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IOA fights to save schools’ acoustic standards

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Professor Trevor Cox – IOA President

The Institute of Acoustics is warning that education standards in schools could plummet if the Government drops or waters down vital design standards contained in the Building Regulations.
Trevor makes his points on behalf of the IOA regarding the importance of minimum acoustic design standards which need to be updated and strengthened (not downgraded) to account for open-plan, pupil centred learning and inclusion of vulnerable listeners in mainstream schools.

Among the areas coming under special scrutiny in a full-scale review of the regulations aimed at reducing their burden is section E4 which governs acoustic standards in schools.
The IOA fears this means that E4 is highly likely to be scrapped or be replaced by less robust rules – and it has predicted that any such changes could have “disastrous consequences” for Britain’s school pupils.
In a letter to Communities and Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell seeking an urgent meeting to discuss its concerns, IOA President Professor Trevor Cox said: “Removing E4 runs the risk of allowing school buildings to be built that are not fit for their intended purpose.
“There is a substantial body of scientific evidence that poor acoustics are linked with impaired cognitive performance in children.
“Put simply, if pupils are unable to hear what they are being taught they are less likely to be able to learn. Pupils with Special Educational Needs are especially disadvantaged. Likewise, if teachers have to regularly raise their voices to be heard due to poor acoustics, then they risk vocal damage. Only last November a teacher who damaged her voice was awarded £150,000 compensation.”
Mr Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford, went on: “As a body we accept there is a need for updating design standards for schools to take account of the move towards open-plan teaching, pupil-centred learning and the inclusion of vulnerable listeners in mainstream schools.
“In our experience, mandatory controls are needed to maintain minimum acoustic design standards. Our members have witnessed the improvements in quality that have resulted from such controls in recent years.
“To simply remove section E4 from the Building Regulations without some other alternative statutory control risks us slipping back to the bad old days of sub-standard acoustics in schools, which is likely to have disastrous consequences for future generations of pupils.”
Read more about the Institute of Acoustics
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Acoustic Standards 77 Educational Environments 178

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