Parents speak of their fears for the future of St Dominic’s School for Deaf Children

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Following the potential closure of St Dominic's, parents express their concerns at a community meeting for their deaf children’s future if they were to be mainstreamed into a local school.
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A few days prior to the filming of this clip, which screened 15 July 1987 on Today Tonight, the St Dominic’s School for Deaf Children committee had organised a meeting to discuss the future education of its children. St Dominic’s, which was not integrated into the State Education Service, saw its roll declining to only 9 boarders and 9 day pupils and faced financial struggles.

Footage is shown of the community meeting, with parents of deaf children speaking of their frustration with the potential closure of St Dominic’s, saying that they had made great sacrifices to move to Manawatu so that their deaf child/children could attend St Dominics’s whilst still live at home with their family. Parents spoke of their concerns for their children’s future if they were to be mainstreamed into a local school.

Excerpts from St Dominic’s history book (Pilkington, Dorothy, 2008. We see what you mean…A History of St Dominic’s School for Deaf Children and the Catholic Deaf Ministry in New Zealand, pg 296-307)

Denis Marshall, Member of Parliament for Rangitikei, and Michael Cox, Member of Parliament for Manawatu, were invited and both came along to the meeting. In the front page Fielding Herald newspaper report (Thursday 16 July 1987), the description of the gathering was that it was “tense and anxious” (pg 296)

That same week, a group of parents, pupils and former pupils went to Wellington to present their case to the Minister. At first, their aim was to get the Government to take over the school as the third State school for the Deaf in New Zealand. The petition covered five points:

  • Opposition to mainstreaming along with a query as to why parents at St Dominic’s had not been consulted about the situation.
  • A demand for official recognition of St Dominic’s as one of the three residential schools for the education of deaf children in New Zealand.
  • A request for the continuation of funding for the school beyond 1989.
  • Assurance that the Deaf Unit at Freyberg High School, Palmerston North, would be unconditionally dealt with.

Following the July visit to Parliament the St Dominic’s group received a letter telling them that the matter had been referred to the Education and Science Committee for investigation. The parent group set about collecting signatures from the general public to back up the St Dominic’s submissions to the Draft Review (on Special Education). Over 1,200 signatures had been collected by early September. In the issue of Friday 4 September, Palmerston North’s Manawatu Evening Standard newspaper published an editorial urging the Government’s support to keep the school open.

During late 1987 and early 1988, a search for an alternative owner to takeover the running of the school was conducted, without success.

On 31 March 1988, the Education and Science Committee confirmed that continuing to run the school in its present form was not an option. Moving the school to set up a unit for Deaf children at St Joseph’s School, Fielding, was suggested as a possible compromise. In the end, this was the outcome chosen by the St Dominic’s group.

Students were transferred from St Dominic’s in May 1989 to the unit at St Joseph’s School in Fielding with mainstreaming options in other schools. At the request of the parents, the unit was called the ‘St Dominic’s Unit’ so as not to lose the historic name as well as the school.

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