Royal Cross Primary - Lancashire's only school for deaf children

PUBLISHED: 15:46 16 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:55 20 February 2013

Learning to sign

Learning to sign

Preston is home to Lancashire's only school for the deaf and we should be proud of its achievements. Roger Borrell reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson

The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Lancashire Life

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Its always an emotional moment when an old boy walks back through the gates of his former school. But it was particularly poignant for 20-year-old Michael Rogerson.

His alma mater was the Royal Cross Primary School in the Ashton area of Preston. This is no ordinary school and Michael is no ordinary ex-pupil.

Surprisingly, Royal Cross is Lancashires only school for the deaf and Michael went back there to meet the current crop of pupils after he had been named volunteer of the year in national awards staged by BTCV, the countrys leading conservation charity.

Michael, deaf since birth and struggling to get a job, made a regular 52-mile round-bus trip to work as an environmental volunteer and he was rewarded with a new social life, practical skills, new pastimes and passions. More importantly, it set the Lancaster lad on the path to getting his dream job as a gardener.

His is just one of the many success stories from this inspiring little school. We should be particularly proud of it because not only is it Lancashires only school for the deaf, its also one of the best by any standards. Ofsted inspectors have declared it outstanding.

Their report spoke of the childrens infectious enthusiasm for learning, superb achievements and exemplary behaviour. They also acknowledged the remarkable quality of education.

As you walk around the school, you realise the inspectors didnt just turn up on a good day. There really is a positive energy around the corridors and in the classrooms where teachers and the children interact in a way you dont always see in conventional schools.

Headteacher Ruth Nottingham explained that medical and technological advances such a cochlea implants allowed the majority of deaf children to go to mainstream schools. But for a small number, deafness has a more significant impact on their ability to learn and communicate. These are the youngsters who go to Royal Cross from homes all over Lancashire.

The high level of education is illustrated by the fact that the school currently has 23 children across five classes. The pupil-to-teacher ratio is understandably high, especially as the children they take can be as young as four. Being that age and living in a silent world can produce a range of emotions, from confusion to fear.

The school was founded on a desire to do good and spread happiness. Mary Cross, the kind-hearted daughter of a local farmer, established the school at Brockholes. It was formerly a boarding school at Brockholes Brow and a visit by Queen Victoria during her Diamond Jubilee allowed it to append the word royal to the name. It moved to its present site in 1990.

In spite of the proud history, the school has been quick to embrace modern teaching methods and the latest technology. The school has changed beyond recognition, said Ruth. Our aim is to develop children who can communicate. It doesnt matter how - so long as they do. It allows the forming of relationships and that leads to happiness and confidence. Very young deaf children can feel isolated and become insular and withdrawn or, at the other extreme, they can be quite a handful.

But if you put them in the right environment they are like little sponges and instead of ignoring what is going on around them, they pick things up naturally.

Everyone at the school, even staff who serve the dinners, are trained to work with deaf children and the teachers, backed by support staff, are all qualified to a high level.

Skills such as signing and lip-reading help to bring children out of their shells. They are used in whatever combination works best for each child, added Ruth. We want children who are happy and have self-esteem and for many that means they can then leave here and go into mainstream schools.

The chairman of the governors, Jeanette Greer, who was a pupil at the old school, said: Things have changed beyond recognition. The technology has transformed the way children are taught.

When Michael Rogerson picked up his award, the BTCV vice president Jonathon Porritt told guests: His can-do attitude, where there are no barriers, has been an example to us all.

You could say that about everyone at Royal Cross Primary.

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