Schools around the country may start to consider installing modern LED light fittings after a professor stated old-fashioned lamps could affect the way children learn.
Emeritus professor of psychology at Essex University Arnold Wilkins wrote an article for online magazine The Conservation calling for fluorescent lights that were installed in the mid-1950s to be banned in classrooms.
This is because they make it harder for children to read, thereby slowing down their literacy progress.
He wrote: “This rapid fluctuation of light from fluorescent lamps is known to affect the way our eyes move across text and it interferes with the performance of visual tasks.”
Professor Wilkins added that it does not impact everyone, but “it can have a serious effect on a few”, the Telegraph reported.
Fluorescent lights were typically installed in the middle of the century due to being cheap and long lasting; however, they are also known for flickering regularly. Those fluorescent lights that have been installed in the last decade do not have this flickering quality, making them far less disruptive to those in the room.
While many of these old-fashioned lamps have been replaced in schools and commercial buildings across the UK, a 2009 survey revealed 80 per cent of classrooms still used the flickering fluorescent lighting.
Therefore, a decade on, it is likely that many schools across the country continue to use this type of bulbs.
Professor Wilkins’ assertions come after research from Cambridge University revealed children could find it difficult to concentrate in their classrooms if they are too light, as this tends to cause headaches.
The 2007 study stated there has been an obstacle to improving standards with regards to classroom lighting, as a result of “misguided policy decisions”.
Instead, Professor Wilkins believes schools, as well as offices that still use the 1950s’ lights, should replace them with newer bulbs that do not have the 100-per-second variation, and therefore, do not flicker.
He stated this has particular importance, as youngsters in Britain need support in their literacy learning, saying: “One in five children in England cannot read well by the age of 11 - and, for at least some of these children, fluorescent lighting could be part of the problem.”
In addition to this, data from OECD in 2015 revealed 18 per cent of 15-year-olds in England and Scotland, 15 per cent in Northern Ireland and 21 per cent in Wales do not have a minimum level of literacy proficiency.
This could be due to reading skills not being developed enough by the middle of primary school, making it hard for pupils to achieve good grades in other subjects as they grow older. As a result of this, the Department for Education’s Strategy 2015-2020 included the provision to improve literacy and numeracy in primary school through Key Stage 2 tests.
“If pupils do not develop sufficient reading acumen by the middle of primary school, they are less able to learn other curricula,” it stated, before adding it intends to implement policies that “boost literacy and numeracy, with a particular focus on primary school, so that 11-year-olds are set up for success at secondary school”.
Changing the lighting in school buildings might be a simple job, but could be one that proves effective at raising literacy levels among UK students in the long-run.