Robot revolution due to hit Weston classrooms this year

Makayla Nunn with Priory Priciple Angelos Markoutsas and English teacher Kirsty Aaron. Makayla has M

Makayla Nunn with Priory Priciple Angelos Markoutsas and English teacher Kirsty Aaron. Makayla has ME and uses an AV1 robot to sit in her classes when she is unwell. . Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

The use of robot technology to help poorly children back into the classroom will benefit pupils across the area.

Somerset County Council is taking a trail-blazing lead in the biggest initiative of its kind in the country.

The authority has invested in 50 AV1 robots to support children who cannot be in school because they are sick or overcoming physical or mental health challenges.

The AV1 robots take the place of the child in the classroom, letting them see, hear and contribute to lessons while they are out of school, at home or in a hospital bed.

Schools and colleges can request use of the robots to work alongside or instead of traditional home tutor support.

The 50 robots cost a total of £145,000.

Schools pay a rental fee that covers running costs with any profit being reinvested in more of the robots.

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In Somerset, 35 children are referred for extra support for medical reasons every year.

Priory Community School in Worle has one student on its roll who has used an AV1 for almost two years.

Makayla Nunn, aged 16, has lived with ME since the age of eight.

She learns through robot Daz, who sits in her lessons when she is too ill to attend school.

The robots are carried from lesson to lesson by a classmate.

The youngster watches a livestream of their lessons on a tablet or phone and is able to ask questions, hear answers and move the robot's head to look around the room.

This means they can carry on learning and, importantly, stay in touch with their friends and classmates while making the difficult journey back into the classroom.

A council spokesman said: "Staying connected with the classroom helps academic performance, but it's about more than that.

"Staying in touch with your peers and feeling part of school life when you are unwell is just as important."

Further trials have taken place across the area and the authority expects to see the investment lead to increased attendance and attainment.

Across the whole of the UK, there are an estimated 72,000 pupils who are frequently absent from school due to long-term illness.