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Robots to help hospitalised pupils return to school

Remote-controlled robot with rotating head allows children to join in with class from hospital

AV1 robot

Remote-controlled robot with rotating head allows children to join in with class from hospital

A project that uses robots to help children in hospital take part in lessons and return to school has received funding from the Department for Education.

The East Midlands-based scheme is among nine projects which have been awarded a total of £4 million by the government to improve the education of children in alternative provision (AP).

The robot-based project will be led by medical AP provider Hospital and Outreach Education, backed by £544,143 of government money.

Under the scheme, 90 “tele-visual” robots will be placed in schools and AP providers around the country to allow virtual lessons.

The robot, called AV1, acts as an avatar for children with long-term illnesses so they can take part in class and communicate with friends.

Controlling the robot remotely via an iPad, the child can see and hear their teacher and classmates, rotating the robot’s head to get a 360-degree view of the class.

AV1’s head flashes blue when the child wants to ask a question, and there is a whispering mode that allows the child to speak with a lower voice, so only the children sitting next to the robot will hear.

It is hoped the scheme will help children in hospital to feel less isolated and return to school more smoothly.

The project is just one of nine government-funded AP initiatives starting in September. The others are:

  • Cognus will lead a project in Sutton supporting young people from education into employment or further education through summer workshops and activities and supporting parents to help their child during the transition post-16, backed by £388,480.
  • Future Advice, Skills and Employment will lead a project in Nottingham helping young people from AP into employment through supported work placements and careers advice, backed by £422,354.
  • Salford City Council will lead a project to help young people prepare for employment through industry visits, work experience and a mentor, backed by £199,250.
  • Bradford pupil-referral unit will lead a project to help more children reintegrate into mainstream schools by trialling key workers for children and working with local secondary schools, backed by £362,152.
  • Francis Barber will lead a project in London to reduce re-referrals through intensive literacy support and behaviour mentoring, backed by £323,016.
  • The Tutor Trust will lead a project in Greater Manchester to improve educational outcomes and parental engagement by providing one-to-one and small-group English and Maths tutoring alongside pupil and family counselling, backed by £510,425.
  • The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families will trial a coaching programme for parents to engage them more in education, backed by £466,614.
  • Portsmouth Education Partnership will lead a project focusing on KS3 to help children return to mainstream education for KS4, backed by £291,000.

Announcing the projects, school standards minister Nick Gibb said: “Every child, no matter the challenges they face in their life, should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential through an excellent education.

“School standards in this country are rising, but for some children – those who are excluded or cannot attend mainstream or special schools – this quality varies greatly, with low expectations about their outcomes and futures. 

“There are some excellent examples of AP in the education system, but we need to raise standards across the board if we want to give every young person the opportunity to succeed.

“These new projects, backed by £4 million, will develop new ways of doing this which can be shared around the country, so that we can improve education for every child and make sure they receive support to meet their individual needs.”


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