Friday, 21 September 2012
220 years teaching the deaf
THE Royal School for Deaf Children Margate opened its gates to welcome pupils for the start of its 220th school year this month.
When the school was set up in 1792, it was the first public institution in the UK to offer a free education for deaf children. It was initially based in the East End of London and named the Asylum for the Deaf Children of the Poor. It continues to thrive as a non-maintained specialist day and residential school for children who are deaf, or have a hearing impairment and associated communication difficulties.
The school actually moved to Margate from London in 1905, as the governors were inspired by the positive effect that the seaside air had on pupils who had been sent for short stays at the Sea Bathing Hospital in nearby Westbrook. In the beginning, importance was placed on "total communication" with a number of methods used to meet the needs of the individual child.
This is still true today, and the school not only works with its own pupils, but offers courses in British Sign Language to the wider community. Original subjects at the school included "educational" ones such as lip-reading, scripture, and first aid, and "industrial" ones including cabinet making, dairy farm training and domestic economy.
Pupils also worked towards a Certificate for General Usefulness with separate qualifications for boys and girls. The boy's qualifications required students to "plane up a piece of wood true" and "fix a hinge and lock", while the girls' qualifications asked pupils to "cook a joint, potatoes, vegetables" and "dress an infant".