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.

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
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

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require a DT t...

Year 1 Teacher for long term roles starting in September

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Year 6 Teachers needed for long term and day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 5 Teachers needed for various roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week