MP supports campaign for better sounding for schools

June 15, 2009 10:38 AM

Howarth - better sounding for schoolsCambridge MP David Howarth has joined the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) in calling for the Government to ensure new schools in the city meet national building standards so that all children can listen and learn effectively.

This is in light of new Freedom of Information data received by NDCS showing only 21% of the local authorities that have recently opened new schools in their area stated that these new schools have acoustics that meet the Government's building standards.

High quality acoustics in the classroom are necessary for all children to be able to learn, and for deaf children they are vital. Yet the Freedom of Information data shows that many other local authorities are not testing whether new schools comply with the standards. Only 60 per cent stated they did testing, despite a government recommendation that they should do so.

Furthermore, even where testing is carried out, over half (52 per cent) of the local authorities had schools that failed to meet the government building standard.

On Tuesday, June 9 at a parliamentary event held by NDCS, MPs met a group of deaf teenagers to discuss the detrimental effect poor acoustics in the classroom can have on their education. Last year NDCS launched the Sounds Good? campaign to demand the Government take urgent action to ensure schools are built appropriately for deaf children, and that the listening environments are tested for quality before they are used.

David Howarth MP, explained: "I fully support the NDCS Sounds Good? campaign, and it was fantastic to meet deaf young people today to discuss how poor acoustics can affect them at school. It does not seem ethical to place a child in a classroom in which they cannot learn. Barriers such as this must be broken down if we want to give deaf children the best chance of achieving their full educational potential.

"As the Government's school rebuilding programme develops pace in Cambridge, I call on local authorities and the Government to make sure that all new schools in this area have the best possible acoustics."

Kevin McCloud, presenter of Channel 4's Grand Designs, is also supporting the Sounds Good campaign. He explains: "Despite the fact that we are embarking on the biggest schools building programme in history and that proper design is now a process and concept that millions in Britain embrace and demand, the design of British schools continues to be patchy…People with disabilities continue to suffer. In particular, organising the acoustics of teaching spaces to help the hard of hearing or profoundly deaf is a precise science and more can be done to make the learning life easier for those affected. The technologies exist…The knowledge is there. I hope this campaign succeeds in putting the issue on the agenda."

Brian Gale, NDCS Director of Policy and Campaigns, adds: "Being able to hear what the teacher is saying is essential to learning. Yet the Government is allowing many millions of pounds to be spent on building schools that are unsuitable for children to listen and learn in, and in which deaf children experience particular difficulty. As the majority of deaf children now attend mainstream school, it is crucial that new schools don't just look good, but sound good. We are calling on the Government to urgently introduce a mandatory test for all new school buildings to ensure they comply with government standards, to stop generations of deaf children from missing out on a quality education."

Official statistics show that last year, deaf children in England were 42 per cent less likely than all children to achieve five GCSEs at grades A* to C (including English and Maths), and poor acoustics are proven to be one of a range of barriers to their progress. Deafness is not a learning disability, and given the right support, most deaf children should be achieving on a par with their hearing peers.

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