AI classes for children as young as four at leading London private school

One of London’s leading schools is to introduce artificial intelligence lessons to help children cope with the rapidly evolving technology.

The £26,000-a-year Alleyn’s School in Dulwich will launch its “AiQ” course in September for children as young as four. Headteacher Jane Lunnon said the school is meeting the challenge of AI head on, adding: “Education doesn’t come from putting your head in the sand and pretending thing’s aren’t there. It comes sometimes from grappling with the really hard stuff.”

Pupils in reception and years seven and 12 will be the first to take the weekly lessons when the course — which is named after IQ, the traditional notion of intelligence, and AI — begins in the new academic year. Ultimately all students will study the subject.

In preparation for the launch, the school has set up an AiQ department and appointed a head of AiQ.

The aim of the course is for students to examine and develop the cultural, emotional, ethical and moral intelligence they will need to navigate an AI world. When designing the course teachers thought about the skills children will need in the 2040s, which is when the current reception cohort will be entering the workforce.

Mrs Lunnon said: “Some schools are thinking about how AI technology is changing the way curriculum is delivered. But we are interested in asking the additional question — how might it change the way we think? What does it do to the imagination of a four-year-old if everything they could possibly imagine they could make appear. These are quite challenging questions.”

The course will be divided into six areas: entrepreneurship, moral intelligence, tech confidence, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration and sustainable thinking.

As part of the course children will be taught about “deep fakes”, and how to recognise reality and truth, as well as how they may be being manipulated, Mrs Lunnon said. She added: “Anything new and radical is of course something you need to feel cautious about. If we were not anxious about the possible risks of this technology we would be plain daft. But I don’t think when you are faced with risks the solution is to pretend it’s not happening.”

She said people “would be surprised” by how much AI is already being used in schools, adding: “I think there will be very, very few teenagers in the country who haven’t had a go.”

A poll of Alleyn’s parents found that 70 per cent thought their children did not understand the implications and risks of AI. Mrs Lunnon said: “We have kids using technology but not necessarily understanding it or being aware of the risks, which is why this course feels really critical.”