St.George Foundation and MissingSchool have announced funding of up to $600,000 over three years to enable an Australian-first telepresence robot pilot. Up to 75 telepresence robots will be paced in schools to demonstrate that continuous two-way connection is possible between seriously sick children and their classrooms.
“The Foundation’s new Inspire Grant supports innovative interventions that change the course of children’s lives, and this year we’re thrilled to award it to MissingSchool for their work on education connection for sick kids in Australia,” said Vanessa Barry, head of St.George Foundation.
“St.George Foundation funded MissingSchool’s research, released in 2015, which revealed a gap in education provision and prompted the first Commonwealth-funded research into the issue for kids who are facing the hardest challenge of their lives.”
Telepresence allows kids who are away from school to be seen and heard in their classrooms, and learn from their teachers with their classmates. The pilot is intended to be a catalyst for long-term solutions for sick children that integrates connection between hospital, home and school.
“Tens of thousands of sick kids in Australia, who miss school often or for long periods, can potentially fall behind academically and experience isolation from their school communities leaving lifelong effects on productivity, and social and emotional wellbeing,” said MissingSchool Chair, Megan Gilmour.
ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry has agreed to explore a limited trial making the ACT the first jurisdiction in the national pilot, and one of only a handful in the world to trial this solution. Chief Minister Andrew Barr joined the announcement, affirming the ACT’s push to strengthen inclusion and innovation in ACT schools and its leadership in school connectivity and digital transformation.
MissingSchool is a volunteer not-for-profit organisation established in 2012 by three Canberra mothers whose sons were treated on the Turnbull Ward of the Sydney Children’s Hospital for their critical and life-threatening illnesses, Cathy Nell, Gina Meyers and Megan Gilmour realised that there was no framework in place to support their children’s need to maintain contact with their schools and classmates and to keep up their education.