Can poor acoustics affect attainment in schools?

In the design and development stage of new schools, architects take a lot of steps to ensure they create a healthy and creative school. For example, natural light is a key feature that improves learning and wellbeing for children and teachers.

However, noise control is an issue being sorely ignored in the design of schools. Evidence proves that a poor acoustic space has many detrimental effects for not only learning but also health. Let’s not forget the impact on teacher’s too; studies have seen that acoustic treatment in classrooms has reduced staff sick days in one school from 15% to 2%.

Sound waves can only do three things: be absorbed by a surface, bounce off it, or pass through it. Those same materials that make beautifully designed spaces (glass, concrete, wood) are also the type that reflects sound waves too. The reverberation of background noise plays a key part in speech intelligibility and acoustic quality in rooms. Reducing this reverberation is so important as well as integrating solutions for also blocking out external noises from outside or neighbouring classrooms.

But how specifically do poor acoustic spaces affect the attainment of our children in school? Read on to find out.

Learning and attainment

Noise can impact many tasks you try to do- reading, mental maths, problem-solving, memory recall, and even motivation and flow. Poor acoustic spaces mean that children are learning less than their potential.

In research studies, it has been recorded that background noise significantly affects children’s performance in tests. Older children were impacted worse than younger by the presence of outside noises getting in. But younger children were more negatively affected by internal classroom noise.

Noise in a classroom over 41 decibels was significant in negatively affecting test results, and every 10-decibel increase in noise produced a reduction in 8-9 year old’s test results by 5.5 points. This statistic is shocking and could potentially ring true for all year groups.

These issues were also proven to persist over the years, as children are unable to acclimatise to noise over time.

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Speech intelligibility

Noise is an issue for schools in the simplest of senses in that it prevents children hearing their teachers and classmates when they are trying to communicate and during groupwork. We all know how difficult it can be to make out words when background noise is high, but even low-level background noise from reverberations is also significant.

It has been found that children sitting on the back row of a conventional classroom with background noise hear just 50% of their teacher’s words. This is especially difficult for younger children who already can find it difficult to understand sentences, even with little noise at all.

You might not realise how much an impact even quiet reverberations can have on the brain, but the persistent reflection of sound waves causes your brain to constantly be working hard to make sense of your surroundings. Your ears and brain are trying to work together to determine where those sounds are coming from, even if you don’t realise. This causes fatigue and is what contributes to the loss of concentration in children.

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Health and Wellbeing

Most alarmingly, poor acoustic spaces have been seen to damage children and staff’s wellbeing. Chronic exposure to noise levels above 65 decibels is theorised to cause an increase in your risk of a heart attack. For comparison, 65 decibels is about the level of loud laughter.

There is also a link between noise in schools and increased blood pressure and adrenaline. Mental health is also a key issue with children exposed to high levels of noise at school more prone to psychological stress and disruptive behaviour.

School acoustics are vital for children’s attainment and welfare

Whether a new build or refurbishment project, those in control of the building and spaces in schools must take into account the current and future needs of its children and staff.

Acoustic panels for schools greatly enhance the audibility levels in classrooms. These panels work by absorbing sound as it approaches. They can be used both inside the classroom and along hallway walls. By using acoustic panels for schools, the learning environment is improved and can facilitate better education and improved concentration.

In addition, it ensures classrooms that are engaged in a large discussion to not disturb neighbouring classrooms. Furthermore, as students and teachers walk through the hallways and engage in conversation, they cannot disturb other classes that may be in session.

All of these issues can be solved with simple acoustic changes such as sound absorption panels and soundproofing in between rooms.

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You wouldn’t know it, but this Moss Wall Acoustic Panel is actually an amazing piece of acoustic technology, absorping reverberations and improving the sound quality in the room.

What you might not have known is that these solutions are actually specified in the Department for Education’s Building Bulletin 93. This document provides the standard for school noise levels and what can be done through acoustic design solutions.

The BB93 states that the main objectives for classroom acoustics is that all speech, either between or among teacher and pupil, should be heard clearly. This is measured by the speech transmission index (STI) and has to meet certain standards in order to be approved.

The benefits of making sure your classroom acoustics meet – or better this level – contains the opportunity for your pupils to reach their potential and improve their educational outcomes.

Conclusion: acoustic panels for schools

The positive effect of the introduction of acoustic solutions has been proven in scientific studies. Architecture and school design that could incorporate the importance of noise control could potentially transform the learning and wellbeing of millions of children in school.

Acoustic solutions cut noise levels in classrooms, sports halls, and dining rooms so that students can hear, concentrate, learn, relax and play.

Our team is available to discuss your school acoustics needs to ensure you select the right product from our line. We have a range of products that include moss wallscork panelsinsulation foamacoustic foam, and wall panel pro. All of these acoustic panel options can be completely customised to your colour, size, fabric, and other product requests.

Whether you need maximum noise reduction or slight adjustments to your classroom acoustics, we can help. We have helped countless schools and organisations improve their school acoustics over the years. Please do not hesitate to contact us today to go over our unique acoustic panels for schools that can help your students achieve better focus and attainment.

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