“The children will settle in quicker and it will help them achieve more," principal Alan Johnson said.

"Children get one chance at an education, so you’ve got to find ways for them to get the most out of it.

“With virtual reality, children can have a wander around the school with a headset or walk their parents around their lessons."

Related: Virtual reality: not the edu-fad it is made out to be?

Insight: Virtual reality check

Feature: Virtual reality in schools: beyond the goggles         

Mr Johnson said that a fear of getting lost was something that was often raised by prospective Year 7 pupils.

And he hoped that for pupils with autism, the technology could help them get familiar with a new setting without all the “hurly-burly” of the school day.

Mr Johnson said the technology could help parents and children talk to each other about the school – noting parents were often as anxious as the pupils about the September start in Year 7.

Mr Johnson said he hoped that in future, virtual reality could be used in ways that support learning. For example, to explore race or gender through demonstrating what it might be like to be the only black child in a predominantly white school, or the only girl in a male-dominated environment.

“More than it being a gimmick or a toy, I wanted to use it to explore empathy,” Mr Johnson said.

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