Where rhythm is in 747 time

23rd January 1998 at 00:00
Another terminal at Heathrow would spell the end of music for some pupils, reports Peter Brown

Children living under the flight path to London's Heathrow airport have never heard the sound of silence, a music teacher has told a public inquiry.

Janice Carpenter told the long-running inquiry examining plans for a fifth terminal, that it was virtually impossible to teach music in some local schools.

Miss Carpenter, who works in 10 schools in the borough of Hounslow, said she first has to establish whether her pupils know the difference between sound and silence.

"Children I teach, particularly in schools close to the aircraft landing path, have never heard silence. It is impossible for them to even get past that level of learning about the elements of music," she said.

Miss Carpenter told the inquiry at Heathrow's Ramada Hotel: "I cannot do individual vocal work with the window open. I cannot play individual sound games with them where they have to discriminate between the sounds of different percussion instruments, because you cannot actually hear the difference. "

She added: "In some schools music is virtually impossible now. Any increase in noise will make my job totally impossible."

The inquiry has heard from several local teachers about the disruptive effect of aircraft noise. The teachers, backed by Hounslow education authority, are opposing the planning application by Heathrow's owners, BAA plc, for a Pounds 1.8 billion terminal which would bring an extra 30 million passengers through the airport.

David Sheath, headteacher of St Mark's Roman Catholic school, said: "Teachers are put in the invidious position of having to make a choice between opening the windows, or sitting in a hot stuffy room." He said hiring expensive air conditioning had not worked because its noise was almost as bad the aircraft.

Mr Sheath was also concerned about pollution. Staff suffer from nasal and catarrhal problems and pupils complain of migraines and headaches, he said.

Another head, Stephen Lloyd, from Cranford juniors, said he had to ensure children spent no more than one year in four in uninsulated temporary classrooms, otherwise their academic per formance would suffer.

Children were competing with aircraft noise, he said. "I believe our children are denied a fundamental opportunity to further develop their speaking and listening skills during playtime because of the background of aircraft noise."

School welfare assistant Sheila Curtis, from Hounslow Heath infants, said annual hearing tests could not be held in the school because there was nowhere quiet enough.

"It is becoming impossible to have a conversation with any of the children in the playground. Children no longer seem to talk to one another. They just shout at each other all the time and do not seem to realise that they are doing this."

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