Top British School Appoints AI Chatbot as Headteacher

Published on
16/10/2023 12:14 PM
british school ai headteacher

A leading private school in the UK has appointed an AI chatbot as its principal headteacher in an effort to bring a “calming influence” to the classroom.

Cottesmore School in West Sussex, which charges £32,000 to attend, told the Telegraph it had worked with an AI company to develop a robot headteacher that can work alongside the current school’s head in managing the school. 

The AI chatbot, dubbed “Abigail Bailey”, has been equipped with vast knowledge of educational management and machine learning, and will give advice on a range of issues – from supporting fellow staff members to helping pupils with ADHD and writing school policies.

"It's nice to think that someone who is unbelievably well-trained is there to help you make decisions, said Cottesmore’s human headmaster Tom Rogerson.

 "It doesn’t mean you won’t ever also seek counsel from humans. Of course, you do. It’s just very calming and reassuring knowing that you don’t have to call anybody up, bother someone, you don’t have to wait around for an answer."

‘Calming Influence’

Abigail works in a similar way to the online chatbot ChatGPT and will help Mr Rogerson make decisions on pressing school issues and managerial tasks. 

cottesmore school ai
Cottesmore school in West Sussex has appointed an AI headteacher. Source: Geoff Cole

It can respond with a seven-point plan, it is said or can be programmed to ask questions in response to make school leaders think.

"Sometimes having someone or something there to help you is a very calming influence," Mr Rogerson said. “Being a school leader, a headmaster, is a very lonely job. Of course, we have head teacher's groups... but just having somebody or something on tap that can help you in this lonely place is very reassuring.”

Mr Rogerson is keen on embracing AI at Cottesmore – which is the first school in the UK to advertise for a head of AI studies earlier this year. 

He was looking for a candidate to help embed the new technology into the curriculum as well as teaching sports and taking on various activities and hobbies. 'It was a tall order to fulfil all of those remits,' he said.

AI in the classroom

Pupils at Cottesmore have also been given their own individual AI robots to help them understand their individual learning styles.

Mr Rogerson strongly believes pupils need to learn how to collaborate with artificial intelligence, which he has described as 'world-changing' technology.

However, teachers have been concerned about AI being used by students to cheat on exams and write essays for them. 

Earlier this year it was discovered ChatGPT could easily pass the MBA law exam at Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Researchers at the school noted that it was “remarkably good at modifying its answers in response to human hints.”

Some teachers, like workers from other industries, are also concerned about the risk of stealing their jobs. A recent study by Goldman Sach found that as much as two-thirds of jobs could soon be at risk as a result of recent breakthroughs in tech. 

But Mr Rogerson said that robots would not replace human teachers at the Cottesmore. He said: “We are stepping into the future while preserving the core values of traditional education.”

“The introduction of AI is not about replacing our dedicated educators but about augmenting their capabilities and ensuring our students receive the best education possible.”

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