AM meets deaf young people to learn about acoustics in schools

Russell George, Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire, met with two deaf young people this week to learn about acoustics, as part of a campaign by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) Cymru to make schools accessible to children with a hearing loss.

Deaf young people, Kurtis Olding and Daniyaal Munir, both aged 15 from Cardiff, described to Mr George how noisy, echoing classrooms make it difficult for deaf children to learn. At the event, held at the Welsh Assembly buildings, Mr George listened to audio classroom simulations, to hear how a classroom with poor acoustics can sound to a child with hearing loss.

Russell George is supporting the ‘Let’s Make a New Year’s Resolution that Sounds Good’ campaign, launched by NDCS Cymru last month, which calls on Assembly Members to sign up to a special New Year’s Resolution in support of good acoustics in new school, college and nursery buildings.

Research published by NDCS Cymru reveals that acoustic regulations for new school buildings are often ignored, leaving children across Wales struggling to learn in noisy and echoing classrooms. Less than a third of schools built in Wales between 2003 and 2010 received any input from an acoustic expert. It also shows that just 11 per cent of schools built during this time were tested to check that they met acoustic standards*.

Commenting, Mr George said:

“It was a great privilege to be able to meet deaf young people today to learn more about how poor acoustics can affect them at school. Barriers such as this must be broken down if we want to give deaf children the best chance of achieving their full academic potential.

“I fully support the campaign to improve acoustics in schools across Wales and I am calling on my fellow Assembly Members to follow suit so that we succeed in putting the issue firmly on the political agenda.”

Jayne Dulson, NDCS Cymru Director, said she was please the Montgomeryshire AM was backing the campaign:

“We are delighted that Russell George is supporting our campaign and that he met with Kurtis and Daniyaal to better understand the challenges that deaf children face in classrooms with poor acoustics.

“Good acoustics in schools are important for all children, but particularly so for deaf children. Although many deaf children use devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants to access sound, these become almost useless in noisy classrooms. We now need the Welsh Government take action on this important issue.”

In 2010, following calls from NDCS Cymru, the Welsh Government agreed to ensure that schools funded through its 21st Century Schools Programme would meet acoustic standards. This was great news, but only affects schools funded in this way. The charity’s campaign is now calling on the Welsh Government to go a step further and use its new powers on Building Regulations to strengthen the existing law on acoustic standards, ensuring that all new school, nursery and college buildings will sound good – regardless of how they are funded.

Poor acoustics in schools create a barrier to learning for allchildren, but present a particular barrier for children with a hearing loss (i). There are more than 1,700 deaf pupils in Wales (ii). Furthermore, 80 per cent of all children will experience temporary hearing loss before they reach the age of ten (iii).

For more information on the campaign, please visit www.ndcs.org.uk/nyacoustics.