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April 2, 2003

School pilots classroom sound system

From: St. Albans Observer, UK - Apr 2, 2003

By Owen Morris

THE age-old teachers' question "Can you hear me at the back?" is a thing of the past at a St Albans school being used to pilot a revolutionary sound system.

Teachers at Park Street Primary School in Branch Road, St Albans, are experimenting with the Soundfield System, a low-power public address device installed in four of its classrooms.

The teacher wears a microphone and his voice is broadcast through speakers, ensuring he can be heard at a consistent level by all the children in the room.

Headteacher Geoff Sturgess said: "The quality of sound throughout the room is greatly improved. Any child anywhere in the room can hear the teacher as if he or she were only a few feet away. Since the system is wire-less, the teacher can move freely around the room or turn to face the blackboard while effortlessly maintaining the level of his or her voice."

Hearing-impaired children in the class also have their radio aids tuned to the system.

Mr Sturgess added: "Children's auditory processes are not fully developed until their mid-teens and they don't have the life experience to be able to fill in the gaps when they do miss information."

The school is piloting the scheme on behalf of Hertfordshire County Council and will report back on how effective it has been. A county council spokesman said: "It is too early yet to tell how effective the system will be as the pilot is due to run for 18 months. But we are confident that it can only be a success in the classroom."

Evidence from the US suggests a system of this type is particularly effective as a large percentage of children suffer from some type of temporary hearing loss through ailments such as colds or glue ear.

If the scheme succeeds it will form part of a £5 million investment by the Department for Education and Skills (Dfes) to upgrade schools and make the curriculum more accessible to disabled pupils.

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