Chilthorne Domer Church School is a primary school in Somerset catering to students aged 4-11.
They aim to provide their pupils with the skills and opportunities to develop academically, socially and emotionally. The school has been using AV1, rented through Somerset County Council, for approximately 2 years to support one of their pupils with a long term illness.
In this interview Georgina Smith, class teacher and SENCO, explains how AV1 has been used and the impact it has had.
"We’ve been using AV1 for over 2 years now.
We had a student that was diagnosed with an illness and was due to be out of school for a long period of time whilst she accessed treatment. She was in year 1 at the time. Quite quickly, her whole world was turned upside down.
We heard about the AV1 and it was, without a doubt, a life changing option for her."
"It was a bit of a learning curve to begin with on how to use it and recognise the features and colour changes on the AV1.
We invited the pupil to come into school so she could see the AV1 in person and what she would look like.
I think confidence needed to be built on both sides but the first time we heard her voice come through the robot it was amazing.
It was quickly accepted by the other children in the class. We explained to them what AV1 was and they had some social time with it.
The student logged on initially to speak with friends in small groups. We then started including AV1 in our whole school practice."
She is still very much part of our school community. There isn’t anything we do in school that we don’t try to include the AV1 robot in.
"We involve our student in as much as we possibly can. She says her name in the morning register, logs on during lunch time and even attends whole school assemblies. We’ve even taken the AV1 on school trips. We got permission from our local theatre to take AV1 along to a pantomime. When we had an Easter egg hunt I carried her round the school so she could participate.
She is still very much part of our school community. There isn’t anything we do in school that we don’t try to include the AV1 robot in and this, I think, is so meaningful for her whilst going through such a difficult period of time."
"As the student was particularly young we were happy for the parents to support her on the other end of the
AV1. When it first came into the class I did feel a bit of pressure to perform but then got used to it quite quickly. As time went on I got more and more comfortable.
The students call the AV1 by the child’s name. That was very important to place a sense of belonging and ownership onto the AV1 for the student.
The class have taken on more responsibility when looking after the AV1 as the years have gone on. When I taught with the AV1 I would move it around groups so the student had the
chance to work and play with different children within the class.
It took a bit of time to figure out the best possible positioning of the AV1 within the classroom as the light in the room can often cause glare on the IWB. The key was learning to be flexible and adaptable. The AV1 moved to a new classroom and teacher for year 3 and this was a very smooth transition."
"The impact that it has had is immeasurable. I don’t think I can put it into words. The sense of belonging and stability this has given her is priceless.
Two years down the line she’s still using it which shows what a massive role this has played in her early school experience.
To us, it’s not about the academics, it’s just about her being able to be there with us."
"Whilst you could potentially set the child up to stream lessons on a laptop the AV1 is something much more personable. The other children personified the robot as the individual and I’m not sure that’s something that would have happened with another option.
I think it also helps parents and carers to feel more supported. It shows them that we really care about finding the best alternative for their child. The AV1 allows the absent child to leave a part of themselves behind in school."
"I could see it working for children that find it difficult to access the classroom for different circumstances, potentially school refusal, SEMH or medical needs.
I wouldn’t hesitate to use AV1 again. Ours is without question a success story."
Georgina Smith, class teacher and SENCO, Chilthorne Domer Church School
The impact that it has had is immeasurable. I don’t think I can put it into words.
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