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.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Early Years Teachers ...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Qualified Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualifed Early Years ...

Do you want to work in Education?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energetic gradu...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little