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Acoustic improvements to optimise classroom for an SEN students

Client:Bird in Bush Primary School

When it was announced that two primary schools in south London were to merge to respond to changing demand for places, the decision was made to retain and upgrade one of the schools to facilitate the combined 380+ students in the 3-11 age range.

Having operated successfully in partnership for several years, Coburg Primary School and Camelot Primary School were recently brought together to form a single school that aims to better serve the local community at the site of Camelot School.

Now called Bird in Bush Primary School and teaching its first academic year, Southwark’s newest school has been adapted to accommodate an increased number of children to ensure their needs are met, and that the learning environment is inclusive for all.

The need for an improved acoustic environment

One of the ways the school was adapted prior to opening for the autumn term was to create the right acoustic conditions inside one of the classrooms for a student with special educational needs (SEN), who was moving from Coburg School. The child’s condition meant that they were more susceptible to the adverse effects of noise resulting from reverberation and echo, which could potentially have an impact on their learning outcomes.

The child’s parents felt this was a particularly important issue to address given that their child was entering Year 6, which they believed would be more significant than previous school years and more stressful. Having been satisfied with the acoustic environment at Coburg School, the parents discussed their concerns with head teacher James Robinson and requested that their child’s classroom to be upgraded with the same acoustic treatment that worked so well at the old school.

After listening to the parents’ concerns, James and his team agreed this would be of benefit and gave the green light for the improvement works.

Reducing reverberation through greater sound absorption

The acoustic treatment deployed in the classrooms at Coburg School was provided by Hush Acoustics and involved the installation of sound absorber panels. In addition, Hush had also previously installed this type of panel at Camelot School to dramatically reduce the high levels of background noise and echo inside the school’s large dining hall.

An acoustic survey was carried out to assess the levels of reverberation affecting the Year 6 classroom and provide the necessary data for the acoustic calculations. The aim was to calculate the current reverberation time (RT), the time taken for the sound pressure level from the original sound to drop by 60dB after it stops, and work out how much absorption would be needed to bring this in line with the requirements of BB93.

On the back of this, Hush Acoustics were able to provide their recommendations in terms of the number of panels required and where they would need to be installed.

Providing a ceiling-mounted solution

The solution provided by Hush involved the manufacture and installation of 40x Hush Absorber 50 panels, which were sized 1200 x 600 x 50mm and covered in a fabric coloured in a neutral tone to blend seamlessly with the classroom’s main colour. These were fitted onto the soffit of the classroom’s sloping ceiling which was important to ensure the walls could continue to be used for notice boards and other displays.

Prior to their installation, the RT was measured at 3.8s and following the upgrade the reduction in reverberation is evident in the fact that this figure is now 0.8s. This was the lowest figure possible given the available space for the sound absorber panels on the soffit.

Disruption to teaching was completely avoided because the Hush Absorber 50 panels were fitted in just one day during the summer holiday closure of the school. This ensured they were in place for the beginning of the new term and the school’s new era as Bird in Bush Primary School.

Products used

Hush Absorber 50

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