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Unveiling our designs for Exmouth at the House of Lords

When: 16 November 2017

Last week we presented our plans for our world class Deaf Academy in Exmouth, at a prestigious event at the House of Lords in London.


This follows East Devon District Council granting planning permission for the new Academy to be built on the former seven-acre Rolle College site, formerly owned by the University of Plymouth. This puts the building project firmly on track for construction work to commence in April 2018 ahead of our planned move in September 2019.


We presented our designs along with architects Stride Treglown, on the invitation of the Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE at “The Future of Deaf Education” event, hosted by The Lord Speaker at the House of Lords.

The speakers included Dame Esther Rantzen DBE who spoke passionately about her personal experience of deafness and the importance of specialist Deaf education in the UK. Executive Principal Arnet Donkin also presented, and he shared his aspiration for a new vibrant campus at the heart of Exmouth’s community that will transform education and care for Deaf students and their families.

Arnet said:

‘We are about to take a bold, and ambitious step into a new future for the Academy. Our architects, Stride Treglowan, have worked closely with us to understand the principles of ‘Deaf Space’ and emerging technologies in Deaf education. The result is a ground-breaking design where Deaf young people can communicate freely, have visual connectivity with their peers, teachers and carers, and strengthen their identity as Deaf people.  This is an opportunity to reshape and expand the support the Academy provides for deaf children from across the UK. Our new campus provides the space and opportunity for growth and development in future years’, and will enable us to reach out and build new partnerships in the wider community’.


The Deaf Academy’s guests at the House of Lords included representatives from some of the largest charitable trusts, key figures from the media including the BBC’s health correspondent Hugh Pym and individual supporters such as the owner of the Daily Express and OK Magazine Richard Desmond, whose father became suddenly deaf when he was a child.

Our Director of Development Steve Morton said:

‘This is a project of national significance which has captured the imagination of many highly influential people from right across the UK. Fundraising has been, and remains, critical to deliver everything we need to do for our students. Whilst we still have significant funds to raise, we are incredibly grateful for the number of generous pledges which have already been made’.


Since May, we have undertaken months of extensive consultation with our students and staff to inform the key design principles for the new build. The project will include a new education building, student accommodation and the refurbishment of the existing Owen Theatre, to create a fully inclusive place for Deaf young people.

Our Academy in Exmouth will specialise in enabling Deaf British Sign Language users with additional needs to lead independent lives. Bringing deaf and hearing communities together is at the heart of that vision. The long-term aspiration for the new Deaf Academy is to enable Exmouth to become a role model to the rest of the UK as Britain’s first Deaf-friendly town.

The designs for the new Academy incorporate aspects of Deaf Space architecture throughout the building, including the careful management of natural light, flexible layouts, intelligent acoustic treatments, wide corridors and clear sight lines to support visual communication. All this underpins the Deaf Academy’s specialist work to build confidence and independence in all its students.

Highlights of the design include:

  • A bright naturally lit central Atrium specifically designed to provide a lively and engaging meeting, dining and learning space. A staircase will wrap around a lift from the ground floor Primary School to the upper level Secondary School and College to establish a clear learning journey for students and reinforce their progression.

  • The existing Owen Building will be refurbished and rendered in white with the theatre retained and available for wider community use.
  • The classrooms and vocational workspaces are designed to facilitate teaching using British Sign Language (BSL) and will be equipped with modern technology to inspire students to learn and prepare them for work.
  • There are fully accessible therapy services on site including a large ground floor therapy gym, ensuring all students, including those with physical disabilities and additional needs, are able to thrive.
  • The three storey residential accommodation houses 50 generous bedrooms that cater for a growing student population with a range of additional needs. These are clustered around shared living and kitchen spaces for students to live in ‘family’ groups and develop valuable life skills.

We were very proud of our students who did a wonderful job of welcoming and speaking with all our guests at the event about what the Deaf Academy means to them, through interpreter Tim Griffin. You can see the latest pictures of our designs for the new Academy here:…/new-build-in-exmouth

Special thanks to: Great Western Railway Daily Express BDA South Wales Branch The Savile Row Company

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