Clear role of room acoustics for learning and concentration
The Priory School in Hampshire in the UK was one of the first schools to take part in a study of classroom acoustics carried out by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
School chosen for study
Built in 1850, the Priory School has undergone major changes. The school was chosen for the study because it has an interesting mixture of different types of school building. The original school was a Victorian flint building and the new 1990s classrooms have been designed in the same style, with vaulted ceilings and high windows. Unfortunately the high ceilings, combined with the lively classrooms, caused acoustic problems for teachers and pupils alike. The school also had pre-fabricated temporary buildings.
Children and teachers want the "acoustic classroom"
In order to measure the acoustic improvements that could be achieved in a Victorian classroom, a suspended acoustic ceiling was installed. Measurements by Heriot-Watt University following installation showed a drop in reverberation time and background noise.
However, the improvements caused a problem: all the children and teachers wanted to work in this one room, which became known as the school's "acoustic classroom".
As a direct consequence of the study, the school is now working on a programme to ensure an improved sound environment throughout the school.
"It doesn't echo anymore and I can hear the teacher"
Good acoustics have impact on education
Headteacher David Hale is convinced that good acoustics in the school have a considerable impact on education and children's comprehension, a view supported by the study at Heriot-Watt University. He says:
"The study at our school was carried out during normal working days. Although we knew that our older buildings had a poor sound environment, we had no idea how large the problem was. The results show that no matter how well we deliver the national curriculum, it is our buildings that are dictating how much pupils can hear and concentrate on their lessons."
"We want to provide our pupils with the best possible conditions for learning". The local education authority in Hampshire is showing the way to achieve good classroom acoustics. Don Allen, Chairman of Hampshire County Council's Education Committee, says:
"We are pleased with the improvements made in a number of Hampshire schools and we've decided to continue the renovation programme."
"Further studies of room acoustics are a vital tool for improving the classroom environment."