Benefits that are plane to see

Some may mourn its demise but the death of Concorde has been a boon to the staff and pupils of Hounslow Heath Junior School.

"Concorde going over did make us stop teaching," says Ritu Aulakh, head of the school, which is close to Heathrow and directly beneath the flight path.

But it's a relatively small boon. Staff and pupils at the 450-pupil Hounslow school still frequently have to stop talking or lose their train of thought because of the noise of the planes landing and taking off at the world's busiest international airport.

Even in winter, staff like to keep at least some of the double-glazed windows open to provide fresh air. The British Airports Authority is paying for a programme of sound insulation in Hounslow schools but not yet for ventilation, says Rita.

And it will only pay for the insulation of permanent buildings. The two mobile classrooms at Hounslow Heath are therefore not sound-proofed, even though the school owns them.

Noise and air quality are worse in the summer. No sound-proofing yet invented can protect pupils' ears in the school's playing fields or outdoor classroom.

Nor are planes the only problem. Nationally, most of the external noise nuisance in schools comes from traffic and Hounslow Heath has an "enormous"

flow of that too, says Rita.

Only a mile from the Great West Road, the school is one of six large educational establishments in the centre of Hounslow, all bringing their share of cars and pollution.

The effect on staff and pupils cannot be measured by test scores. But, while pupils appear to be able to "tune out" the noise, the head points to the disrupted learning caused by teachers stopping and starting. "Children of this age need fewer outer distractions, not more," she says.

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