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Plea for inquiry into education for deaf

The Scottish Office is under pressure to mount an inquiry into education for deaf children following the revelation that police were called in to investigate complaints of bullying at Aberdeen School for the Deaf, run by the city council.

The secondary department is already facing closure because of dwindling numbers and in Edinburgh the future of the independent Donaldson's College for the Deaf is in the balance after serious allegations against senior staff.

In the latest twist, four teenage girls last session revealed they were unhappy about their treatment by staff at the Aberdeen school. Officials commissioned a consultant psychiatrist, recommended by the National Deaf Children's Society, to investigate and subsequently called in Grampian police. A report has gone to the fiscal but no action is likely.

Education officials are still carrying out their own inquiry into the management of the school and the girls' experiences.

There are nine full-time equivalent staff, visiting specialists and auxiliaries to cater for 27 nursery, primary and secondary pupils but only six are left in the secondary department. It is likely to close shortly. Two secondary pupils from neighbouring Aberdeenshire are expected to transfer to local provision at Ellon Academy, while two other pupils are from Shetland. The school's hostel closed last Easter.

Linksfield Academy, which the deaf school adjoins, is expected to absorb remaining pupils. Isobel Gibson, Aberdeen's assistant director of education, said: "Given what we have read over the last few weeks and months about deaf provision, the time is now right for a major national review for children with hearing impairment."

The deaf school was built only 15 years ago for a maximum of 50 pupils and reached its peak in 1991-92 of 47 pupils, including pupils from Highland, Tayside, Orkney and Shetland. Since then, numbers have steadily decreased.

Meanwhile, the National Deaf Children's Society is writing to the Scottish Office to underline its concerns about the quality of education for deaf children and backing a national commission of inquiry.

Veronica Rattray, development officer in Scotland, said: "Too many of our young people are leaving school under-qualified and therefore unable to find work and it is difficult even for those who do manage to attain certificates. "

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