Fox Wood Special School

Fox Wood Special School

Loaning an AV1 from Warrington Council, Fox Wood helped a student in recovery from an operation

Fox Wood Special School, in Warrington, caters to pupils aged 4–19. Their aim is ‘to provide the best possible personalised learning environment and curriculum for all of our children in a supportive and caring way.' They support pupils with a wide range of needs including Autism, ADHD, Severe Learning Difficulties and Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties.

One of their students was awaiting and soon to be recovering from a serious operation. Fox Wood Special School loaned an AV1 from Warrington Council to support her learning during the long-term absence.

We interviewed the Deputy Head (Lianne Buchanan) and Class Teacher (Dale Holden) in May 2023 about their experience.

Read the interview.

In terms of the academic impact, she’s been exposed to the same kind of lesson content as the rest of the class... It was as if she’s not even been away because she still feels part of the group.

Why did you first start using the AV1?

Lianne: We have a pupil who has been learning from home for nine months, while awaiting and recovering from a serious operation.

We knew she would be at home for a long period of time and the consultant recommended that she was homeschooled during the waiting period, to reduce the risk of infection or further injury.

We wanted to see if there was anything more we could do to support her, so we contacted Warrington Council and they suggested we try one of their AV1s. 

How does AV1 compare to the other support you had in place?

L: We were doing a lot of home visits and taking work packs out, but mostly we were using Zoom. The pupil was struggling a bit with the links; they kept breaking or the parent couldn’t access them at the set times. 

Dale: On Zoom, either the camera or microphone would end up not working and it was really heavy in terms of staff resources as there was a member of staff that had to be assigned to take that specific lesson. Now through AV1, the pupil just joins the class as they normally would, which for me is a huge benefit; to know I won’t be missing that extra member of staff to support with what, at times, can be a challenging group. 

L: The family also struggled to be bound by certain login times due to the medical appointments. If she has to log on in the middle of class because of an appointment with a physiotherapist, for example, it doesn’t cause any disruption with AV1. 

We’ve had much better engagement from her since we started using the robot. It was also very useful as, during recovery, she was sometimes wearing pyjamas or needed to be in bed. Using the AV1 gave her parents a lot more confidence that we couldn’t see her and that she wouldn’t be able to accidentally turn her camera on. 

Did you have any initial concerns before using the AV1?

D: Most of my concerns were about how it would integrate into the classroom and if it would be a distraction for the other pupils. I also didn’t want us to end up in the same situation that we had before where it disconnected every two minutes and I had to spend most of my time trying to fix it. However, with the AV1 it has been simple and straightforward.

L: There has been just one occasion when things weren’t working. We called tech support and they were brilliant, and we got the student reconnected.

The family has English as an additional language. If we were only sending out worksheets it could create a significant barrier for our pupil in terms of understanding what they need to do to complete an activity.

With the AV1, they don't need to worry about having to decipher tasks or worksheets themselves as the pupil is getting the same teaching as the rest of the class and joining in at the same time. It alleviates that parental concern about not knowing how to deliver work to the pupil. 

How did AV1 integrate into the classroom?

L: We did a piece of work with the students beforehand to help them to understand that the robot is now that pupil. Having a physical presence of the pupil in the classroom has helped them to understand the situation a lot better than when we were using Zoom. I think it also helped that they could hear the pupil’s voice, it made it feel like her and a lot more obvious that they should still give her personal space.

D: In terms of teaching It was business as usual really. I didn't have to change anything other than when I was doing direct questioning, I would come over to AV1 and point to specific things on the screen. She was confident with speaking through the AV1, using the eye emotions and raising her hand.

They are our most able class, and we do a lot of teacher-led, mainstream style lessons such as big maths and phonics. However, I wouldn't hesitate in using AV1 with someone who's on our semi-formal tier because we've seen how well it can work.

What Impact do you think the AV1 has had for the pupil?

L: With the AV1 she's in the same class group, can log on at break time and still feel part of the school community. Her peers carry AV1 to the different learning spaces so that she can access food technology lessons, for example, at the same time as them.

She saw her friends for the first time last week. They went on a shopping trip and it's like they haven't lost that friendship. It was as if she’s not even been away because she still feels part of the group. 

In terms of the academic impact, she's been exposed to the same kind of lesson content as the rest of the class, whereas before it was 1-to-1 work with another member of staff. I don't like giving other people responsibility over teaching my lessons, particularly with English, maths and science. I've developed the lessons in a way that my pupils really buy into so I like the fact that she's still getting that, because I know it works for her.

Were there any privacy and safeguarding considerations you needed to make before using the AV1?

D: As we are a special school, I was aware that mum or dad might be around to support her if needed, but this wasn’t an issue for me. 

: We sent letters out to the other parents to explain about AV1 and why we wanted to use it, and they were all happy for it to be in the classroom. I visited the parents of the pupil at home and explained the safeguarding protocols, and printed this for them in their first language to aid understanding. They were happy to agree to the protocols. Staff had some concerns about parents perhaps seeing another pupil in the class dysregulating, but we explained that we could just let the pupil on the AV1 know someone needed support. 

These instances don’t happen often and when they have I just ask the pupil to log off AV1 and come back in five minutes and each time she’s logged off straight away. You can see that the lights go off and the head drops down so it is clear she has disconnected. If you have good communication with the pupil using it, it should be fine. 

: I could understand how a school might be concerned about safeguarding if that class included a vulnerable child. That wasn’t the case with us but, if it was, we could have looked at seating arrangements, how far the AV1 device could turn around etc. 

In our class the AV1 was sat right at the front, so her main view was myself and the screen. I don’t think safeguarding barriers should stop a school introducing AV1 as you can easily plan around them and a solution can be found. 

Would you consider using an AV1 for pupils struggling to get into class due to mental health? 

L: I think we would. We have children who struggle to access school sometimes so the AV1 would provide a useful vehicle, particularly in that reintegration phase, to get them used to those lessons again and get them back into the learning behaviours that they would have had when they were in school. AV1 helps it be a bit more on their terms, but they're still seeing what’s going on. I think it could be very useful.

The fact they wouldn’t be able to be seen could take the pressure off attending lessons. It would hopefully alleviate some of the concerns and let them engage in learning in a different way. It could be used as a really good soft reintroduction back into school.
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