To sleep, perchance to get better grades

A Tyneside high school is giving pupils a longer lie-in – in the hope it improves their concentration in lessons

It is what many teenagers tell their parents: "I'd do better at school if you'd only let me sleep in every morning." Now an 850-pupil comprehensive has taken students at their word and put back the start of the day in the hope they turn up better prepared for learning.

A five-month experiment was launched at Monkseaton High School in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, after half-term with the backing of pupils, teachers and parents. Instead of traipsing into school bleary-eyed every morning at 9am, pupils can indulge in a big breakfast before starting lessons at 10am.

Before sanctioning the change, the headteacher, Dr Paul Kelley, took advice from sleep experts, in particular Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience at Brasenose College, Oxford.

In his research, Professor Foster has highlighted studies which suggest that teenagers coping with the onset of puberty need more sleep than the rest of the population. As a result, they are likely to be at their peak performance in the afternoon rather than the morning, and continuous interruption to their sleep patterns is likely to have an impact on their health and mental capacity.

Professor Foster's tests appear to confirm that students perform better in the afternoons. "It is time we stopped ignoring the sleep patterns of young adults," he said. "Sleep provides all of us with our sense of wellbeing and the faculty that helps make us human: our extraordinary capacity for creativity and innovation. It is cruel to impose a cultural pattern on teenagers that makes them underachieve. Most school regimes force teenagers to function at a time of day that is sub-optimal, and many university students are exposed to considerable dangers from sleep deprivation."

Speaking to The Independent, he welcomed Monkseaton High School's decision to postpone the start of the school day.

However, he stressed: "Knowing that kids want to go to bed and get up later, you can't just give them free rein. They have to take some responsibility for their own actions themselves. Knowing that they need nine-and-a-half hours' sleep, you should track that back from when they get up and make sure their room is dark with no TV on from then."

Initially, Dr Kelley wanted to make a more radical change to the school's timetable, pushing back the start time by two hours to 11am. However, a compromise deal saw it changed to 10am. Lessons carry on for an extra 30 minutes in the afternoons, with the school staying open for study until 5pm. "My view is that this is a very, very important issue because here is something that schools can do to improve the health and mental health of their pupils," Dr Kelley said.

Research shows that depression can set in if a human is constantly interrupted and woken from sleep.

The experiment has not won 100 per cent support from the school community and Dr Kelley pointed out that Monkseaton High still remained open from 8am until 5pm, so that parents with childcare problems, or families in which both partners had jobs, could still leave their child at school before going to work.

To further improve the standard of learning, the school has a £23m new building which, its pupils say, is designed like a football stadium. The classrooms are lighter and more spacious which help children to concentrate better in lessons.

Emelye Hood, 13, is a fan of the changes: "I get up about 8.30am to 8.45am and, with getting more sleep, it means I can concentrate more on my lessons."

Ryan Thompson, also 13, agreed. "I get a lie-in and you don't have to rush your breakfast in the morning," he said. "It means you don't get your lunch at school until 2pm but I don't mind that." But Connor Miller, 13, disagreed, saying: "I don't like the [new start] time because you get a bigger breakfast in the morning and you're not as hungry by lunchtime. I'd like to go back to the old time."

Dr Kelley said several schools in Canada and the United States had put back their starting times – but some had abandoned the idea because it was more difficult to fit in sporting fixtures with schools sticking to traditional timetables. He did not know of any in the UK doing what Monkseaton had done but felt it would "catch on" if the experiment was successful.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our exclusive client in St Albans Hertfords...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Primary Teachers

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teachers needed in Hertfordshir...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system