A HEADTEACHER told how aircraft noise can reduce pupils' comprehension by up to a third as Hounslow Council launched its biggest ever consultation on Heathrow today.
Kathryn Harper-Quinn, who runs Hounslow Heath Infant & Nursery School, in Martindale Road, Hounslow, said a recent study had highlighted the dramatic impact planes thundering 600-feet overhead have on children's learning.
Asked to recall factual details from an outdoor lesson, she said, a class of seven-year-olds could remember about a third less than those hearing the same lesson in a specially built noise-insulated hut.
Interestingly, when the study was repeated with a fictional story, there was no noticeable difference in performance - a result Ms Harper-Quinn put down to pupils being able to fill in the gaps more easily.
Speaking at the official launch of the council's consultation on Heathrow, she claimed a third runway would blight thousands more children's education.
"The relentless interruption and distraction makes things very difficult for young children learning to speak, read and write," she said.
"How they can even consider building a third runway when they haven't found solutions to mitigate the impact on schools under the existing flight paths is beyond me."
Questionnaires have been sent to all 100,000 households across the borough asking for people’s views on a range of issues, from a third runway to air pollution.
People can also have their say online and at a series of public meetings being held across the borough as part of the survey, which closes on May 16.
Hounslow Council has already made its opposition to expansion clear, but council leader Jagdish Sharma said the 11 questions had been carefully worded to ensure the consultation was as fair as possible.
The launch comes as both Hillingdon and Richmond councils are preparing to hold holding referendums on a third runway.
Asked why Hounslow had not chosen to follow suit, deputy council leader Colin Ellar said he believed this survey would provide more information than a simple tick-box exercise to help the council, airport and the Government better understand the true impact of Heathrow on its close neighbours. He said the results would be sent to the Government this summer.
About 11,000 Hounslow residents are employed at Heathrow, according to the council, with many more relying on the airport for their livelihoods.
Heathrow has funded noise insulation measures at the 520-pupil Hounslow Heath Infant & Nursery School, along with others in the borough, including the igloo-like adobe hut which reduces noise by 17 decibels and can hold a class of 30 pupils.
However, Ms Harper-Quinn said that although this had helped mitigate the impact of the din caused by passing jets it was not a solution.
The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, is investigating the demand for extra aviation capacity in the UK. Its final report is due in summer 2015.