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'Can you hear me back there?'

Individual pupils can sit for months in classroom "dead spots" where they miss out on part or much of what the teacher says because they can't hear properly. In fact, most primary schools contain classrooms with such acoustical problem areas.

A study from the Department of Building Engineering and Surveying at Heriot-Watt University has found that poor acoustics caused by sloped or high ceilings, exposed beams and uncarpeted floors lead not only to hearing difficulties for pupils but to teacher stress.

The three-year research project reveals big variations in speech intelligibilityin different areas of a classroom. In addition it was found that teachers in classrooms with bad acoustics were more likely to have days off sick and have voice and throat problems than those who teach in a classroom with a suspended ceiling.

When suspended ceilings were installed, both pupils and teachers commented on the improved environment of the classroom.

The research team is currently looking at how poor acoustics affect attainment.

Speech Intelligibility in Classrooms by David McKenzie and Sharon Airey, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.Phone: 0131 449 5111.

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