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Deaf school location in doubt

PUBLISHED: 14:44 18 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:16 07 September 2010

Susanna Wilkey THE future of Frank Barnes School for deaf children is once again in jeopardy - prompting governors to lash out at Camden Council for messing the school around. They are fed up with the lack of a decent solution and are furious the council

Susanna Wilkey

THE future of Frank Barnes School for deaf children is once again in jeopardy - prompting governors to lash out at Camden Council for messing the school around.

They are fed up with the lack of a decent solution and are furious the council expects them to move into temporary accommodation for several years, disrupting staff and pupils.

The proposed co-location with Edith Neville School now looks unlikely to go ahead, with governors there still consulting on a move to foundation status.

So Camden has suggested that Frank Barnes, based in Swiss Cottage, is co-located with a new primary school that will be built at King's Cross and has entered the early stages of discussions with developers Argent.

While the school has welcomed this idea, which governors suggested three years ago, it has always said it does not want to be in temporary accommodation for more than a year.

A conservative estimate suggests that the school would be based temporarily at Jubilee Waterside, an old sports centre that will require around £1million investment to bring it up to scratch. Such a work would take at least three years.

Chairman of governors Stephen Phillips said: "Unless they find a solution with which we are prepared to live we will not get off that site.

"The King's Cross development isn't even going to be started in two years' time, so we will be in temporary accommodation for a long time.

"We are very hopeful about the plans for King's Cross - though it is so far down the road that the difficulty is what happens in the meantime.

"But it is obvious there is a lot of work to be done to persuade us to move from Swiss Cottage.

"We are very tired of being messed around and tired of not having a solution. This has been going on for more than three years. And it certainly looks like it is not going to be one year in temporary accommodation."

Governor Mike Katz said temporary accommodation is difficult for any school but especially hard considering the special needs of Frank Barnes's children.

"This is another bit of mucking about that we have had to go through," he said. "The ironic thing is King's Cross is the solution we suggested three years ago and we have spent a lot of time going through the different options and we have ended up in the same place.

"The Edith Neville option is effectively dead in the water and nobody is being transparent about it. We were very clear that if we are going to have to spend a long time in temporary accommodation we would not be as cooperative as we could be.

"No school should have to be passed from pillar to post like this, let alone one with the vulnerable pupils we have at Frank Barnes. We are not in a happy state - it just feels like 'oh no, not again'. The council hasn't been open and forthcoming about this issue."

Schools boss Cllr Andrew Mennear said: "Unfortunately the Edith Neville governing body decided the co-location wasn't their preferred option and they opened a consultation for foundation status. We are still confident that we would win a legal case to rebuild the schools together but what we cannot do is hurry Edith Neville up with the consultation.

"We have reached an impasse with regret and it is a shame because we do think it would benefit both schools.

"We hope we will be able to bring a lot more clarity to this very soon. Throughout this process we have wanted to limit the amount of uncertainty for Frank Barnes.

"These are still an exciting and optimistic times for the school although I do recognise there are still question marks.

"The money to make Jubilee Waterside suitable for the school will not come out of the funds for the new school. We have contingency funds for that.

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