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Head causes stir over robots in classrooms claim

A HEADTEACHER faced criticism yesterday after he suggested that teaching assistants could be replaced by robots.

At the annual gathering of the exclusive Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) in Belfast, Mark Steed predicted that the use of robots in the classroom could become “routine.”

Mr Steed, the director of Dubai private school Jess, told British private school heads that robots could be used to teach maths and reading to primary school pupils.

“I think we will see more robots in the classroom and I think they will become routine, particularly in primary classrooms, as teaching assistants,” he said.

He also argued that virtual reality headsets could allow top private schools to replicate their lessons in multiple locations, including in the developing world.

He predicted that the advent of virtual reality learning would result in celebrity teachers who could make millions – pointing to a Korean teacher who offers “cramming” tutorials and raked in $8 million (£6m)  in one year.

But general union GMB, which represents teaching assistants, said robots would be a poor substitute for dedicated staff.

“Our children have the right to a proper education that’s interactive and supports them to be the best,” the union’s national secretary Rehana Azam told the Star.

“I’m at a loss to know how robots would provide the same experience as teachers and teaching assistants can.”

Pointing to Jeremy Hunt’s announcement this week of a mobile phone app to introduce gig economy working into the NHS, Ms Azam warned that governments were “negating responsibility” for providing adequate and well-staffed public services.

“We’ve got to stop the race to the bottom,” she added.


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