Campus merger for blind school

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The Royal Blind School is set to merge its two campuses and sell off its Craigmillar Park base on the back of dwindling pupil numbers.

The historic educational facility, which was founded in 1793 as the world’s third foundation devoted to the welfare of blind people, will start work later this month on adapting its campus at Canaan Lane in Morningside.

The £4.5 million redevelopment will result in all of the school’s facilities being run from a single site.

The building at Craigmillar Park, which has housed pupils since 1835, will be put on the market in the summer next year.

The sale of the property will coincide with the full relocation of the school’s activities, pupils and services to Canaan Lane.

A spokeswoman for Royal Blind said about 26 pupils would be based out of the revamped campus by 2020 in a significant reduction 
compared with the school’s existing capacity.

The school had 60 pupils split across its two campuses in 2012-13, with estimates of 53 for this financial year.

It is understood children with a single disability, and those who are visually impaired or blind, are increasingly being placed in mainstream or other specialist schools by local authorities, meaning there is less demand for Royal Blind’s services.

Royal Blind chief executive Richard Hellewell said: “Although the number of pupils is decreasing gradually to a lower level, the Royal Blind School will remain a national specialist school for visually impaired pupils, with the ability to support children with a range of abilities including those that local authorities are not able to place in mainstream classes.

“Current pupils will be able to remain for the rest of their school careers and we will continue to accept all children who are referred to us.”

Specialist subject classrooms, including music, art, home economics and computing, will be built at Canaan Lane. A national visual impairment education resource centre would also be based out of the revamped campus.

Funds from the sale of Craigmillar Park will be used to help pay for the redevelopment.

Edinburgh Conservative leader and Southside/Newington councillor Cameron Rose said: “It will be disappointing if the Royal Blind School go ahead and close their Craigmillar Park campus, but I’m surprised because there seems to be an increasing demand for special needs children.”

A city council spokesman said: “We try where possible to support children so they can go to their mainstream school and be part of their local community. However, some pupils require additional support and can benefit from attending special schools which are more suited to their needs.”

dale.miller@edinburghnews.com