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Buildings, Maintenance, Refurbishment & Design Sound teaching in your classroom G

raeme Harrison, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Bimap Systems, tells Education Today why sound in the classroom is so important.

“No one can deny that the world is getting noisier; planes, traffic, and the literal buzz of modern technology are all becoming a major nuisance. Uncontrolled noise levels are affecting the classroom: impeding learning and risking the health of both pupils and teachers.

A tough lesson to learn

Studies in schools have found that excessive noise can affect a student’s ability to understand the teacher’s spoken instructions and absorb written information. One study of primary schools in Spain, the Netherlands and the UK found that a 20dB increase in traffic or aircraft noise could delay a nine to10 year-old child’s reading age by up to eight months. But pupils are not the only ones affected;

teachers can also suffer from unstructured sound. Being regularly exposed to sound levels over 55dB can lead to raised blood pressure and increased rate of heart attacks. Research shows the average classroom noise level is 65dB, whereas the optimum level is 30-35dB. A more serious issue is reverberation in the classroom, a problem more commonly known as ‘echo’. Caused by poor acoustics within the classroom, reverberation can spark a vicious cycle, known as the Lombard Effect, in which the teacher feels forced to speak more loudly as they fight to be heard above the echo of their own voice. This makes speech harder to hear and forces teachers to strain their voice in order to be understood. A US study found that half of teachers had suffered irreversible damage to their voices and in the UK one education authority had to pay out £156,000 to a teacher whose voice was permanently damaged after teaching next to a noisy area for several years.

A solution?

Although poor sound can be damaging, it seems that even small improvements to noise levels in classrooms can make a big difference. A recent study, carried out in Essex, saw the school improve classroom sound by using wall- mounted boards and ceiling panels to ‘deaden’ the sound and reduce reverberation. Thanks to

the newly installed equipment, teachers reported improved behaviour and concentration levels from pupils as well as lower stress on their own part. The total cost of these classroom modifications? Just £2,500 per classroom. Furthermore, when using a paging system across an entire school, for example during an emergency, it’s vital that both pupils and teachers are able to understand the instructions. Often the low quality of the sound system means all people hear is an indecipherable noise, which can lead to confusion or worse, panic. Additionally, if your message is aimed only at those in the school yard it’s pointless if it can be heard across the science block as well. Paging systems should have the capacity for zoned messaging in order to help eliminate unnecessary and disruptive noises. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of sound in school, but to do so is a disservice to pupils and staff. A fairly minor investment into improving noise levels in the classroom can pay dividends in the years to come, as teachers take fewer sick days and pupils’ test scores rise. The evidence speaks for itself: intelligent sound design is a truly effective method for improve learning, health and general wellbeing among students and staff.”

May 2013


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