Schools often use videoconferencing to allow pupils to establish contact with their peers in distant locations. With a pilot project set up by the charity Ace (Aiding Communication in Education) at its centre in Oxford, it could find a new role as an assessment tool.
The centre uses videoconferencing for assessment and training in the use of communication aids with children with complex communication needs. Ace, which is part-funded through Becta, the Government's ICT in schools agency, has established links with schools in Hertfordshire and Dorset and a multi-disciplinary teamnbsp;in Cornwall to test the feasibility of remote assessment and support.
The aim "is to deliver better and more intensive support", explains Mick Donegan of Ace, who is evaluating the project, called Telenet, with Birmingham University's education department. "Through Telenet, we hope to make our support more time and cost-effective," says Mr Donegan.
In Dorset, the project is based at the Prince of Wales school in Dorchester, a mainstream first school with a special unit for children with physical disabilities. A typical pupil in need of communication aids might be Jane, a non-speaking child with cerebral palsy. Previously, Jane would have had to travel to Oxford with a parent and a team of professionals for an assessment. Now she stays in the familiar surroundings of the school, and local professionals work with her, supported via a computerised videoconferencing system by specialists at the Ace centre.
For more information on the project, phone 01865 759800. For more information on the work of the Ace centre in Oxford and its sister centre in Oldham, visit the website at www.ace-centre.org.uk
A longer version of this feature appears in this week's Friday magazine