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Deaf Academy temporarily homeless

But beautiful buildings beckon

The bags were packed. Excitement building. Children and staff at Exeter's Deaf Academy ready to move from their home of almost 200 years (not that they were all alive then) and head to beautiful new buildings at Exmouth that's cost more than £10 million to construct. Guess what's scuppered those plans - at least temporarily?

Designed specifically for deaf young people, the new campus on the site of the former Rolle College was in the final stages of completion, but within hours of the final boxes being packed the government lockdown was announced. Remaining fundraising activities were cancelled. And although the Exmouth site isn't ready, staying at the Topsham Road site isn’t an option. Some youngsters do still need to go to school though.

Thanks to fantastic relationships and the supportive community of Exeter, a solution is in place. Classrooms would be provided by WESC (the specialist centre for visual impairment on Topsham Road) - where students could be taught safely and effectively - and high-quality accommodation provided by the University of Exeter for residential students. And fundraising would go virtual!

Steve Morton, director of development at the Deaf Academy, said: ‘When it became clear that our move to the new site would not happen on schedule and we couldn’t remain at the old site, we quickly developed new plans. We are hugely grateful to both the WESC Foundation and the University of Exeter for their support. This means we have been able to open our spring camp for a limited number of priority students, for example those whose parents are key workers. 

‘None of us could have anticipated the world being turned upside down by coronavirus, but the inevitable impact meant that our new home was not quite ready. The timing couldn’t have been worse, but we are ever resourceful, and ever resilient and it’s still very much a new chapter for us.’

As with schools across the country, the majority of students are being educated at home via the organisation’s Online Academy and staff are working closely with construction company, Midas, to ensure the new campus is completed as quickly and safely as possible.

The Academy, which is a registered charity with much of its work relying on donations, was in the final stages of a fundraising campaign to fit out the new build. This campaign, which featured its flagship Colourbomb event on Exmouth beach, was also halted by the pandemic. But it’s not been defeated and is now taking the event online.

People from across the UK are being asked to dress in their most colourful clothes during Deaf Awareness week, which begins on 4 May, make a donation, and share their pictures, creating a riot of colour across social media, becoming part of a unique ‘virtual colourbomb’. This virtual event aims to be one of the Academy’s adapted fundraising asks to ensure that the final £100,000 is raised and their deaf students are able to enjoy a fully equipped new academy. 

Steve added: ‘We are grateful to Pinnacle and Living and Lifestyle Exmouth Mobility for their continued sponsorship of this now virtual event. We’re looking forward to seeing people take up the virtual colourbomb challenge, from corporate teams dressing up for calls, to our students and families and our fantastically supportive community  - we know there are going to be some amazing sights and we’re so grateful to people for supporting us and helping us reach our fundraising target."

For information about the Virtual Colourbomb visit www.thedeafacademy.ac.uk/support-us/events/

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