As the education sector continues to use AI to its advantage, British boarding school Cottesmore has appointed an AI chatbot – named Abigail Bailey – as its new “principal headteacher”.
While appointing a robot headteacher might sound dystopian, the exclusive school claims the ChatGPT-like technology isn't replacing current jobs, and is instead being used to support the needs of Cottesmore's current headmaster, Tom Rogerson.
But Abigail Bailey won't be the only chatbot joining Cottesmore's roster of staff. The school also appointed AI-powered chatbot Jamie Trainer as its head of artificial intelligence – with both tools even adorning their own AI-generated headshots.
UK School Appoints AI Headteacher
Generative AI hasn't always had a positive impact on education. But one UK school is leveraging the technology to its advantage by hiring an AI chatbot for one of its most senior roles.
Cottensmore's new AI headteacher, Abigail Bailey, uses deep learning and generative AI in a similar way to OpenAI's chatbot ChatGPT. However, Bailey's applications are more targeted as its been programmed to contain specialist knowledge of machine learning and educational management.
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The chatbot will essentially be used as a right-hand woman to Cottesmore's current headmaster, Tom Rogerson, providing guidance on a wide range of issues from drafting school policies to supporting children with ADHD.
“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.” – Tom Rogerson, Headmaster of Cottesmore School
While robot headteachers may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, Cottesmore's human headmaster Rogerson was quick to note positive experiences with the chatbot.
“It's nice to think that someone who is unbelievably well trained is there to help you make decisions,” Rogerson shared with the Telegraph, ” you don’t have to wait around for an answer.”
Cottesmore Ramps Up its AI Strategy
Cottesmore, which was named ‘Prep School of the Year' by UK publication Tatler in 2020, isn't hiring Bailey in isolation.
The school also decided to appoint an AI chatbot as its “head of AI”, after it was unsuccessful in finding a suitable human candidate.
Rogerson explains it was a “tall order” for human applicants to fulfill these remits, as the successful candidate had to be “highly empathetic”, teach sport, support in lessons, take on multiple activities and hobbies, and have a relevant AI qualification.
Cottesmore was the first school in the UK to advertise for a head of AI earlier this year, as it works to ramp up it's broader AI strategy. Pupils in the school have already been assigned personal AI assistants to help them understand their own learning styles.
Rogerson claims the “world-changing technology” is helping the school to step “into the future while preserving the core values of traditional education”.
Teachers: Is AI Coming For Your Job?
With over one-third of teachers currently using AI to assist with workloads, Cottesmore isn't the only school leveraging the technology in 2023.
Recent polling from the Teacher Tapp revealed that one-third of teachers are using AI for a wide variety of purposes including lesson planning, report writing, responding to emails, and detecting AI plagiarism.
“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.” – Tom Rogerson, Headmaster of Cottesmore School
However, despite pessimistic claims made by British education expert Anthony Seldon that robots will replace teachers by 2027, it's much more likely AI will be used to augment the current capabilities of teachers, helping them to address concerns that have been plaguing the sector for decades.
This view is held by Cottesmore's headmaster, who explains that despite the deployment of virtual helpers like Bailey and Rainer, AI tools will never be able to replace the soft-skills held by human educators.
Read more about the roles that AI is most likely to impact.