Experts support school starting later ‘so pupils can wake up’

Experts have praised the London academy where lessons start at 10am saying it can help boost grades and reduce levels of depression and self-harm. This is from the Evening Standard…

UCL Academy in Camden is the first school in the country to open later to ensure that students are alert when they arrive. And education experts today called for other London schools to follow suit.

Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, said more schools should take account of the fact that teenagers have a biological pre-disposition to go to bed later and get up later.

He said research shows that rates of depression, self harm and truancy all drop when lessons start later, while at the same time grades go up.

UCL Academy, which is sponsored by University College London, introduced a 10am start time for sixth formers after research at the university found that teenagers are not properly awake until between 9am and 10am. Lessons end at 5.30pm.

Professor Foster, of Brasenose College Oxford, said: “It would help teenagers if they started school later, but it must be in parallel with giving them education about why sleep is important or there is a danger they will just go to bed later and later.

“Bedrooms are a place of entertainment and teenagers text and play computer games into the early hours. They don’t have any clear guidance about the importance of sleep… we have to take note of the biology of teenagers and where we can accommodate a later start time we should.”

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said: “It is important that the hours at school should be those where the children are most active and most easily fit into the pattern of their days. It is well worth trying this out.”

Geraldine Davies, headteacher of UCL Academy, said attendance and punctuality at the school are excellent. She added: “Youngsters are turning up alert and ready to learn and are focused and engaged in lessons.

“We have no hard data on exam results yet, since we have only been open six months, but the aim is to rigorously review the effects. Pupil and teacher surveys have so far been positive. We are applying cutting-edge research here and if it works then we would hope other schools might copy it.”

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