Cameras focus on city's deaf school

PUPILS at Donaldson's school for the deaf are to be the stars of a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

Camera crews will spend up to 18 months following pupils as they prepare for a move from the school's historic home in Edinburgh's West End to a new purpose-built facility in Linlithgow.

The BBC show - planned to be shown in the early part of 2008 - promises to provide a glimpse of what life is like for a deaf person in a hearing world and their use of sign language.

In addition, the programme will show how the building, designed 150 years ago by Sir William Henry Playfair, is no longer relevant to modern teaching methods and highlight the advantages of the new purpose-built premises.

As well as filming, the crews will work with the pupils to produce a video diary showing the students' perspective on what it is like to live with the TV cameras.

Filming will start later this month and is expected to continue as Donaldson's gets set for the flit to the new complex, which is being created on the site of a former factory on the town's Preston Road. The new site is planned to be fully occupied by late next year.

The TV show is being made for BBC Scotland by Edinburgh production company Hand Pict. Its previous work has included documentaries charting Gretna FC's rise to prominence in Scottish football, another examining what it was like living as a Muslim in Dundee, and a series following six different couples leading up to their wedding day.

School principal Janice MacNeill said: "This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the work that we do here. Few people who visit the school fail to be moved by the challenges our students face while at the same time appreciating the importance of the specialist education, care and attention that each and every pupil receives.

"With the move to Linlithgow late next year, we have the opportunity to extend our resources to a much wider catchment and to position ourselves as a truly national centre of excellence."

Hand Pict producer and director George Cathro said: "I first became aware of the work Donaldson's does when I was at school myself and we spent a day at the college. Even at a young age I was struck by just how different things are for people who are deaf, and how little understood they often are. Years later, I was on a bus alongside a group of Donaldson's pupils who were signing and laughing and communicating in their own way.

"I felt like an outsider, a stranger in their world, because I had no idea of what they were saying. I realised the importance of helping the wider public to understand and appreciate the issues these children and young people face."

Donaldson's trustees agreed to sell off the historic A-listed site near Haymarket to a developer three years ago for a fee believed to be in the region of 15 million.

Designed by Playfair, the deaf school's current home was completed in 1851. Housebuilder Cala is planning an 80m transformation of the site which will see 63 flats created inside the existing site and a further 72 built behind in a new crescent-shaped building.

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