What is AV1 used for?

Uses for AV1 telepresence robots in 2021–2022 include medical needs, anxiety and EBSA

Children and young people (CYP) use AV1 for a multitude of reasons. It was first designed for those with long term illness, but it was soon clear that many others with persistent absence were missing this tool.

Here we reflect on AV1 use in the UK over the recent academic year, and hope it will inspire other schools and local authorities to help their students in similar ways.

AV1 for medical needs continues to thrive

AV1 continues to be a lifeline for CYP absent from school with many different medical and/or physiological conditions – such as:

  • cancer
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • epilepsy

In many cases, AV1 has not only supported the CYP’s wellbeing during the period of absence, but also relieved their fears and anxieties about returning to school.

“Without the robot the transition back to school would have been far tougher, as the student would be dealing with a mental recovery as well as a physical one.

Had he not had the contact with his friends that the AV1 gave him, I think he would have felt very disengaged with what was going on at school.

The interaction with his peers and teachers meant that it didn’t really feel like not being there.”

– Shelley Mitchell, Attendance and Welfare Officer, Dr Challoner’s Grammar School

AV1 and mental health

The number of shielding students has decreased, but we still see impacts from the pandemic.

More CYP have anxiety and EBSA (emotionally based school avoidance), which are becoming the main causes of prolonged school absence.

This makes mental health a growing concern for schools and local authorities, and some have adopted AV1 for this reason.

For Somerset County Council (50 AV1s) mental health is now the leading reason for loan:

Reasons for requiring an AV1 robot pie chart

Key learnings for students with EBSA

AV1 demand for students with EBSA has increased. So, we have begun creating tools for local authorities and schools to use it with this group.

While we can't yet boast a 100% success rate, we do see evidence that AV1 is able to reintegrate these pupils back into the classroom in the right conditions.

For those that are successful, the most important factors are careful planning and early intervention. The earlier the intervention, the more likely AV1 will act as a bridge back into the classroom. Challenges occur if the student feels forced to use AV1, if it's perceived as a substitute for counselling or CAMHS intervention, or not introduced carefully.

Our recent case study, The Downs School, demonstrates successful use of AV1 for EBSA. Learn more.

What is clear is that AV1 needs to be one tool of many in the EBSA student toolbox. We recommend considering it when the student still has some desire to be in and engage with school.

AV1 in different school settings

AV1 suits a range of ages and settings. In schools, it has supported CYP aged 4-18 in:

  • Primary schools
  • Secondary schools
  • Further education colleges
  • Alternative Provision

A growing number of CYP are going to school but struggling to get into the classroom (due to behaviour, for example). This is where some secondary schools are using AV1s in new and creative ways.

Examples include: a private room with 1:1 support, SEND/student support centres, and internal exclusion rooms.

“We have used the AV1s for students who are isolated due to behaviour. The AV1 allows us to isolate the behaviour and not the child, giving them access to quality first teaching along with targeted intervention to get them back in lessons but without negative behaviour.”
– Moulsham High School, Essex

Working with local authorities

This year 12 local authorities started using AV1, including Warrington Borough Council, Solihull Borough Council and Cumbria County Council.

Local authorities are the biggest distributor of AV1s to schools in the UK, and how they loan them takes various forms. Many find success by adopting a hybrid model; when a student qualifies for medical tuition they are able to loan them for free. Or, if the student's circumstances do not qualify, they charge a small fee to sustain their service.

Persistent absence can be due to a broad range of reasons. The hybrid model means local authorities can support more children and young people's education outside of medical needs.

A fleet of AV1s (10–60) enables local authorities to intervene as soon as a pupil is at risk of prolonged school absence. This prevents the long-term impact, escalation of costs, and need for other AP.

The Department for Education's SEND Paper 2022 supports this way of working; it recommends early intervention in mainstream settings, and technology for inclusion. Read more about the report and its recommendations here.

We provide a wealth of information and resources to help local authorities get their AV1 projects off the ground: learn more about getting a free AV1 for your local authority.

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