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A preliminary survey of noise levels in UK secondary schools

Conetta, R; Shield, B; Cox, T; Dockrell, J; Connolly, D; (2010) A preliminary survey of noise levels in UK secondary schools. In: (pp. pp. 439-451).

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Abstract

This paper has presented some preliminary noise level and room acoustic data collected from classrooms in four schools in the south east of England. Seventy six lessons were observed in 22 classrooms. The effects on occupied noise levels of a range of classroom based and room acoustic factors were examined. The quietest lesson noise levels were observed in Maths and English lessons. The highest lesson noise levels were observed in PE lessons. Lesson noise levels were shown to be influenced by the lesson activity, relationships were also revealed that suggest that a classroom's indoor ambient noise level, reverberation time and STI have an effect the lesson noise level. The number and age of pupils in the classroom also appears to have an effect on noise levels. As found in a previous survey of noise in primary school classrooms, the lesson noise depended on the activities being undertaken. The quietest activity was individual work, where pupils are engaged in near silent study. The noise level observed for this activity were similar to the levels reported by other researchers for similar activities. The most common, Activity 2 (and second quietest), was instruction/discussion, where typically one person is speaking at a time, for example the teacher instructing the class or the class are engaged in a teacher led discussion. This activity occurred in 47% of the observed lessons. These activities were most often observed in Maths and English classrooms. The loudest activities were Sports and Design and Technology (practical). Sports activities typically involve a great deal of pupil movement and loud inter-pupil communication. Design and Technology (practical) lessons also involve pupil movement and also the use of machinery, such as belt sanders and lathes. Both of these activities occurred only in PE and Design and Technology lessons and explain why the noise levels in these lessons were the highest. When the indoor ambient noise level for individual classrooms was compared with lesson noise level a general positive trend was found, indicating that lesson noise levels are louder in classrooms with a higher indoor ambient noise level. The majority of classrooms comply with BB 93 performance specifications for indoor ambient noise levels, in particular all of the Maths, English and Design and Technology classrooms surveyed. Only four rooms did not comply with the current standard: two science laboratories and two PE halls. A positive trend was observed when the measured reverberation time for each classroom was compared with lesson noise levels, hence indicating that lesson noise levels are louder in classrooms with longer reverberation times. The PE sports halls and gyms had the longest reverberation times of all the rooms, ranging from 1.35 to 6.19 seconds. These rooms have the largest room volumes and typically had very little or no acoustic treatment. With one exception, all PE rooms exceeded the BB 93 performance specifications for indoor sports halls. The other subjects had much shorter reverberation times, ranging from 0.38 to 1.36 seconds. The rooms used for these subjects typically had a smaller room volume and acoustic treatment, most commonly a suspended ceiling with acoustically absorbing panels. The majority of these classrooms met the BB 93 performance specifications. A negative trend was observed when the calculated STI for each classroom was compared with lesson noise levels, indicating that lesson noise levels are louder in classrooms with a lower STI and quieter in rooms with a higher STI. The PE halls, which had the longest reveberation times, had the lowest STI ratings, indicating that the speech intelligibility is 'poor'. The classrooms used for other subjects had STI ratings of 'good' or 'excellent'. It was shown that lessons at involving the older pupils are quieter than those of the younger pupils. A positive trend was observed when the number of pupils in each lesson was compared with the lesson noise levels, suggesting that as the number of pupils in a lesson increases the lesson noise levels increase. It was shown that the number pupils in lessons at Key Stages 3 and 4 ranges from less than 10 to approximately 30, whereas the number at Key Stage 5 is less than 20. This suggests that a possible reason for lower lesson noise levels at Key Stage 5 is that there are fewer pupils in each lesson. It is also likely that the lessons of the older students will involve the quieter activities. The work presented here will be expanded upon by collecting further data from a larger number of secondary schools. From this it is hoped that reliable statistical assumptions can be made of the influence on lesson noise levels of these and other factors present in UK secondary school classrooms.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: A preliminary survey of noise levels in UK secondary schools
ISBN-13: 9781617385957
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1528525
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