St John's Catholic School for the Deaf

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St John's Catholic School for the Deaf
Established 1870
Type Non-maintained special school; SEN Specialism Sensory and/or Physical Needs
Religion Catholic
Headteacher Ann Bradbury
Founder Désiré de Haerne
Location Church Street
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire
LS23 6DF
53°53′58″N 1°21′06″W / 53.899417°N 1.351650°W / 53.899417; -1.351650Coordinates: 53°53′58″N 1°21′06″W / 53.899417°N 1.351650°W / 53.899417; -1.351650
Local authority Leeds
DfE URN 108120 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Staff 25 teachers, 11 learning support assistants, 22 care staff and others
Students 84
Gender mixed
Ages 3–19

St John's Catholic School for the Deaf is a school for deaf and hearing impaired children in Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, England. Monsignor de Haerne, an influential Belgian priest and senator founded the School at a small house in Handsworth in 1870 with the help from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The School was relocated to Boston Spa in 1875. With efforts from the Daughters of Charity, the School has had a Vincentian Family ethos for almost a century and a half. The School will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2020.

St John's Catholic School for the Deaf is referred to as "Boston Spa" in British Sign Language. Many past pupils are leaders, educators, teachers and businessmen in the Deaf Community. Lara Crooks, a past pupil, was a regular presenter for See Hear, a TV programme for deaf and hard of hearing people in the United Kingdom. Gerry Hughes, the round the world yachtsman was also a pupil.[1][2]

St John's School provides a day and boarding education for deaf and hard of hearing children and young people. In the primary department, teachers use the Maternal Reflective Method of English language teaching, pioneered by Father van Uden, a Dutch oralist based at the Institution for the Deaf in Sint Michielsgestel.[3] In the Post-16 section, young people are provided with note-takers to support them when they attend local colleges, in particular York College and Askham Bryan College.[4]

The School was subject to controversy in 2008, when compensation was awarded to seven men who were victims of a paedophile priest employed at the school between 1975 and 1980.

Gabby Logan (the school's patron) presented a BBC Radio 4 Appeal on Easter Sunday 2009 to raise funds for an Expressive Arts Resource (EAR). The new drama studio was officially opened in October 2012 by Monsignor John Wilson of the Diocese of Leeds.[5]


While the School's official name is St John's Catholic School for the Deaf, it is referred to by the past pupils and the deaf community as "Boston Spa", the village where the School is situated, and as it is easier to lipread.

Belgian Sign Language[edit]

Boston Spa was the only school in England that used a sign language other than British Sign Language, namely Belgian Sign Language introduced from Brussels by the two Daughters of Charity. St Vincent's School for the Deaf (Tollcross) in Glasgow previously used Irish Sign Language.

Language policy[edit]

In the early days,[when?] Boston Spa used Belgian Sign Language which was imported from de Haerne's school in Brussels. After the Second World War, it was decided to introduce oralism through the demands of parents. A St Vincent's Unit was set up half a mile away from the main school to cater for children who could not cope in the main school. St Vincent's Unit eventually adopted Signed English, using British Sign Language. The School has adopted van Uden's Maternal Reflective Method, which promotes Spoken English using written texts.

The Chapel[edit]

The barrel-vaulted chapel, opened on 30 October 1889, was designed in a late Tudor and early Elizabethan styles, by Charles Hadfield. Hadfield's father was Matthew E. Hadfield who was the Secretary to the School in its early years. Two memorial windows were erected there, one to Monsigor de Haerne the founder.[6] and another to Matthew E. Hadfield the Secretary.

Catholic priest paedophile settlement controversy[edit]

In September 2008, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds agreed to out-of-court settlements with seven men who had attended the school in the 1970s, and had been victims of abuse by a paedophile priest employed by the school.[7] The priest, Father Neil Gallanagh was not imprisoned,[8] for the abuses which took place at the school from 1975 to 1980 but no longer practices or dresses as a priest.[9]

Ofsted reports[edit]

2015 inspection[edit]

Ofsted inspected the School in February 2015 judging it to be Grade 2 (Good), stating that "School leaders have continued to build upon the good standards identified in the previous inspection report", "Teaching is nearly always good, with some examples of outstanding practice", "Students who attend the sixth form unit make excellent progress".[10]

Earlier inspections[edit]

Ofsted inspected the School in October 2008 and found it to be Grade 4 (Inadequate), stating that "Significant improvement is required to ensure the School's recruitment policies and procedures comply with all the legislative requirements for the safeguarding of pupils",[11] however the "Effectiveness of the sixth form" (16 – 19 years of age) was rated Grade 1 (Outstanding). Ofsted inspected again in January 2009, and assessed the school as Grade 2 (Good), stating "The school has swiftly put matters right and all the procedures that are currently required to help safeguard children are now in place."[12] An inspection in February 2012 ranked the school as Grade 2 (Good), with "Behaviour and safety of pupils" ranked as Grade 1 (Outstanding).[13] Ofsted inspected the School's residential care provision in March 2013 and judged the school to be 'Outstanding' in all categories.[citation needed]

Community partnership[edit]

St John’s Catholic School for the Deaf was shortlisted in 2011 by the TES for the Outstanding Community Partnership Award.[14]

Gabby Logan[edit]

Gabby Logan, the school patron, presented the School with the Gabby Logan Gymnastics Trophy. The cup is awarded each year to the pupil making the most progress in gymnastics.[15]

Academic credentials[edit]

A 2012 survey by SIL International found that past pupils in Northern Ireland from Boston Spa and Mary Hare School are known for higher academic credentials than is usual in the deaf community and often obtain higher paying and more desirable jobs.[16]


  1. ^ Gerrys Life.
  2. ^ Joselyn Taylor (2007). Boston Spa: The Story of St. John's Catholic School for Deaf Children, 1875 – 1975. British Deaf History Society Publications. ISBN 978-1-902427-28-7. 
  3. ^ "Maternal Reflective Method". St John's Catholic School for the Deaf. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  4. ^ "Post-16 department". St John's Catholic School for the Deaf. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  5. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Appeal". Retrieved 23 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "Picture of Monsignor de Haerne". Leodis – a photographic archive of Leeds. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Seven former deaf pupils win cash". Yorkshire Evening Post. 16 September 2008. Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  8. ^ "Victims of paedophile priest to sue church". The Yorkshire Post. 7 August 2006. Retrieved 16 July 2009. 
  9. ^ Minister & Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors. "Submission to Cumberlege Commission October 2006" (PDF). p. 50. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Inspection Report (11–12 February 2015)" (PDF). Ofsted. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "Inspection Report (14–15 October 2008)" (PDF). Ofsted. 13 January 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Inspection report (20–21 January 2009)" (PDF). Ofsted. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Inspection Report (29 February - 1 March 2012)" (PDF). Ofsted. 22 March 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "The TES School Awards – 2011 Shortlist". Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  15. ^ "TV star presents new award to school for deaf – Your community". Wetherby News. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Parks, Elizabeth; Parks, Jason (1 January 2012). "A Survey Report of the Deaf People of Northern Ireland" (PDF). SIL International. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

Boston Spa : the story of St. John's Catholic School for Deaf Children, 1875–1975; Joselyn Taylor. Addlestone: British Deaf History Society Publications, 2007. vii, 132 p. ISBN 978-1-902427-28-7

Deafness of the mind : the forgotten children of Boston Spa by Kevin Fitzgerald. Published Manchester : Kevin Fitzgerald 2010 (ISBN 9780956475602)

External links[edit]