Plans revealed for new deaf academy in Exmouth

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An artists impression of the new Exeter Deaf Academy in Exmouth.

Extracted from Devon Live – By Anita Merritt

Before a planning application is submitted to relocate Exeter Deaf Academy, the public are being invited to give their opinions on the proposed plans.

The former Exmouth Rolle site was purchased last September to create a new home for the academy, currently based in Topsham Road, and plans of what it will look like have now been unveiled. It will see the majority of the existing buildings demolished, but not the Owen Building, and its popular community theatre will reopen.

Proposed site plan of the new Exeter Deaf Academy in Exmouth.

The key points include…

  • A new centrally located main school building, likely to be arranged around a central ‘learning forest’ providing a lively and engaging learning space. 
  • Existing main vehicular access along Douglas Avenue will remain for school drop off and parent parking, with an additional pedestrian link from Rolle Road, providing a clear connection from the site to the town centre. 
  • Staff parking to the rear of the site with access from Fairfield Road. 
  • The land to the east of the site sits within the conservation area and includes the listed Eldin building and greenhouse. This area is not included within the current proposals.
The proposed front entrance of Exeter Deaf Academy
  • The centre of the site will be where the student accommodation will be located creating a buffer zone between the school and the Eldin building. The existing brick walls and mature vegetation surrounding this area of the site provide a more private feel, suited to student living. 
  • The proposals seek to retain the mature trees and landscape setting around the Douglas Avenue and Salterton Road boundaries. 
  • The sports facilities will be located to the west of the site replacing the existing buildings and creating a more open and green feel to this area of the site. 
  • Many of the existing education buildings are no longer fit for purpose and do not fit the requirements of the academy, therefore the majority of these building are proposed to be demolished. 
  • The existing Owen Building is to be retained, maintaining the theatre. It is proposed that the theatre will be available for community use, although the exact details of community use have yet to be confirmed.
The proposed theatre on the site.

The proposals state the site layout focused on creating a successful and dynamic education environment for the future students, while providing a homely feel to the boarding accommodation working with the unique qualities and constraints of the Rolle Campus site. The new academy will be designed specifically for young deaf learners with the aim of creating “a place of light, colour, enjoyment, discovery and achievement”.

Last November, the troubled academy was labelled ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors after pupils were found to be at risk of harm. It said the academy was failing to provide an acceptable standard of education, and failures by governors had put pupils at risk of harm and led to a serious decline in the school’s performance.

At the time of the report there were 71 on the school roll, including 43 boarders, and 41 aged 16 to 19.

A major investigation was launched last July, following concerns raised in a ‘whistleblowing letter’ sent to Ofsted. Three members of staff were believed to have been suspended when the investigation by Devon County Council, Ofsted, DfE and the police was launched.

The school is now working on a robust action plan to bring the academy out of special measures, and is focusing on its new future in Exmouth.

Interim principal Arnet Donkin said: “We are now pleased to be able to present a proposal for the site which both meets the ambitions of the deaf academy and hopefully the aspirations of the local community. It will inspire deaf children to fulfil their dreams and equip them to live successful and happy lives when they leave. Its design, and the education and care within it, will be a global exemplar for the provision of services for deaf young people.

“Being part of a community is at the heart of the proposed vision. We will look to make theatre facilities available for local people, allowing others to benefit from the new academy. We wish our students to become confident, independent young people, actively participating in and contributing to the local community.

Inside the proposed new deaf academy in Exmouth.

“These new proposals will enable us to build on our proud 190-year history and start an exciting new chapter in Exmouth, creating a brighter future for deaf children and young people.”

A public consultation event was held in Exmouth yesterday, and people can have their say for the next two weeks via an online survey. A planning application will be submitted to East Devon District Council at the start of July.

Extracted from Devon Live – By Anita Merritt

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