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Essex Study – Impact of different acoustic standards in school buildings on teaching and learning
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Essex Study – Impact of different acoustic standards in school buildings on teaching and learning

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Essex Council funded the research to examine the impact of three published standards on teaching and learning and get best value. This would lead to understanding the benefits of acoustic design …

Essex Council funded the research to examine the impact of three published standards on teaching and learning and get best value. This would lead to understanding the benefits of acoustic design appropriate for children with hearing impairments in mainstream classrooms and inform what was needed to create fully inclusive learning environments.

The NDCS (National Deaf Children’s Society) interim report from the study

Published in Health & Medicine , Education
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  • 1. Supported by:Making Sweyne ParkSchool sound goodA summary by the National Deaf Children’s Society(NDCS) of a study into acousticsNDCS is the national charity dedicated to creating a world withoutbarriers for deaf children and young people.
  • 2. Introduction Background and methodologyNDCS is the national charity dedicated to Essex has three mainstream secondarycreating a world without barriers for deaf schools with resource bases for studentschildren and young people. We represent the with a hearing impairment. In recent years,interests and campaign for the rights of all some parents requested ‘out of authority’deaf children and young people from birth schools for their deaf children. Pooruntil they reach independence. There are classroom acoustics was one of the issuesover 45,000 deaf children in the UK. raised, so the Council allocated £150,000 for classroom refurbishment and to testGovernment figures suggest that deaf the effect of applying different acousticchildren are 42% less likely than their standards to the problem classrooms.hearing peers to achieve five GCSEs, Sweyne Park School, a secondary schoolincluding English and Maths at grades A* with a large resource base for deaf students,to C.1 Deafness is not a learning disability was selected to test the impact of applyingand this gap is unacceptable. NDCS is the different standards.campaigning to close the gap2 and webelieve that poor quality acoustics is one of a As there are different standards for acousticsrange of barriers that contribute to it. Earlier it was felt that it was necessary to researchthis year, NDCS, the Federation of Property the impact of three published standards onServices, and Essex County Council jointly teaching and learning and get best value:funded the analysis of data which testedthe effects of different acoustic standards • Type 1: Standard – Building Bulletinin classrooms. This note summarises the 93 (BB93)3 compliant secondary schoolinterim findings of this research. classroom • Type 2: Enhanced – BB93 compliant“You feel really left out and you feel like you’re classroom specifically for use by deaf pupilssitting in a corner in a lonely classroom so ithurts your feelings quite a bit” • Type 3: Enhanced to a higher standard recommended by the British Association of A deaf pupil from Sweyne Park comments on Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD) noisy classrooms before changes to the acoustics 3 Government guidance on the acoustic standards for all new school buildings is set out in Building Bulletin 93. The guidance is mandatory for all new school buildings1 www.ndcs.org.uk/data and major refurbishments but NDCS evidence shows2 www.ndcs.org.uk/mustdobetter compliance is not taking place.The following organisations endorsed NDCS’s Sounds good? campaign:Special Educational Consortium, NASUWT, Communication Trust, RNID, Essex County Council, NCB, Skill, Sense, NationalAutistic Society, Ear Foundation, Voice Concern, British Society of Audiology, the British Association of Education Audiologists,the British Council of School Environments, Treehouse and the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf. special education consortium
  • 3. Three classrooms were refurbished applying “If everyone was being noisy I couldn’ta different standard in each. A fourth concentrate. In this new classroom I find ituntreated room was used as a control. a lot better, a lot less noisy and it gives me aData was then collected which included lot of confidence to work as a group”acoustic performance, teacher and pupil deaf pupilquestionnaires/interviews and pupilassessments. Data from both deaf andhearing pupils was collected. All data was 2. Teachers found the acoustically treatedcollected without staff or pupil knowledge of classrooms better and less stressfulthe acoustic standard of each classroom. teaching environmentsThe Sweyne Park story so far... Thirteen class teachers and communicationConsiderable effort was made to obtain support workers were involved in