Alternative Provision Innovation Fund places telepresence robots with sick children

The project has rolled out telepresence robots from No Isolation to 90 children across the country

Telepresence robots have been rolled out to 90 children with physical and mental illness across the UK through the government’s Alternative Provision Innovation Fund.

The AV1 robots, created by Norwegian company No Isolation, are part of a project to test the efficacy of technology within alternative provision in the UK.

Announced in 2018, the Alternative Provision Innovation Fund (APIF) is provided by the DfE and amounts to £4m. No Isolation have won a £522,142 chunk, and will focus on the reintegration of alternative provision pupils with medical needs into suitable mainstream or special schools.

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A large proportion of information available on alternative provision in the UK is related to excluded children, who make up the majority of AP pupils. However, No Isolation are focusing specifically on children who are absent due to illness, and hope to gather data on the efficacy of the AV1 robots in four main areas. These are:

  • Attendance
  • Attainment
  • Wellbeing and loneliness
  • Cost effectiveness

Cath Kitchen, headteacher at one of the project’s partner schools, Hospital and Outreach Education, said: “Having been involved with alternative provision for nearly two decades, I know firsthand the impact that absence from school can have on a child’s education and mental wellbeing. I hope that the findings from this project will pave the way to providing equal access to education for students with medical and mental health difficulties, enabling them to fulfil their potential.”

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The project will take place over two years, and aims to reduce feelings of loneliness in children who cannot attend their regular schooling. Karen Dolva, CEO and co-founder of No Isolation, said: “We have no doubt that the two-year project will prove to be a success. The perfect result for us would be to raise awareness of the benefits that warm technology can bring, with more schools using AV1 and with every child who needs one having access to one without delay. Our end goal is to end all isolation, and reducing isolation while improving the education of young people is the perfect place to start.”

For more information on the APIF project and alternative provision in the UK, see The Report in the April issue of the magazine.