Swiss Cottage deaf school told it is not wanted

A MERGER plan to save Frank Barnes school for deaf children has been thrown into doubt by a secret email leaked to the Ham&High

Ben McPartland

A MERGER plan to save Frank Barnes school for deaf children has been thrown into doubt by a secret email leaked to the Ham&High.

The award-winning school for deaf children in Swiss Cottage is due to be demolished to make way for Camden's new academy.

Last night as the Ham&High went to press Camden Council was finally expected to approve consultation over a merger with Blanche Nevile school for deaf chidlren in Haringey.

But it seems councillors in Haringey are not so keen on the idea. In an email to Camden Council, deputy director of Haringey's children and young people's service Ian Bailey said: "We know that Frank Barnes's approach is different to that at Blanche Nevile. We respect that but would be concerned if the impact of Frank Barnes closing were to radically change the educational philosophy that governs the way Blanche Nevile works. Accordingly we do not consider any form of school merger acceptable."

Staff at Blanche Nevile are also against the move because of the two schools' very different teaching methods.

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Worries have arisen because Frank Barnes uniquely uses British Sign Language (BSL) to teach its pupils, most of whom are profoundly deaf, whereas Blanche Nevile delivers its curriculum mainly in English before translating it into BSL.

The opposition to the plan has been met with mixed feelings by supporters of Frank Barnes who were also against the merger and would prefer to see their school rebuilt alongside an existing Camden primary.

Governor Mike Katz said: "I cannot work out why the council is still pursing that as its preferred option considering what Haringey has said about it."

As well as the possible closure and merger with Blanche Nevile, Camden Council is also to open consultation on whether Frank Barnes should be rebuilt alongside Primrose Hill or Edith Neville primaries.

Mr Katz said: "I am confident of a couple of things. Firstly, that all the pupils and teachers at Frank Barnes will be supporting the Primrose Hill option, but I am also confident these people will not have faith in the openness and transparency of Camden's consultation process."

Camden's schools chief Councillor Andrew Mennear said: "We have had different assurances from the director of the department. He has given us different information.

"No one disputes that it is as straightforward as it would be if the schools were in the same borough.

"It doesn't mean these are barriers that cannot be overcome.

"Blanche Nevile has a better educational fit than any of the other options in terms of teaching and experience."