Disability groups demand to be heard on acoustics

8th May 2009 at 01:00

The government is acting unethically by failing to place enough emphasis on acoustics in schools, according to a number of high-profile disability charities.

The group, which includes the National Deaf Children's Society and the Ear Foundation, has joined forces with Brian Lamb, whose review on special educational needs was published last week, to argue that good acoustics are "vital" in schools if children to listen and learn effectively.

In a letter in this week's TES, the group, which includes the NAUWT, cited the recent report of government behaviour "tsar" Sir Alan Steer which confirmed the link between the built environment and pupil behaviour.

The letter states: "We do not believe it can be ethical to place a child in a school in which they are unable to learn. And it makes no sense for there to be no requirement anywhere for testing of acoustics in schools.

"We call on the Government to treat acoustics as a greater priority, with a new requirement for pre-completion acoustic testing, an audit of new schools and greater monitoring.

"The Government has committed to inclusion and equality for disabled children. If schools don't sound good, we will fail to meet this goal."

The NASUWT added that poor acoustics are not being addressed even under the Building Schools for the Future programme.

General secretary Chris Keates said: "Schools must make sure they have the best possible environments for children to learn in.

"This is fundamental and, one would have thought, relatively straightforward, but it has been left to the local authorities and the headteachers who often do not have the expertise to carry it out.

"It is endemic with the Building Schools for the Future where we have many cases of breaches of building regulations and poor learning environments."

In January, The TES reported that, according to the National Deaf Children's Society, 80 per cent of deaf children are educated in mainstream schools, but less than 40 per cent of speech is intelligible in schools.

A DCSF spokesperson said: "Our `Designing for disabled children and children with special educational needs' guidance makes it clear that that poor acoustic conditions are particularly unacceptable where there are children with sensory impairments andor communication difficulties.

"We are currently reviewing the guidance that we issue on acoustic standards."

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