The Deaf Academy

Transforming education and care for Deaf students and their families

The Deaf Academy operates a school, college and residential accommodation for Deaf young people aged five to twenty five from across the UK.

We were appointed to develop proposals for the relocation of their existing academy in Exeter to a new site in Exmouth which includes a new education building, student accommodation and the refurbishment of an existing theatre on a seven-acre former teaching campus.

East Devon Council granted planning consent for the development in 2017.

The new academy provides distinct identities for the school and the college, and establishes a clear learning journey for students.

New classrooms are clustered around a central ‘Learning Forest’. This shared atrium space is a focal point for the academy providing a lively and engaging place for children from different classes to meet, dine and learn. Lit by high level clerestory windows, the space also has an important practical function, forming part of the natural lighting and ventilation strategy.

The existing Owen Building was refurbished and the theatre retained and is now known as the Weston Building.

A new residential building sits to the east of the site, allowing students to live in ‘family’ groups and develop valuable life skills. Elsewhere on site there are a number of specialist outdoor teaching spaces, together with a dining area, orchard, gardens and a multi-use games area.

Extensive consultation was undertaken with students and staff to inform the design. Twelve key design principles were drawn up with the aim of creating an inspiring environment that reflects the needs and untapped potential of Deaf students.

The result is a design solution that creates light, open spaces to optimise visual communication for sign language and lip-reading and provides good acoustics to maximise access to sound for those using assistive technology such as hearing devices.

Classrooms and vocational workspaces are equipped with modern technology to inspire students to learn and prepare them for work. The new academy is fully accessible with therapy services on site, ensuring all students, including those with physical disabilities and additional needs, are able to thrive.

In November 2017, Stride Treglown and The Deaf Academy, on the invitation of the Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE, presented the design at “The Future of Deaf Education” event at the House of Lords. Arnet Donkin, Former Executive Principal, Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education, said:

We are about to take a bold, and ambitious step into a new future for the academy. Our architect, Stride Treglown, 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.

The Deaf Academy welcomed its students to their new home in September 2020.