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Critics hit out at scheme for special school

PUBLISHED: 15:56 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:57 07 September 2010

A CONTROVERSIAL plan has been hatched by Camden Council to save an award-winning special needs school from closing. Education chiefs at the Town Hall have recommended Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children be rebuilt alongside Somers Town

Ben McPartland

A CONTROVERSIAL plan has been hatched by Camden Council to save an award-winning special needs school from closing.

Education chiefs at the Town Hall have recommended Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children be rebuilt alongside Somers Town's Edith Neville primary.

But bosses at Edith Neville on Ossulston Street are dead against the move and want Frank Barnes, which is due to be demolished to make way for a new secondary academy, to be built elsewhere.

Edith Nevile's governors have so far refused to comment on the scheme but their Labour councillor Roger Robinson summed up their mood: "Frank Barnes should stay where it is. I don't know why they want to move it in the first place.

"I support the school 100 per cent. Frank Barnes should not be moved, full stop.

"Edith Neville is in a heavily built up area and there's very little in the way of space for young people. It's not very good for taking people to and from school.

"The Eurostar is just down the road and there will soon be a huge medical research centre.

"They should think very carefully about where they put schools and not just shove it in because they want to get it out of the way, which is what this is really about.

"I am also sick to death of the attitude towards people with disabilities. They are treated like second-class citizens."

The Town Hall plan is to rebuild both Frank Barnes and Edith Nevile alongside each other in a £9million project, to be paid for out of council coffers.

Other alternatives include merging Frank Barnes with Blanche Neville school for deaf children in Highgate or rehousing it to an old caretaker's home in Primrose Hill primary.

Responses to the recent public consultation proved these options were either unfeasible or unpopular.

Edith Neville governors are understood to be against the favoured move because of a lack of space on the site and a reluctance to see British Sign Language (BSL) taught in a school where English and two community languages are already on the curriculum.

In their consultation response governors said: "There is no case that BSL will enhance the life changes of our children and indeed it is our firm belief that it will provide a 'load too far'."

Governors have also said having two distinct schools on the same site goes against the ethos of integration.

But Frank Barnes' chair of governors Stephen Phillips said: "Obviously we're really pleased that Camden is proposing a solution that means that deaf kids in London will continue to get the education they deserve.

"We're still concerned that the needs of Edith Neville and its community aren't ignored. Just like Frank Barnes, Edith Neville is a really good school with really dedicated teachers.

"I hope that we can make this work with them, but we have to listen to what they want for their future too."

The council's executive will decide whether to sanction the Edith Neville option when they meet again on April 23.

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk

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