Currently in use by over 20 UK local authorities and 400 schools, AV1 is a tried and tested tool to improve not only a child’s education and attendance, but also their friendships, social skills and emotional wellbeing. On this page we have gathered some of the many success stories.
Somerset started with 2 AV1s as a pilot, and have now procured 50 following great results. AV1 has helped Somerset achieve increased attendance rates, phased reintegration of students who were missing school, and better educational prospects for children suffering long-term illness and absence.
Julie Young is the Post-16 advisor for Somerset County Council, and works to ensure every young person has the support, skills and confidence they need to make the transition to post-16 education, employment or training. Along with other teams within Children’s Services, Julie works to ensure that vulnerable children have access to an education that suits their requirements.
She says, “In Somerset we had increased numbers of children requiring additional support. I first saw AV1 on the BBC’s The One Show and was struck by how it would be perfect for many of our young people. We bought 2 to start a small pilot in south Somerset. The pilot was so successful that we expanded our programme to 50 AV1 robots so we could offer more schools and families the chance to benefit.”
There are huge positives to having AV1s. There are so many different ways you can use them, which gives them huge potential to support young people.
From a council and schools perspective, AV1 has many benefits. The scheme has been warmly praised in our recent Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) inspection, which highlighted them as a huge positive. It also helps schools to achieve personalised learning opportunities for every student, which is a fantastic point to show Ofsted.
It is a cost-effective way of providing support for young people that other students and staff also love to be part of, both in the classroom, where they’re looking after the robot and for the user.
Somerset Council’s Sustainable Model
The programme in Somerset has been set up to be a self-sustaining model. The council bought 50 AV1s with funding awarded to reduce and prevent future escalation of need, through an ICT innovation project. They hire out the robots to schools who need them, which cover the ongoing costs of the programme, with a small contribution towards growing the robot collection each year, so they can help even more children in the future.
For schools it is a really cost-effective way to provide support for students across all key stages, allowing children to take part in real lessons, keeping children in the school ecosystem of friends and teachers and helping to prevent social isolation.
The council manages the distribution to schools through the county library service, which delivers to all locations in the county on its rounds. Billing is done through existing invoicing systems for council-supplied services. The cost includes support, training and additional insurance against theft or damage.
Innovate and forward thinking, Preston School is a secondary school of around 950 students in Yeovil, Somerset. Their values are underpinned by their belief that all students must have the opportunity to learn. AV1 is therefore the perfect tool to achieve their mission and give every pupil access to their education.
We had a pupil about to undergo 9 months of intensive treatment due to a brain tumour. We saw AV1 and thought it could be a great solution to allow our pupil to stay in contact with his friends and access his learning. To introduce AV1 to the school we held a staff meeting for those who would have AV1 in their class, which allowed them to try it themselves and ask questions.
Parents were also invited in to try AV1 which they greatly appreciated. We held an introductory lesson to classmates so they could familiarise themselves with AV1, and from this, two of the users’ friends were appointed ‘AV1 buddies’, responsible for transporting it from class to class.
Preston School is one of several schools using AV1 in Somerset, and are part of a fantastic collaboration of schools called the ‘South Somerset 14-19 Partnership’ that share their experiences of using AV1 and recommendations for best practise. AV1 has had such a positive impact in the area, the Local Authority are looking to purchase more units, alongside primary and secondary schools, PRUs and Colleges, to provide to establishments when a child is in need.
Gregg points to the success of the careful introduction and implementation of AV1 saying that “Everyone embraced the opportunity it gave to the student, There were no concerns. Our user had missed so much learning prior to using the AV1. It greatly improved his attendance levels as we marked him present when he was connected to AV1.”
The aim is not for AV1 to replace teachers, or for the student to reply upon it but rather to bridge the gap when a student can’t attend school and to allow the return to school to be as smooth as possible. At Preston School, AV1 achieved this. Gregg adds “The flexibility is key, and it made for an easier transition back to school as we could gradually phase out the use of AV1 as he was able to attend more. It has allowed a very sick child to keep in touch with their friends and access learning, and we wholeheartedly recommend it.”
Hornbeam Academy is a mixed age special school, admitting pupils from 2-19 years old with a range of special educational needs. There are around 260 students based across two school sites in Walthamstow, Greater London.
Hornbeam Academy used AV1 as part of an 8 month pilot project with the London Grid for Learning, and “the benefits were beyond any expectations.”
Our user, aged 18, has special needs related to global learning difficulties, language delay and social interaction difficulties. He became very ill without any doctors knowing the cause, and went into a catatonic state for a few weeks. He was later diagnosed with psychosis and was away from school and any interaction with his peers. He suffered great memory loss, became fully dependent on adult support and couldn’t communicate with others. We hoped that AV1 would help him reconnect with his peers, his school world and himself. Which it did brilliantly.
When I proposed using AV1, his Mother was very enthusiastic, and I demonstrated AV1 at their home. It was magical to see him smiling and talking after so many months being in an unresponsive state. Given that we are a small school we introduced AV1 to other students and staff together. They were aware of his situation so were very excited about using AV1, soon it became part of our learning environment so we could carry on with our lessons as usual. As his class teacher, I took responsibility for the AV1, ensuring it was charged at the end of the day and ready to be used each morning. Some of our students were entrusted with the AV1 during breaks and they would go around the playground chatting with our pupil and other peers and staff. We always had a good laugh as the students were amazed about this technology that looked like magic.
Mihaela advises to ensure staff and the family are properly introduced to AV1 so there are no misconceptions about it being intrusive technology - “Make sure the staff are enthusiastic and passionate and the family respect the T&Cs so the teachers don’t feel they are being spied upon.
We stopped using AV1 after 4 months after he was well enough to return to school. The social, emotional and mental health benefits were beyond any expectations, and he is his old self: funny, goofy, and smart. I would absolutely recommend it. Our user, due to his illness, had spent almost one year in total isolation, so using AV1 was literally the end of his isolation.