Dunottar School is a co-educational, independent school in Reigate, Surrey.
Catering to 460 pupils they pride themselves on their warm and nurturing family environment, which supports students to succeed both academically and outside the classroom.
Dunottar started using AV1 a year ago for a year 9 pupil with persistent absence due to long-term illness.
We spoke to Grant Taylor, Assistant Head, about their experience:
What was the initial reaction like from school staff?
"We’re quite good at taking on board new tech. All our students have iPads and staff were all very enthusiastic about it, following a video I sent round of the AV1. It also meant that the whole staff knew more about what was going on with the student. They were all enthusiastic about having the additional features of the AV1 above just having someone on a screen. Especially someone who is ill on a screen, who doesn’t potentially want to be seen because of how ill they look.
"The way we run absentee lessons anyway is that the student can join in via Teams on their iPad. So teachers are used to having somebody at home sat on a different device joining in on the lesson. The AV1 robot just made it more interactive; it’s quite easy to hide behind an iPad.
"The biggest worry from staff was that they might have to put in extra effort to get it to work. But we’ve had a really good experience because it runs both on WiFi and 4G. We’ve not had issues with it breaking up or lagging. In fact it required far less work than trying to do it on Teams because it didn’t require any setting up. No one has to do anything else other than talk to it like it’s a human."
How did you manage the AV1 day-to-day?
"The Head of Year wrote to the year 9 parents to let them know the AV1 may be in some of their students' lessons. We also asked friends of the pupil to be buddies and carry the AV1 around, so we wrote to those parents as well to make sure they were happy with that. The AV1 by default sits on charge in a storage room in the school and then in the morning one of the buddies collects it and it goes with them around school and between lessons."
What impact do you think the AV1 has had for the student?
"AV1 means that the student has full interaction in the classroom. One of the biggest advantages is just showing to the class and teacher that he is there.
"If he was on Teams you’d have an empty desk and it would just look like someone who was absent. Interacting and remembering to interact with them is much more difficult. With the AV1, the student is still part of the class, they can still be involved in group tasks and you can hear their contribution and discussion with classmates as normal.
"Two of his science teachers commented that he is still top of the class, and still performing highly in his assessments. Quite often when you’re walking past a classroom you can hear him telling the other pupil’s what the answers should be. So he’s not missing out on any learning due to the AV1, and before the AV1 arrived that was the struggle because he wasn’t getting any of that interaction.
"The social side is just as important because he can work in a little group, he can work with his friends, they can do class discussion and work collaboratively on the same virtual documents even though he’s not in school."
– Grant Taylor, Assistant Head
It’s funny, you almost forget he’s not here, because the robot does represent him and has become part of the school. He’s in the whole school photograph, and being held in that picture. I think he feels less absent, especially from his friendship group.”
With thanks to our charity partner, Special Effect, who ensure access to AV1s for around 50 children and young people in the UK.
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