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Robots allow pupils to attend school virtually in Walsall

By Jordan Reynolds | Walsall | Education | Published:

Robots that allow pupils to virtually attend lessons will be trialled at a Walsall school.

Shepwell Short Stay School, in Willenhall, is an alternative provision school for children and young people who are unable to attend a mainstream secondary school due to their mental health, illness, autism or teenage pregnancy.

The new technology is being trialled by Shepwell Short Stay School which was part of a successful bid with nine other partners and No Isolation, a Norwegian start-up company.

The project is to support the education of children suffering from long-term physical and mental illness through the introduction of AV1 robots, which would enable the children to virtually attend school, socialise with classmates and remain connected to their home schools and communities.

Stephen Pritchard-Jones, headteacher of Shepwell School said: "It is very exciting to be part of this innovation are for young people in Walsall to be piloting an approach that could benefit other young people with medical needs across the country."

When a child is unwell, and cannot go to school, it will impact on their attendance, their friendships, mental wellbeing and future prospects.

Children who are anticipated to benefit from this approach may be affected by a variety of conditions such as leukaemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety disorders and recovering from transplants - they will now have the opportunity to participate in school even if they are unable to physically attend.

The initiative utilises a £522,142 grant from the Alternative Provision Innovation Fund from the Department of Education, to provide continued education to children absent from school due to long-term illness.

No Isolation will set up the robots, providing 24/7 technical support to the pupil, their family and/or carers, as well as the relevant training for each of the participating schools.

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Karen Dolva, CEO and co-founder of No Isolation, said: "Our overarching goal is to end involuntary isolation, making sure that no one, irrelevant of age, gender, ability or socio-economic status, ever feels alone.

"To be part of this project is incredibly important to us - seeing our first product used in a government scheme in order to improve education and provide chances to children and young adults, cannot be expressed in words.

"We have no doubt that the two-year project will prove to be a success. The perfect result for us would be to raise awareness of the benefits that warm technology can bring, with more schools using AV1 and with every child who needs one, having access to one without delay. Our end goal is to end all isolation and reducing isolation while improving the education of young people is the perfect place to start."

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star.

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