The Right Honorable Nicky Morgan MP
Secretary of State for Education
20 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT
Dear Secretary of State
The British Deaf Association (BDA) has learned with some dismay this morning that the Royal School for Deaf Children Margate (RSDCM) may have to close at the end of the week, we have had a a long and very rewarding connection to the school for over 125 years and the founder of the BDA, Francis Maginn, was both a pupil, and a teacher.
I can honestly say, for the world of the Deaf, this will be a catastrophe, for RSDCM has served us for over 200 years and in this century has developed into a centre for deaf children with complex needs. If it closes it is difficult to see where else such children can go. We appeal to you as the Secretary of the State for Education to intervene at once to prevent closure. We know that a closure this weekend would mean it becomes infinitely more difficult to re-open it again in the future. For once it is closed, it would be difficult to revive, be very expensive to replace.
Immediate assurance as to government support is needed with some temporary financial help whilst some properties are sold. Closure will have a major and dramatic impact, and this action will create a technical revaluation of the school’s pension fund which then has to be valued on a ”solvency basis”, that is to say the cost of purchasing in the market the acceptance of responsibility for paying all pensions in future which thanks in part to market changes in the last two years, especially the Chinese economy’s effect upon actuaries’ predictions, has magnified the sum needed to an amount which may exceed that of the School’s property .It would be a national tragedy – a disgrace – if the country were to lose this unique resource and even more so if this happened in part as the result of such external factors . The immediate need arises because the financial authority is unwilling to lend any money to enable the School to keep going whilst its future is sorted out without being given a legal charge over property to which the pension fund trustees object. This has placed the administrator in an impossible position.
Long term we believe that the great work begun in 1792 in London as ” the Asylum for the Deaf Children of the Poor” which moved from London to Margate finally in 1903 after a century in the Old Kent Road, needs to be continued, so that even the unfortunate children who have multiple disabilities can have somewhere to be educated. At present the School receives pupils from all over England and Wales , although latterly most are from the South East. The BDA would like to pay tribute to the teachers and staff who have done and are doing such wonderful work at the Royal School The closure would also be a regional disaster for Thanet, as 500 jobs will be lost in an area already short of jobs.”
Petitions are now active in the deaf community, with over 10,000 in two days so feeling are understandably high. As a former governor, I have personally witnessed the massive changes that take place in the lives of deaf children and young people during their years at the school and specialist college. There is a very clear ethos with every deaf child positively encouraged to reach beyond their own potential with the help of language and communication support.
At every Deaf school in the UK, deaf children and young people support each other in their own “community” which enables them to be equipped to cope in wider society. My big fear, when seeing local authorities putting them into mainstream schools with very little support, is that they will lose their own identity, community and language.
Please act now to save Britain’s oldest Deaf school and safeguard the future of our deaf children and young people!
Dr Terry Riley OBE