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Deaf school on brink of closure saved

As co-location pioneer, it will move to new shared site with mainstream primary

As co-location pioneer, it will move to new shared site with mainstream primary

Two years ago, Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children in Camden, north London, one of the most celebrated of its type, was - like many other special schools - facing closure.

But this month, the London Borough of Camden has confirmed that the primary - one of Ofsted's top 12 "outstanding" special schools - will move to new purpose-built facilities as part of the King's Cross development.

The school will move to the new site - with an as yet unnamed mainstream primary - in 20132014 as one of the first co-located mainstream and specialist primary schools.

At the end of this year, Frank Barnes will up sticks to a temporary site while the new school is being built.

"We're aiming to build a regional centre of excellence and meet the needs of not only the deaf children but provide services for their families, too," says Frank Barnes headteacher Karen Simpson.

"Our (new site at) Jubilee Waterside Centre will be round the corner from the new school so the children can put on their hard hats and engage with the development of their school by visiting the builders, architects and workmen on site."

The shared facilities of the mainstream and specialist primaries means the two can work together to tailor the learning to each pupil's need.

"We can provide children with personalised learning programmes," said Mrs Simpson. "Pupils from Frank Barnes can interact with other children from the other end of the continuum, while those in the mainstream will have buddies who they visit in the deaf school."

Frank Barnes is a bilingual school - pupils' first language is British Sign Language (BSL), but they are taught English through BSL, thereby becoming fluent in both languages.

A head has not yet been appointed for the mainstream primary. Camden has been working with Ms Simpson to implement new programmes for both schools.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS?

- There are 306 maintained special schools for children with hearing impairments.

- 21 per cent of parents felt that schools orand early-years provision did not have appropriate expectations of what their deaf child could achieve.

- 34 per cent had concerns about the building's acoustics and adaptations.

- Only 14 per cent of parents received funding to learn sign language from their local authority; 50 per cent had to cover the costs themselves.

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