ROBOTS are helping educate children in Somerset who are unable to attend school, whether they are sick or overcoming mental health challenges.

Somerset County Council (SCC) has invested in 50 AV1 robots to help absent pupils continue to access education.

Strode College in Street initially started with just two robots in 2020, and now has loaned eight more from SCC.

The robots are carried from lesson to lesson by a 'buddy' classmate, so the student who is at home can watch a livestream of their lesson on a tablet or smart phone.

The student is also able to ask questions, hear answers and move the robots head to look around the room.

"We have used the AV1s with multiple students and most have engaged with it well," said Amy Pope, additional learning support manager at Strode College.

"One particular student, whose mental health was particularly poor, joined lessons with the AV1 on the days he felt up to it.

“Other students have used them more continuously to help access their lessons remotely.

"This included one student, with complex medical needs, who needed to shield during the pandemic.

"We also had a student who really wanted to attend a science trip and since they weren’t physically able to the robot went along instead.

“We’ve even had students in school bring the AV1 down to the lunch hall so that they can chat to their friend as they normally would.”

Since being introduced in 2019, 63 schools in Somerset have asked to use a robot. Schools and colleges can request one and pay a rental fee.

The 50 robots cost £145,000, and the rental fee covers running costs with any extra being reinvested in more robots.

Cllr Clare Paul, SCC cabinet member for education and wellbeing, added: “Every child deserves the chance to access their education, even they are unable to physically be in the classroom.

"It is wonderful to see how our investment in this technology is playing such an important role in our schools and colleges by helping students stay connected to their class, teacher, and friends.”

The AV1 robots are made by a company called No Isolation.

No Isolation UK director, Harriet Grindley, said: "It is fantastic to see SCC taking a lead on inclusive education technology.

"By investing in 50 AV1 robots, SCC has paved the way for others to emulate their successful, self-sustaining model, and they exemplify how councils can reduce the negative effects of long-term absence.”

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