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UK’s oldest Deaf Academy planning an Exmouth future

When: 01 September 2016

Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education has announced exciting plans to build a new world class Deaf Academy on the former Rolle College campus in Exmouth. The ground-breaking new Academy buildings will be designed with Deaf people for Deaf people and will be the international blueprint for Deaf education and residential care.

The Deaf Academy’s Chief Executive, Jonathan Farnhill, informed parents, staff and supporters today that contracts had been exchanged and that work was now starting on a planning application to East Devon District Council. He told them that the seven acre site – currently owned by the University of Plymouth – was simply too good an opportunity to be missed, with a location and size which enables the Academy to fulfil all its ambitions for Deaf people.

Exeter Deaf Academy has now set its sights on a bright future in the town where they can build on this proud educational history and develop similarly close links with the people of Exmouth.

Mr Farnhill commented: “We are excited to have found a new site which would provide a permanent home for the Deaf Academy after 190 years in Devon. There are many opportunities that a town like Exmouth can offer our Deaf students”.

“The town itself is a real draw for us. It’s a large vibrant town with great amenities, housing and opportunities for leisure activities. However, it’s also a town with a strong sense of community and we feel that it could become a truly Deaf friendly environment, a model for integrated living between Deaf and hearing communities.”

Speaking about the Rolle site, he continued: “We would have the space to build an Academy with distinct identities for school and college, but also with ground level accessibility for students with physical disabilities. We would also be able to build enough residential accommodation to keep pace with a growing student population with increasingly complex needs.”

Rolle College first opened as a teacher training college in 1949 and the University of Plymouth’s Faculty of Arts and Education was based there from 1988 to 2008. However, it has not been in regular use since then despite the University working for almost a decade to ensure its former home is rejuvenated.

James Brent, Chairman of the Board of Governors at the University of Plymouth, said: “When we left Exmouth it was always hoped to continue the site’s educational legacy. Having the Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education as the new owner means that vision can now become a reality, to the benefit of the Academy, the town and the region as a whole.”

Local East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire said he was delighted by this long awaited news. Sir Hugo said: “I was present over 10 years ago when the late Professor Levinsky stated that the University of Plymouth wanted to work with the town to mitigate the loss resulting from Plymouth's withdrawal from Rolle. There have been many twists and turns since but today Plymouth can justifiably say they have honoured the late Professor's commitment. This is a win-win result and I am very proud that Exmouth will now be home to the Deaf Academy. Everyone in the town always wanted this site to be retained for educational use and now that is what's going to happen”.

“I pay particular tribute to all those who have been involved with Rolle Exmouth Limited over the years. This was community support at its best and without their energy and commitment I believe the site would have long since been flattened for development. This is a happy chapter in Exmouth's long history.”

Mr Farnhill added: “We are eager to open the next chapter in our proud history, and we look forward to that being in Exmouth. The new Deaf Academy will transform the lives of Deaf children and their families and will be a place where Deaf and hearing people can come together.”

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