Classes to start at 10am for teenagers

Thousands of teenagers will be encouraged to have an extra hour in bed, to see if a later school start can improve their GCSE results.

From next September 32,000 teenage pupils will start school an hour later than usual in an experiment to find out whether a lie-in improves their exam performance. Students from more than 100 schools in England will take part in a four-year project, based on scientific findings that teenagers are out of sync with the traditional school timetable.

Researchers from the University of Oxford say that teenagers start functioning properly two hours later than adults, the BBC reports. “Our grandparents told us our sleep is incredibly important. We have always known that, but it’s only recently that we’ve become engaged in the importance of sleep and circadian rhythm,” said professor of sleep medicine Colin Espie. “We know that something funny happens when new teenagers start to be slightly out of sync with the rest of the world. But science is telling us in fact there are developmental changes during the teenage years, which lead to them actually not being as tired as we think they ought to be at normal bedtime and still sleepy in the morning.”

A small study at Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside in 2009 found that starting school at 10am rather than 8.50am led to the proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs increasing from about 34% to 50%.

The study is one of six projects looking at how the application of neuroscience can improve teaching and learning in schools. Others include changing the gaps between lessons, increasing pupils’ physical activity and adding brain training games into the curriculum.

If you teach teenagers, do you think giving them a lie-in will improve their exam  performance? If not, what do you think would? Are you part of one of the schools trialling this? What are your thoughts?

6 thoughts on “Classes to start at 10am for teenagers

  1. I notice that the study at Monkseaton was “small”. I wonder how small and therefore how lacking in validity. Common sense suggest that starting school an hour later will not lead to an almost 50% increase (16 percentage points) improvement in GCSE performance. I suspect that students who start at 10am will go to bed an hour later and negate the benefits of a 10am start. The key to improvement probably lies with parents, who need to see that their children get adequate sleep and I suspect that this is where the experiment will fall down. Still it is good to see that there is going to be a statistically valid study, which should give useful results.

  2. The problem with many of the teenagers I teach is that they are too tired to work as they don’t go to sleep until 2am or later as they are watching TV in their rooms or playing on an Xbox etc. A later start will only be beneficial if they go to sleep at a reasonable time in th first place and get enough hours sleep.

  3. Good points, Frank. I can see there may be some validity in the idea, but I suspect that part of it comes from pupils feeling that their needs are being respected – respect tends to be a commodity demanded by teachers, but less often extended by them to pupils.

    Another point is that teenagers themselves may expect to improve their chances at GCSE by having a lie-in. Since the vast majority “perform” well below their potential, there’s plenty of room for a good return of self-fulfilling prophesy.

    While we’re into experimentation and trials, why not introduce confidence-building to a few thousand kids in schools which are historically challenged with socially and emotionally dysfunctional parents? It would require teachers to stop making off-hand judgmental remarks, shouting at classes and at individual pupils, assigning mediocre targets … Ahhh … Hmmm … I think I’ve answered my own question …

  4. I fear that travel issues and the lack of morning nagging by parents to get teenagers out of bed, as parents will not have their work hours altered, will simply lead to attendance issues…
    Is this initiative only for yr10 and yr11 students in response to increasing GCSE performance and will they be required to work until 4pm while siblings and friends leave at 3pm.
    All sounds very ill thought out.

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