Noise control

14th September 2001 at 01:00
KEY STAGE 1. Yakker Trakker. pound;34.95 (plus VAT). Commotion, Unit 11, Tannery Road, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1RF. Tel: 01732 773399

The Yakker Trakker uses a traffic light system to monitor noise levels in the classroom. Set it to the desired noise level depending on the activity and it will stay on green if the noise level is acceptable. If the noise gets louder, the Trakker will flash on to amber, then red if the noise becomes too loud.

Pupils are taught to watch the Trakker and respond to the signals to keep the light on green. An optional feature allows you to switch on an alarm that sounds when the light turns red.

I jumped at the chance to try out the Yakker Trakker with my rather loud Year 1 class. We already had a manual system in place to determine acceptable noise levels for each type of activity. So when the Yakker Trakker arrived, we put this method on hold.

The brief instructions were simple, and after a short discussion of the rules we put it to the test.

Little work had been done by the end of the morning - our counting in twos was interrupted by Alex shouting: "Miss, it's on red!" at every opportunity. Later, when I raised my voice to get over a point, all eyes turned to the flashing red light. "Miss, you're being too loud," they said. They may have had a point.

During group times the children responded to the lights, but even on the lowest level it picked up every scraping chair, and some pupils took advantage of this. When set on high, it was constantly on red. The amber light didn't appear to work.

By the afternoon the class had become so involved in painting and Damp;T that the Yakker Trakker had been forgotten.

On day two, I switched on the alarm, but quickly decided against it when the noise of the traffic set it off. It sounded too much like the school fire alarm. Try explaining to the head why the whole school is lined up in the playground.

After a week, I had to remind the children constantly to watch the lights and to quieten down, which defeated the purpose. I decided to let Year 3 test it. They reported much the same and said the money could be better spent on playground equipment.

The Yakker Trakker was simple and easy to use, and as an alternative to more traditional methods of noise control in the classroom could be useful. Children must be taught to take responsibility for checking their own noise levels, however, and learn acceptable limits during the school day in this increasingly noise-polluted world.

Rachel Cookson is an assistant head at Oliver Goldsmith primary school in Camberwell, London

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