Van Asch Deaf Education Centre

van Asch Deaf Education Centre (formerly Sumner School for the Deaf then van Asch School for the Deaf). The school has a long and illustrious history, with its services covering a huge geographical spread. Established in 1880, van Asch is also the oldest special school establishment in New Zealand and is also believed to be the oldest fully government funded residential school in the world.

van Asch Begins

Footage from 'National Film Unit visits Sumner School for the Deaf – 75th Jubilee', 1955.

Gerrit van Asch was from Rotterdam, Holland and was employed as director of the newly created School for the Deaf in Sumner. van Asch was a strong promoter of the German (or “oral”) system. His appointment and methods set the pattern for Deaf education in New Zealand for the next 100 years.

As well as attending class, students were involved in manual labour, milking cows, tending the vegetable gardens and doing the washing. This continued until 1936.

During the 1930s, students were placed into jobs by Department of Education placement officers after they left school.

Due to the outbreak of World War II, van Asch was used as a military base and North island students relocated to the Titirangi School in Auckland until Kelston School for the Deaf was built.

 

The World Visits

Footage from 'Sumner School for the Deaf 75th Jubilee', 1955.

van Asch received a number of visits from distinguished international guests including Alexander Graham Bell (who pioneered the telephone and was a strong supporter of oralist education) in 1911, Helen Keller in 1948 and even Michael J Fox in 1998!

van Asch has also had its fair share of attention when the school’s Marching Girls won numerous awards during 1953-1960.

Moving to Modern Times

Footage from 'Sumner School for the Deaf 100 Years Centenary celebration', 1980.

van Asch introduced the use of the Total Communication philosophy in 1979, until the introduction of the first bilingual-bicultural programmes in 1996.

Today, van Asch is both a co-educational special school and a national resource centre, supporting Deaf and hearing-impaired children and students in the South Island and lower half of the North Island.

van Asch celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2005.

Reference: Fogarty, P (2005) ‘Moving Hands, celebrating 125 years of Deaf Education,’ Silence Books, Auckland.

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  1. 1959
    Donated by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Image of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

    van Asch Marching Girls

    The Deaf van Asch marching team participate in a marching competition in Auckland, 1958.

  2. 1955
    Donated by Archives New Zealand Image of Archives New Zealand

    National Film Unit visits Sumner School for the Deaf – 75th Jubilee

    The National Film Unit visits Sumner School for the Deaf to report on progress in the education of deaf children and to check out the school's 75th Jubilee celebrations.

  3. 1980
    Donated by Dennis Tod Image of Dennis Tod

    Sumner School for the Deaf 100 Years Centenary celebration

  4. 1980
    Donated by Sue Penman Image of Sue Penman

    Sumner School for the Deaf 100 Years Centenary celebration

    Footage by Sue Penman, of members of the Deaf community and their families attending the centenary celebrations at Sumner School for the Deaf, and taking a tour of the school.

  5. 1955
    Donated by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Image of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

    Sumner School for the Deaf 75th Jubilee

    The 75th Jubilee of Sumner School for the Deaf in Christchurch, including alumni parades and marching girls!

  6. 1947
    Donated by Archives New Zealand Image of Archives New Zealand

    National Film Unit visits Sumner School for the Deaf – Student life

    The National Film Unit visits Sumner School for the Deaf to film a typical day at the school.

  7. 1988
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    van Asch students learn street theatre skills from Mr Moon

    After Mr Moon has been teaching Van Asch Deaf Education Centre Deaf students street theatre skills, they watch a performance from the Montreal Street Theatre at the New Zealand Festival in Wellington, in preparation for staging their own live performance.

  8. 1980
    Donated by Sue Penman Image of Sue Penman

    Demolition at van Asch, 1980

    Footage of the demolition of the ‘Main Building’ of van Asch College, April 1980.

  9. 1994
    Donated by Image of

    A Deafening Silence

    A ‘Frontline’ documentary that touches upon an on-going topic - Deaf Education - in the Deaf community, not only in New Zealand but worldwide as well. In 2019, the message remains as familiar as it was twenty-five years ago.

  10. 1984
    Donated by Television New Zealand Archive Image of Television New Zealand Archive

    You and Your Child - Deaf edition

    'You and Your Child' programme focuses on Deaf children, education and language and interview some parents about their Deaf children.