Later starts for lazy teens?
There is a movement afoot that is suggesting teenagers start school later in the day. This is because teenagers need more sleep than adults and tend to stay awake into the small hours. Studies have shown that they need at least nine hours sleep a night, otherwise they may be sleep-deprived, become depressed, irritable, and be unable to learn to their full potential.
Is it ‘pie in the sky’ to think that this may become a reality? Some people would believe so, but a school in Surrey is already allowing their sixth-formers to begin their day at 1.30pm, meaning they continue until 7pm. Would this affect family life? Most parents eat around 6pm, so when their child is picked up from the school car park at seven, they could then go home, sit at their computer and eat alone, rather than with the family as usual.
It has to be mentioned that these days teenagers have active social lives, with after-school clubs and activities like football training, drama, band practice, scouts and guides. When they get home, they use their computers to get in touch with friends on social networking sites and do homework. They may also play games on their Xbox or PlayStation. No wonder they don’t sleep with so much stimulation going on in their brains.
There are other things to take into consideration too. At the moment, rush hour is affected by the thousands of cars on the road taking children to school, all before 9am. If the day started at 10am or later, this would cut down on the number of cars and buses taking students to school early. It would, however, result in more cars being around later on in the day. And what about parents who work? Many of them plan their day because of school, dropping off the offspring at 8.45am, and driving straight to work. Would we have more latchkey kids? They would be walking to school, seeing to themselves for breakfast, perhaps not getting up at all. This could involve more truancy, and, at the most extreme, eventually result in the breakdown of family life. Or is this taking it too far? The proof must be in the pudding, perhaps.
Science research has suggested that hormones are responsible for teenagers and their sleep patterns. Teenagers need more sleep than adults or children, due to the hormone being released that is essential for growth spurts. However, melatonin, which helps us all to sleep, is produced in adults around 10pm every night. In teenagers, this hormone is not produced until 1am, causing them to stay awake longer. When parents are climbing the walls about bedtime, it seems their teenager is unable to do much about it.
Perhaps school should start later and end at the same time. Perhaps as much work will get done. If a student were given the chance to come in by mid-morning, they would probably vote for this. If they were told they could have a shorter lunch break, but would have to work harder, they would probably vote for this, too. With more sleep, they could concentrate better, and put more energy into the task at hand. With a shorter school day, teachers could be paid less and parents could work longer hours. Utopia, perhaps, but it seems as though the structure of our lives would change.
All in all, change in education is slow, and adults hate change even more so. Traditions in this country are hard to break, and it could possibly take decades for it to come to the table for consideration, let alone for it to actually happen.
Here at REESON Education we want to hear your views on this topic, is this the way forward or an utterly ludicrous idea?