School of the future in the UK
The Admiral Lord Nelson School is designed to look like a ship facing out to sea. The school was built as a great example of the future of school buildings in the UK. .
Shape, colour and design have been used to create an environment that has a positive impact on learning and the rooms have been designed to make communication between individuals easier. However, achieving this demands a great deal of the sound environment, an issue which has been taken very seriously. The school was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1998
Good speech intelligibility in an open school environment
Headteacher Dianne Smith, who had many comments to make about the environment of the new school, is happy to share her experience of successfully taming noise and creating good speech intelligibility in an open school environment.
"When I first saw the proposal for a school with an open-plan designed mall area, I was instantly worried that noise could be a problem," explains Dianne Smith. "The poor experience I and my staff had in the old classic Victorian school buildings shows how important acoustics issues are in a learning environment. But when the school was finished the acoustics were excellent. Even the large main hall has a quiet and calm atmosphere."
"I myself have impaired hearing which makes it difficult to hear what the children say, so classrooms are a particular problem for me. In our new rooms, the great acoustics have helped me in two ways. I can be heard and I can hear what pupils say - people repeating themselves are simply unnecessary. This is crucial for creating an excellent environment for both teaching and learning."
Same standards as of a well-functioning office environment
The same standards that one would demand of a well-functioning office environment have been applied to the function and pleasantness of the school, to achieve a successful and comfortable educational environment. This excellent learning and teaching environment, with its good acoustics, helps to avoid adverse effects such as voice strain, teacher absenteeism, and misbehaving pupils. Since the opening of the school, teachers and staff have continued to praise their new working environment.
"It's a wonderful environment, a warm and inviting place. The good acoustics really help to create a calmer environment."
"On one occasion visitors to the school thought the school was empty because it was so quiet."
The acoustic ceilings' superb ability to improve the sound environment put an end to concerns about a noisy environment at the Admiral Lord Nelson School.
"Background noise has been reduced and speech can be heard more clearly."
"Being able to hear is a key element of language training. Our classroom has practically no echo, which would otherwise mean people having to strain their voices unnecessarily. We can now lower the volume when listening to our language tapes. Good acoustics have created a calmer atmosphere in the class and, above all, the grades for our national tests using tapes have risen."
The school is really unique in that the practical working environment issues which directly affect teachers and students have been integrated into the planning of the school. Every room has been individually designed to suit the end user. What could have been an extremely noisy environment is really quiet.
Vital to create a calm environment
And a final word from Dianne Smith:
"There is no doubt that the noise level in a school affects learning and discipline. If children can't hear what is being said, they become more inclined to talk to their friends. That's why it is vital to create a calm environment."