A primary school based in Cheam, Surrey, Cuddington caters to pupils aged 3-11 and pride themselves on fostering a caring and nurturing environment where pupils are safe, happy and enjoy school. They are part of GLF Schools, and were loaned their AV1 by Surrey County Council's Access to Education team to support a pupil during long-term absence.
No Isolation interviewed the pupil's class teacher, April Riley, in November 2023 about their experience with AV1.
April Riley, class teacher at Cuddington Croft Primary School
It’s been brilliant at making that connection between the pupil and the class.
Q. Why did you start using AV1?
A. The pupil has a long term illness and stopped attending school at the end of year 4. The aim of the AV1 was to help the pupil to attend lessons whilst they were unable to be there in person. It’s been brilliant at making that connection between the pupil and the class. It’s mainly for them to join in, listen to the lessons and still feel part of the class.
Q. How did you introduce AV1 to the other pupils in the class?
A. We had discussions with the class about why the child was absent so that supported with introducing the AV1 as a way for their classmate to still be part of lessons. The first few times the pupil came online it was very exciting and the other children were interested to see how it moved and when the eyes changed etc. However, it didn’t take much time before it started to feel normal.
Q. As the class teacher did you have any initial concerns?
A .The main concern I had was whether the pupil could be streaming on the AV1 without us knowing. However, it’s very clear when the child is online because the head lifts and the AV1’s eyes light up… and when they log off those disappear. I made sure I turned the robot off at the end of the lesson and after school so I felt confident that there was no possible way they could log on and overhear staff conversations. The only other concern was about how the other parents might react. We sent out a parent letter to let them know that the AV1 was going to be in the classroom and that they could get in touch if they had any questions. Parents didn’t sign any consent forms, it was mainly a courtesy letter and we made it clear that the AV1 was for learning and inclusion purposes. However, I think the parents have been very understanding about why it’s needed.
Q. What impact do you think AV1 has had for the pupil?
A. I think the main impact is that the pupil has still felt included in the learning. They can't always join because they are often too unwell or being visited in hospital but for the times they are able to join it has allowed them to still feel part of the group. What’s great is that they can log on and show off their learning and their work.
We had a great example of this in our last English unit where everyone had to read a speech. The pupil came online and read their speech through the AV1 and everyone cheered afterwards.
That made them feel like they had done their part and I think that sense of achievement was really important. It also works really well in Maths, when the class are relaying answers. If the pupil is logged on, I will always go to them for one of the answers so they’re able to give some input every lesson.
Q. How do you think the AV1 will support the reintegration of the pupil?
A. The AV1 has allowed the pupil to remain in a learning environment whereas the alternative could be working independently with worksheets. A lot of learning is from discussion and with the AV1 the pupil can get the knowledge and input from the teacher as well as from the classmates. The pupil is very much spoken about because of the AV1 so it helps on both sides for that child to feel remembered. When it is time for them to come back it won’t feel like a massive change for the class.
Q. Did you have to adapt your teaching style when the AV1 was in the classroom?
A. The main thing I had to check before the lesson was the connection; making sure that it was turned on and ready for the pupil to stream. When I first started I was a bit nervous with it but I just decided to go about the lesson as normal. The parents were good at updating me on when I could expect the pupil to log on and I would address that I’d seen them once they connected. I always had it placed in the same position at the start of the lesson to make sure I didn’t miss them joining.
It doesn’t add to workload during the lesson but you do have to be conscious about bringing them into discussions; making sure that if they are there you do go to them for some input to ensure that they are included and celebrated. The pupil uses the AV1 to look around the class and I’ve seen them change the eye expressions. It’s also very obvious when the pupil wants to speak as the head lights up green. We have had two way conversations through the AV1 and the pupil unmutes themself when they want to talk which the whole class are able to hear. I position it towards the front of the classroom but the speaker is loud enough so the other pupils can hear them as if they were there.
The only other additional work involved is sending over resources like worksheets before the lesson. With the AV1, I get a much better idea of how the pupil is doing with those because they’re completing the work live in the lesson and I’m able to give instant verbal feedback.
Q. What do you see as the main difference between AV1 and other video conferencing software?
A. I think that the pupil has control over where they can look in the classroom. As a teacher I rarely stay in one part of the classroom. I might start at the front and then move over to the working wall so with the AV1 they can physically turn and follow me. For this pupil, who is particularly unwell, it also allows them to be off screen and not have the pressure of being asked to turn their camera on. Overall it feels more inclusive as it’s very obvious when they want to communicate or express something to you.
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