Devon

Exeter Royal Deaf Academy new site agreed

Deaf signing
Image caption Larger classrooms will make it easier for students to communicate with sign language

The Royal Academy for Deaf Education is to build a new academy in Devon.

The four-acre site in Ringswell Avenue in the Hill Barton area of Exeter was the former home of St Luke's secondary school.

The academy said its current buildings in Topsham Road, Exeter, were no longer adequate for its 120 students, aged between four and 24.

When the new academy opens it will be able to take 180 students, with residential accommodation for 120.

The academy's chief executive, Jonathan Farnhill, said it had taken two years to agree the new location with Devon County Council.

"It's hugely exciting for everyone - a new beginning and a new opportunity," he said.

'Inspiring place'

Plans for the new building will be drawn up by London architects de Rijke Marsh Morgan - the same firm which prepared plans last year for an academy in the St Leonard's area of the city.

"This is a much bigger site with a different layout, so we'll be pretty much starting from scratch," Mr Farnhill said.

"We still want to build something which is an inspiring place for deaf students, but the different environment may change the way we achieve that."

Funding to pay for the planning application has been secured from Futurebuilders, a government-funded agency which helps charities to develop and expand their services.

A planning application should be submitted early next year and Mr Farnhill said he hoped the new academy would be ready to open in September 2014.

The residential accommodation will be used outside term time for family courses for children who have recently been diagnosed as deaf.

Audiology services for hearing impaired people will also be provided on the new site by Chime social enterprise for NHS Devon.

"For a long time, parents of deaf children have talked of their frustration that the support from health, education and social care is not more joined up," Mr Farnhill said.

"By being co-located, we can work more effectively together, spot gaps in the provision for deaf children quicker and develop new services better."

The current academy in Topsham Road will be sold to help pay for the costs of the new building.

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