Balls intervenes to force provision of deaf facilities

16th October 2009 at 01:00
Funding threat to authorities whose new-build schools fail acoustics test

The government has bowed to pressure from the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) to take action on acoustics in new schools.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls will announce in Parliament today a set of guidelines that will ensure all new schools are subject to acoustic tests and local authorities will be refused future funding to build new schools if they do not comply.

In a written statement, Mr Balls will say: "Good acoustics are essential to a successful learning environment for all children, particularly for those with special hearing requirements.

"To continue our drive for improvement, I am announcing a package of measures designed to ensure that school buildings have good acoustics and that the needs of those with special hearing requirements are met."

The move follows an NDCS campaign which revealed that only one in five new schools built under the Government's pound;55 billion Building Schools for the Future scheme complied with national acoustics standards.

Brian Gale, the NDCS's director of policy, said: "Evidence shows that good acoustics can also help improve the learning and behaviour of all pupils and reduce health problems for teachers.

"They are nothing less than essential for deaf children, the majority of whom are now being taught in mainstream schools.

"We welcome the Government's commitment to take action as a result of our Sounds good? campaign, to ensure new schools cater for the needs of deaf children."

Last week, The TES reported that the "soundproof room" in the new pound;39 million Sedgehill School in Lewisham, south London, was built without soundproofing, rendering it unfit for use by its 15 deaf pupils.

The school has an impressive track record of provision for deaf children and developed a hearing impaired unit (HIU) to help teach deaf pupils as far back as 1957.

But despite being promised state-of-the-art facilities, including a soundproof audiology room and an HIU with high-level acoustics, only the school's most basic requirements have been met.

The story followed an article in The TES earlier in the year that said deaf children were being "condemned to underachievement" due to poor acoustics in school.

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