Delays put children’s health at risk
Delays with law change put children’s health at
Noise and acoustic specialist Dr Stuart McLaren says proposed changes to the Building Code do not include a clause setting auditory standards for classrooms – despite evidence that excessive classroom noise harms health and well-being.
In particular, children with autism, hearing impairment and a range of special needs, will be disadvantaged, Dr McLaren says.
Submissions to change the Building Code requirement related to noise protection close on November 26. Dr McLaren, from the Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health, says it is essential that provisions that establish acoustic criteria for classrooms and learning spaces are part of it.
The Department of Building and Housing plans to introduce a new amendment to the code, known as clause G6, to clarify noise insulation requirements in new apartment buildings and multi-unit dwellings, but classrooms are not covered. Dr McLaren wants them included now rather than the second stage of consultation for which he says there is so far no scheduled timetable.
“Ultimately we want to be sure it does not get lost. If it’s not included in the next round of consultation there will be an inconsistency in the legislation.” He is concerned that the next year’s political landscape, which includes a general election and the likelihood of a cabinet reshuffle, could also see the issue pushed further back and not resolve the problem for thousands of children.
Provision had previously been made in Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 but the process had not encompassed the introduction of the new clause to the building code. What this means is that new buildings for early childhood services can be constructed, that later may not be identified as being in compliance with education regulations and licensing criteria, he says.
Dr McLaren has extensively researched noise levels in early childhood education centres and the effects on children and their teachers. He says research has repeatedly shown poor listening conditions, including loud noise and reverberation in classrooms, can affect all children but have an even worse affect on those with auditory disorders.
“Good acoustical treatment need not be excessively costly if it is incorporated in the design stage. Ripping down ceilings to replace them with acoustical panels and re-lining walls with acoustic rated materials is all an unnecessary expense which could have been avoided if it had been done right the first time.”
He urges teachers, parents and caregivers to make a submission before the deadline.