School for the deaf should not become a political football

Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children has been in the pages of the Ham&High a great deal recently. As governors we have been grateful for the support which we have received from across the political spectrum in Camden as the council decides on plans for o

Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children has been in the pages of the Ham&High a great deal recently. As governors we have been grateful for the support which we have received from across the political spectrum in Camden as the council decides on plans for our future.

What has not been so welcome are the attempts by some to turn the debate into a party-political issue. Our unanimous view is, and has always been, that it isn't.

Like its Labour predecessor, the current Liberal Democrat and Conservative administration has always been very supportive of the school and has justly taken pride in its maintenance of suitable provision for the education of profoundly deaf children.

Over the last year, members on all sides of the chamber have listened thoughtfully to what we and the deaf community have had to say about what we think should happen, and they have acted accordingly.


You may also want to watch:


Balancing the needs of our children and the clear need within Camden for more secondary places was never going to be easy, and so it has proved.

On occasion, we may have disagreed with some of the things which some councillors have said in relation to plans which we have felt unable to support. But we have never doubted the willingness of individual members, and the council as a whole, to find what Cllr Mennear described last July as a solution we can all be proud of.

Most Read

We as governors remain confident that such a solution can be offered by at least two of the three options for our future which remain under active consideration, namely rebuilding us either at Primrose Hill School or at Edith Neville School.

And so a plea, if I may, on behalf of the governing body of this school and on behalf of the children we are here to serve. This is not about party politics or scoring points against political opponents. It is about protecting and ensuring the best life chances for some of the most vulnerable members of our society who need, and will continue to need, what this school has to offer.

Anyone attracted to the idea of using Frank Barnes as a political football would do well to bear in mind that doing so is not merely unjustified and regrettable, but runs the real risk of doing just as much damage to the futures of the children this school exists to educate, as ever they might accuse their political opponents of contemplating.

Stephen Phillips

Chair of Governors, Frank Barnes School

Harley Road, NW3

Deaf pupils who attend Frank Barnes were included in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Britain rightly signed up to this convention in March last year but, unlike some other countries, progress on implementation is slow.

If Camden continues to think in terms of special schooling for disabled pupils, it will only delay the time it takes for these pupils to be fully included into society. As Vernor Villalobos, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, says: ''Education systems should stop seeing children with disabilities as problems, but rather as an opportunity to enrich schools''.

Preethi Manuel

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter