So whathas the Government’s response been to our campaign on acoustics in schools?
Well, some of it is probably unprintable. I’m fairly certain that officials would wish we would just go away. Our campaign has generated a fair amount of work for them. I feel their pain as an ex-civil servant myself. But then again, it wouldn’t take much for us to go away.
The campaign is calling for a new mandatory requirement that all new school buildings be tested for their acoustics. Some of the arguments deployed by the Government to try and justify not doing this have included:
1) A government review is already strengthening guidance on acoustics. Which is very welcome. However, we’ve already been told that the review will simply strengthen the recommendation that acoustic testing should be done. It won’t make it a requirement. We have evidence that a lot of local authorities currently don’t bother to test the quality of acoustics as it is ‘only’ a recommendation. So this won’t work.
2) Most new secondary schools are now being built through a programme known as Building Schools for the Future. For these schools, it has been proposed that testing will be a ‘condition of contract’ in a draft contract that all local authorities will be expected to sign. Again, this is very welcome. But, again, there is a but. It’s essentially a draft contract. It does not guarantee that all local authorities will use it. And it would only apply to secondary schools. Lots of new primary schools are also being built at the moment. They need to have high quality acoustics too to ensure effective language development.
3) It’s been proposed that more be done to educate the educationalists. I’ve never been entirely sure what educationalists do – but I gather it’s their job to decide how schools should be run and designed. Educationalists currently seem to be in a lather about open plan teaching spaces without having really thought about how good acoustics can be made possible in such environments. Again, this is welcome. But this should be happening anyway and I don’t think it takes away the need for acoustic testing.
I think it’s quite simple really. If government standards have been set, the Government needs to make sure they’re met. And the best, and only, way to do that is to have a hard requirement for new schools to be tested for their acoustics.
It’s not particularly expensive to do. We estimate it costs around 0.01% of the cost of new secondary school.
It’s a small thing to do that would make a big difference. And it’s a sure fire means of making the campaign go away!