SoundScapeIssue 0214acoustic treatments in schools. Golden Lane Campus near the London Barbican, for example, which is home to two schools, has been treated extensively with Rockwool insulation with similar results; and this also has the advantage of being highly durable as well as possessing thermal properties.Secondary implicationsAnother interesting research project under way is being conducted by a team of acousticians and psychiatrists from the University of Salford, London South Bank University, and the Institute of Education, University of London (IoE). They are conducting a three-year project entitled "Identifying a Sound Environment for Secondary Schools" (ISESS). The team has been asking pupils to don headphones relaying different levels of pre-recorded 'classroom babble' while carrying out cognitive tests on a laptop. Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford and President of the IoA, has helped lead the ISESS project and explains the experiment in more detail. "There is a lot of evidence [for the effects of noise on pupils] but nearly all that evidence is at primary school level. And, of course, as we get older there are huge changes in what we do cognitively. Our brains go through huge changes in adolescence and what we are studying and how we are studying is all very different." One of the key aims of the ISESS project is to see whether the same effects experienced by primary school children are found at secondary schools.ISESS produced an intermediate report, which found that pupils aged 14-15 performed no better than pupils aged 11-12 when they were listening to 70dbs of classroom babble rather than 50dbs. The team has also conducted questionnaires in which the pupils gave feedback. So far these questionnaires have revealed that students in secondary schools are able to identify rooms that are easy and hard to hear in, also they are able to give good reasons for why this was so. The most common reason given for hard rooms was the noise made by "too much student talk". Other reasons given included "too much echo in the room" and "the teacher not speaking clearly enough".The ISESS research is still being carried out and is set for completion in April 2012. The answers given by the students emphasise that it is not just bad acoustics that contribute to a classroom becoming a diffi cult environment to work in, increasingly "too much student talk" or general vocal noise in the school is also contributing. It is not uncommon for parents, upon collecting their children from school, to fi nd it takes them an hour or so before their children cease to shout at each other and quieten down. This refl ects a school environment in which children are being forced to push their voices in order to be heard - an environment where chosen silence is not being encouraged.Helen Lees is a research fellow at the Laboratory for Educational Theory, University of Stirling in Scotland. A trained teacher, she has recently conducted interviews for a forthcoming book (due out in February 2012 via Trentham Press) with headteachers who use silence in their schools. These schools have long-standing experience of the use of a deliberate form of silence that Lees calls 'strong silence'. In her research, Lees has defi ned what she calls 'strong' and 'weak' uses of silence. A weak use of silence in a school, she explains, is a use of silence that "does no good and can even be harmful to children. This is silence that is forced upon them and is mainly for discipline purposes". A strong form of silence, on the other hand, is "strong at benefi tting people. It brings a sense of peace, calm and wellbeing. It also helps educational learning". In essence, a strong form of silence reaffi rms the premise that schools are there to do good.In her research Lees has considered the use of silence in a variety of schools. "Krishnamurti schools, Quaker schools, specifi c schools with a philosophy positively promoting silence: these are all very aware that a 'strong' use of silence is important. There is a growing movement for meditation and mindfulness in this country and especially in America. Research in the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Bangor and many other places are considering the role of silence in improving not just education, but how children experience their lives and deal with diffi culties in a calmer and more effective way. It's a very exciting scene". She went on to say: "There are pockets of appreciation for silence all over the country, throughout education, but we still need greater awareness and respect for the role of silence in schools and in people's lives. This will bring the noise levels down for really powerful health, psychological and social effects. Stress levels in education are rocketing and noise is a factor. Something has to change and developing the role of silence in schools might just be the way forward. It's also pretty much cost-free". Designed for goodMuch of the concerns about acoustic design in schools have been raised by those in research and academia. It is encouraging, therefore, to know that some of the main civil engineering and architecture fi rms are on the side of the acousticians and are keen to design schools with quality acoustics.Helen Butcher, acoustic consultant at Arup, has worked closely with Hampshire County Council on school acoustic design. Arup has built a rapport with the council over the last 15 years and the region now boasts some of the best acoustically designed schools in the country. Providing an environment where the spoken word of the teacher is understood to the maximum potential is at the heart of Arup's work, she explains. This is achieved by developing an environment which is, fi rstly, quiet enough and, secondly, built to support the teacher's voice without subjecting it to too much reverberation.Much of Butcher's work has involved advising on open plan classroom spaces. "There was a move in the 70s, and more recently, to more open plan teaching," she says. "This has meant that in classrooms there is a lot more shared space with lots more activities going on together. This often makes it very diffi cult to produce a really good acoustic environment for teaching because of the
Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise: Quantifi cation of healthy life years lost in Europe. ISBN: 978 92 890 0229 5The Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise. Quantifi cation of healthy life years lost in Europe. Copenhagen, WHO Regional Offi ce for Europe, 2011 http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-publish/abstracts/burden-of-disease-from-environmental-noise.-quantifi cation-of-healthy-life-years-lost-in-europeAircraft and road traffi c noise and children's cognition and health: a cross-national study S A Stansfeld, B Berglund, C Clark, I Lopez-Barrio, P Fischer, E Öhrström, MMHaines, J Head, S Hygge, I van Kamp, B F Berry,on behalf of the RANCH study teamDavid Canning, Hear2Learn.Ltd. Essex Study: Interim Report. 'Impact of different acoustic standards in school buildings on teaching and learning'. http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/isessSoundScapeIssue 0215distraction and disturbance coming from other areas."Although Arup has worked on some excellent open plan teaching spaces and appreciates the educational advantages of such teaching areas, the fi rm always advises schools to consider a back-up plan. Butcher says: "If you don't like it down the line or if teaching philosophies change, then you will be able to turn the space into cells in the teaching areas again; whether that means putting up walls or creating divisions between spaces."Discussing another issue, she says that insulating against traffi c and aircraft noise usually requires attention to the ventilation strategy. "We would always encourage natural ventilation as being healthier and less demanding of energy than mechanical ventilation. For many urban school sites, a combination of planning less sensitive rooms for the noisiest façade, combining extra sound absorption into the classrooms close to window openings or providing proprietary attenuated vents make it feasible to provide natural ventilation."Raising the standardMeanwhile, the battle for retaining a high standard of acoustics in schools is ongoing. Leading members of the IoA and ANC are continuing to put steady pressure on the government to make sure that it is kept in the agenda. Bridget Shield, Professor of Acoustics in the Faculty of Engineering, Science and Built Environment at London South Bank University, has been at the centre of recent engagements with the government. Almost a decade ago she was appointed by the Department for Education and Skills as editor of BB93, the document at the centre of the recent debate about acoustics in schools. Shield is adamant that including acoustic design in schools is nothing new. "If you look at Building Bulletin 1 and Building Bulletin 2 they both say you must bear in mind the acoustics in classrooms and the noise levels in schools." Having been involved with projects such as Sweyne Park School and one of the main contributors to the ISESS research (with her colleague Professor Julie Dockrell at the IoE) she has a clear idea of how this battle can be won. She would like to see MPs being shown around schools such as Sweyne Park and the other handful of projects. Experiencing a classroom in which children can hear their teacher clearly, are able to concentrate while not suffering from distracting background noises could be a potential Damascus road experience.Refl ecting on the meetings she and others have held with ministers, she says: "The message we were trying to get across is that there is a lot of research evidence to show that noise has a detrimental effect on children in schools and on teachers. However, it can be controlled by getting the acoustic design right in the fi rst place."Much of this battle involves common sense, it would seem. Some would say sound sense.