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June 19, 2003

Deaf school funds rescue at 11th hour

From: Advertiser, Australia - Jun 19, 2003

By Political Reporter CATHERINE HOCKLEY

THE State Government last night guaranteed emergency financial help to ensure a school for deaf children remained open only after the Opposition revealed it would close within two weeks.

The Government has pledged a new funding package for the struggling Cora Barclay Centre, at Gilberton.

Earlier, Opposition Deputy Leader Dean Brown told The Advertiser the centre, which provides specialised education, would close after June 30 because the Government had failed to continue its funding.

Mr Brown and Opposition education spokeswoman Vickie Chapman visited the centre yesterday after being alerted to the concerns of staff.

Mr Brown said the centre, attended by 130 deaf and hearing-impaired children, needed just $150,000 to remain open for the 2003-04 financial year.

However, a spokeswoman for Social Justice Minister Stephanie Key said last night an ongoing funding offer had been made to the centre yesterday to help it "return to financial viability".

The spokeswoman said the undisclosed amount of money would be drawn from the Government's disability services budget rather than from education funds.

She said there would be a "future meeting" to discuss the offer with the centre.

Mr Brown said: "The staff and the parents of the children feel very insecure about this situation. When the State Government has a cash surplus of $83 million, surely it can find $150,000 to help deaf children.

"If the centre closes, the medical, welfare and educational cost to the Government will be far greater than $150,000."

The centre helps deaf children fitted with cochlear ear implants to learn to speak.

It offers language-skill development to deaf and hearing-impaired children from the age of 12 months.

The skills assist the children in eventually integrating into mainstream schools.

Mr Brown said if the children were forced into the public school system from an early age, they would not be taught to speak.

"Cochlear ear implants are helping deaf children to lead more normal lives," he said.

Mr Brown said the students would be restricted to learning by sign language in the public education system.

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