Skip to main content

Special victory after four years

School for the deaf wins battle to avoid closure, reports Cherry Canovan

A SPECIAL school for the profoundly deaf has won a four-year battle to stay open - but has had to find more than a million pounds to do so.

In a case that became a cause cel bre and was debated in Parliament, Camden council tried to shut Penn school in High Wycombe, which catered for children with very complex educational needs.

But the school fought back and has now been bought by an educational trust, allowing it to stay open as a non-maintained special school.

In the late 1990s, the north London council decided to close Penn and sell the land.

Mary-Nest Richardson, the school's head, said: "Camden argued that it was going down the inclusion line and wanted to educate all special needs pupils locally."

However, after an adjournment debate in the House of Commons, it was agreed that Rayners Special Education Trust, set up by the governors, would buy the school. The sale was completed recently, ending years of uncertainty.

But the school now faces another battle - keeping itself financially buoyant. It had to take out bank loans to fund the pound;1.3 million asking price, and will have to sell off land to pay them back. Also, a share of any money raised by land sales has to be passed on to Camden.

But Mrs Richardson, who was appointed as the new head last week, is happy. "The main thing is that we have survived," she said. "Special schools are being closed up and down the country."

Penn takes children from local education authorities in the South-east which do not have equivalent provision. The school, which has both day and boarding places for 11 to 16-year-olds, now intends to set up a post-16 department.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you