Is it time we gave teenage pupils a later start to improve their education?

Will all pupils be more attentive if they start lessons at 10am? PA Photo.

Will all pupils be more attentive if they start lessons at 10am? PA Photo. - Credit: PA

Hard-pressed parents, breathe a sigh of relief. For tens of thousands of tetchy teenagers will be allowed a lie-in as part of an education experiment.

It is a lowlight of the morning routine – trying to get your children out of bed and ready for school. The tiresome effort is punctuated with sneers, grunts and monosyllabic conversations that get the day off to a bad start.

But researchers have news for you – it might not be their fault. And now Oxford University experts are launching an experiment that will see tens of thousands of pupils starting school at 10am to see whether later starts improve exam results.

The trial will track 30,000 14- to 16-year-olds at 106 schools from next September.

Prof Colin Espie said: 'We know that something funny happens when you're a teenager, in that you seem to be out of sync with the world.


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'Your parents think it's because you're lazy and opinionated and everything would be ok if you could get to sleep earlier. But science is telling us that teenagers need to sleep more in the mornings.'

Pupils will be divided into two groups, with one starting school at 10am, and the other following the usual school timetable. Both sets will also be given lessons on the importance of getting enough sleep.

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The £700,000 project follows a pilot study carried out in 2009 at Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside. The study saw grades improve in core subjects by 19pc due to the later start time.

Gerard Batty, executive headteacher of Hellesdon High School and Firside Junior School, Hellesdon, said: 'All the researchers in this study underwent the same patterns of schooling as today's students and it hasn't stopped them.'

He added: 'Our early start and finish means students have more leisure time in the afternoon and the school has many clubs and activities they can access after school.'

He said ensuring pupils had a proper breakfast would be more effective than a lie-in.

Brian Conway, headteacher at Notre Dame High School, Norwich, said: 'I'm pleased that research is being done in this area and if it proves true it could be useful for some schools. It will be fascinating to see how the research turns out, it is a small study to start off with and if it shows a later start time is worthwhile who knows how it might shape the future of the school day?'

• Do you think schools should start lessons later? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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