Children suffer in classrooms with poor acoustics

A study has shown that high noise levels have an impact on memory, reading and numeracy skills

Children who study in noisy classrooms with poor acoustics suffer academically, a new study claims. Experts say that while classroom chatter is unavoidable, many students and teachers suffer needless levels of noise because of badly designed classrooms that exacerbate the problem, or poorly insulated rooms that fail to block outside noises such as aircraft and traffic.

They warn that government proposals to relax noise control rules when picking new school sites could harm pupils.

A study by researchers from the Institute of Education and the Institute of Acoustics took two age groups of secondary-school students and exposed them to low and high levels of noise while being taught. Tests on their working memory, reading and numeracy skills showed that, in noisy conditions, 14- to 16-year-olds performed at levels no better than 11- to 13-year-olds did in the quiet.

Previous studies have shown primary-school-age children perform worse in poor acoustic conditions, but this is the first evidence that it also affects older children.

In the tests, half of each class listened to 50 decibels of background noise through headphones as they worked, while the other half were exposed to levels of 70 decibels. As a control, after one week they swapped over.

Dr Daniel Connolly, of the Institute of Education, said the study showed that poor acoustics were very bad for learning. "In a lot of tasks, higher noise levels take the older age group back to the same level as the younger age group. There will always be a certain amount of noise in a school, but if you put students in an acoustically poor room it will amplify that."

In a government-wide drive to reduce unnecessary red tape, Education Department officials are reconsidering a requirement that stipulates schools must be "suitable" acoustically.

Kathryn Harper-Quinn, head teacher of Hounslow Heath Infant School, which is in the flight path of Heathrow airport, has direct experience of the importance of protecting a school from a noisy environment.

"It is something the Government needs to worry about because, if they don't take acoustics into account, then they will be facing a big problem. We have planes going over about every minute. It has taken us many years to get the building sorted so they aren't a distraction but there's still a long way to go.

"Since we insulated the building we've noticed a big improvement in concentration, but ideally schools would be built in a place where noise isn't an issue."

Tomorrow sees the start of Noise Action Week, aimed at highlighting the damaging impact a loud environment can have.

Mary Stevens, of Environmental Protection UK, which sponsors the initiative, said: "There's a big drive for deregulation at the moment, but if we lose acoustic planning requirements for schools then we'll lose valuable protection from noise, which would have a serious impact on teachers and pupils."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Opilio Recruitment: Market Entry Analyst

£50k - 60k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A successful Google join...

Opilio Recruitment: International Development Manager

£60k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A successful Google joint vent...

Opilio Recruitment: Apprentice Advisor - IT

£30k - 34k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

h2 Recruit Ltd: New Business Sales Manager - Talent Management - £60,000 OTE

£35000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A true market leader in ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game