theobjective data. More than 120 hours of study. Even though staff didn’t know whichlessons were recorded in addition to 78 classrooms were acoustically treated, manyhours of detailed acoustic data. More than of them made positive comments about400 children and 13 teachers were involved the Type 2 and 3 rooms. They describeddirectly in the study. The data is currently them as better for talking and listening,being analysed and will be published in more pleasant and less strenuous. Thefull later. However, the interim report has less experienced staff reported the biggestestablished that acoustic conditions can reduction in stress levels.be created which enhance inclusion andsupport the teaching and learning process “I am able to do group work now, whereasin extremely positive ways. The following before I would not take that risk” teachertrends have been identified: “The real difference is I can teach,1. Good acoustics can level the playing previously I could not teach, I had tofield between deaf and hearing children structure the lesson such that I got them in, shouted above the noise to try to getAs part of the research, hearing-impaired them quiet. Now they come in, they areand hearing children were asked to repeat calmer and I can actually teach a formalwhat their teacher was saying in the various lesson with the whole class” teacherclassroom settings. The gap between howmuch deaf and hearing children can hear “Before Easter I would have walked outnarrowed considerably when the acoustics stressed, high blood pressure, feelingimproved and in some cases, deaf and blinkered, hearing not right with a changedhearing children performed equally. Better altitude as if in an aeroplane. After Easter Iacoustics can effectively level the playing walk out of there refreshed”. teacherfield. Observations from teachers alsosupport this and a communication support 3. Teachers found that pupil behaviourworker described Type 3 classrooms as improved in the acoustically treated‘being more equal and a fairer environment classroomsfor hearing-impaired children’. Teachers did not know which classrooms had been refurbished to the high acoustic standards. However, they reported:
  • 4. • Improved behaviour in the Type 2 and Recommendations Type 3 rooms particularly when working The majority of deaf children are now taught with students known to present more in mainstream schools and any classroom challenging behaviour. could be one in which a deaf child is taught. It is therefore vital that acoustics are of • Improved behaviour of students who were the highest possible quality to ensure that not normally taught in the treated room. deaf children are able to listen and learn One teacher stated that they “became effectively. This research supports the positively angelic.” case for high-quality acoustics in schools. Not only does it benefit deaf children but “Before Easter it was the lesson I hated most all students and the staff involved in their of all. I had to give loads of detentions in education. Yet, despite the opportunity order to get any sense of discipline at all... presented by the Government’s school but since Easter I have had no discipline rebuilding programmes, there is evidence problems whatsoever and yet these rather that government standards are being structured straight jacketed rows of desks ignored. NDCS is calling on the Government are exactly the same.” teacher to take urgent action to ensure that schools do not just look good, but sound good “When its echoey, sometimes I feel I like to too. Essex County Council has given its full mess about! When the class is quiet, then I support to the NDCS campaign. The billions start to be good.” Deaf pupil of pounds being spent on school rebuilding must not be wasted. 4. Type 2 classrooms are only marginally more expensive than Type 1 classrooms NDCS is calling for the introduction of a mandatory requirement for acoustic testing As a result of the interim findings, all of all new school buildings before they new primary and secondary schools open. commissioned by Essex County Council will be built to the Type 2 standard as a To find out more about this research or the minimum, with care taken to deal with NDCS Sounds good? campaign, visit low frequency reverberation. The Type 3 www.ndcs.org.uk/soundsgood or contact standard will be specified for classrooms Jo Campion on 020 7014 1182 or email: used by deaf children. The additional cost to campaigns@ndcs.org.uk treat a typical classroom of 50m2 to a higher specification from the minimum standard is Children’s quotes included by kind permission of just £375. BBC/See Hear. Thank you to David Canning and Hear2Learn for 5. Increased sound treatment reduced conducting the research. working noise levels to a far greater extent than would be predicted by calculations alone.This document is available in alternative formats upon request – please contact campaigns@ndcs.org.ukPublished by the NDCS, 15 Dufferin Street, London EC1Y 8UR • September 2009NDCS is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 1016532 and in Scotland no. SC040779.