Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2024
Should schools start later? With the forthcoming start of the school year there is a lot of press concerning the issue of school start times and the idea that starting school later would be beneficial to children, specifically teenagers. This is based on the fact that teenagers need to sleep longer than adults and that there is a shift in the biological rhythms of teenagers which means that they need to go to sleep later, thus they will not be at their best first thing in the morning. There is good evidence from America that starting school later can improve grades, attendance and behaviour. However most of the American work says that it is start times before 0830, common in the US, which is the problem in the UK schools start around 0900 and so it should be less of a problem; however this does not mean that we should not consider starting school later particularly for teenagers, although there is no scientific reason to start lessons at 1330 as one UK school has done. What is interesting is that in America, where this research has been discussed for 20 years or more and despite the proven benefits of later start times, there have been very few schools that have adopted a later start to the school day. This is strange because there would seem to be no compelling reasons why schools cannot start later. So if we really cared about our children’s educations and their health we should in the UK perhaps consider slightly later school start times and if for whatever reason this was not possible then at least schools should be encouraged to sensibly timetable ‘academic’ lessons and examinations later in the day.