Should School Start Later in the Day?

1930 words (8 pages) Essay in Education

18/05/20 Education Reference this

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In this essay I will look at whether school should start later in the day. Personally, I believe that there should be a debate, as to what time school starts. This is because scientifc research shows that teenagers, have a different sleep pattern compared to adults and younger children. Therefore, our bodies are not able to wake up naturally every morning, especially at a time, where it feels too early for our body clock. This can lead to insufficient sleep which is an important public health issue1. There is a very strong link between lack of sleep and high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease and organ damage2. This may also lead to stroke. Tiredness could also lead to accident risk and injury3. There are not only physical reasons but also psychological consequences. This is also why I believe that maybe students are not as well-behaved and have worse concentration in the early lessons of the school day because the body has still not ‘naturally woken’ yet. This is why there is a strong argument saying that school should have a later start time. Therefore, these are some of the reasons as to why school should be started later.

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 It is believed that the bodies and minds of a teenager are not always in sync with each other1, due to the body’s timing mechanism called the circadian rhythm, which is the body’s sleep and wake cycle.  This can lead to processes that would normally occur whilst they are awake, to happen during their sleep. For an adult, whilst they are asleep their heart rate falls, blood pressure drops and urine will stop being produced4. However, in some teenagers this doesn’t always happen4. Another key feature which can lead to teenagers being deprived of sleep is because of the hormone melatonin, known as the ‘darkness hormone’. Most adults normally begin to produce melatonin at about 10PM. However in an experiment that kept teenagers in a sleep laboratory, researchers found that the teenagers only began to produce melatonin at 1AM5. For teenagers to function at their best, on the following day, they should be aiming to have 9.2 hours of sleep6. Therefore, if teenagers begin to fall asleep at 1AM, to be able to work well the next day, they should be waking no earlier than 9AM.  The problem is most schools begin at about 8.45, so for a teenager to wake, have breakfast and get to school, they miss out on vital sleep time as it is reported that 20% of Year 9-12 students fall asleep during lessons.5 If schools want their students to fulfill their academic potential this opens the debate for a later school start time.  Having the recommended number of sleep hours may decrease student-reported depression and improve their willingness to attend school7. They may also have a less chance of being late for school and be more alert when they enter their first lesson of the day[1].

However, some people may argue that school should stay with its current timings because they believe that if school starts later, it would reduce the chance of [2]

teenagers being able to attend extra-curricular activities. I personally believe that this could be a large reason as to why the idea of school starting later struggled to gain momentum, as many children take part in a wide variety of activities outside of the normal school day. Sport, music and drama are very popular extra-curricular activities. This will give the teenagers a more well-rounded education and will relieve stress. Therefore, if the start of school time is delayed, the amount of time teenagers will have for these activities will be reduced. If one school pushes back their start time the schools in the surrounding areas may not be able to take have sport fixtures against them due to the time difference.7 Sport reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes and other health complications and the body releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body and will help those struggling with mental health issues. However, these extra-curricular activities can contribute to insufficient sleep and could be why some teenagers are struggling to wake every morning in order to be at school by 8.30 AM.

A debate about whether school should start later was discussed in Parliament on Monday 11th February 2019. MP’s debated whether school should begin at 10AM. This came after a petition started by Hannah Kidner, a historian and campaigner,  reached 179,000 signatures9. Responding to the petition Damian Hinds MP, the Secretary of State for Education, said that the government had given schools the autonomy to make decisions about the school timetable, how long the day lasts and the start and finish times8. A Sixth Form School in Surrey, Hampton Court House, have trialled beginning their lessons at 13.3010. Their Headmaster, Guy Holloway, said that there was scientific evidence proving the point that teenagers did struggle to have a good night’s sleep during the week, which would then lead to a “significant impact on teenage cognition and mental and physical health generally.”9 I believe that this is a step forward for this argument to develop on a larger scale in the future.

Another potential reason as to why the idea of school starting later has not advanced could be due to the fact, that the thought for some teenagers not needing to wake up early in the morning could result in them going to bed later than orginally anticipated. Therefore, if a teenager is sat watching TV or going on their phones in the middle of the night their melatonin, will not be released until much later and could lead to the same problem happening again. Teenagers not getting enough sleep! Electronic devices emit a blue light which delays the relase of melatonin, increases alertness and resets the circadian ryhthm.12 This can make one feel jet-lagged and can deprive us of our sleep. Personally, I think that as teenagers we need to value our sleep more, so that we are more alert and ready to go to our lessons the next day. Therefore, I urge teenagers to go to bed at a decent hour and then we can be wide-awake during the first lessons of the chool day. However, the study used by Amy R. Wolfson, Noah L. Spaulding, Craig Dandrow & Elizabeth M. Baroni (Middle School Start Times: The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep for Young Adolescents) stated that ‘prior studies had demonstrated that high schoolers with later school starts do not further delay bedtime but obtain more sleep due to the later wake times’.6

A journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, they stated that “if we delayed our start time to school, it would be a very effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and could have positive impacts on teenager’s mental and physical health”.1 In a world where mental health is affecting one in ten teenagers13, I think that we should be more understanding to these factors causing a decline to mental health. If the children are mentally unstable they will struggle to cope with events and may disrupt their growth into well-rounded, healthy adults.

The country that tops the international education rankings is China.14 In China, children arrive to school at 7.30AM to read, then they wil attend their school day lessons and eventually leave school at 4PM, only to then attend tutorial classes. It is reported that 45% of pupils spend up to four hours a week having extra maths lessons and a further 20% of students spend more than four hours a week on additional English and Chinese lessons14. This then sparks the debate that maybe if school started later, could the UK still achieve the same academic results.

In conclusion, I believe that there should be a discussion for schools in the country to decide whether we delay our start time to school in the morning. This discussion should include us teenagers as we are the only people who know how we feel. As we approach exam results day, it would be interesting to compare the results of Hampton Court House against schools who start at a ‘normal’ time. As the senior MP’s voted last time, I believe that we should raise this matter with Youth MP’s adn give them the chance to debate this.  [3]



Essay made reference to the following sources:

●       School Start Time for Adolescents, American Acdaemy of Pediatrics, September 2014, volume 134/issue 3

●       Is lack of sleep affecting your work? Dr Justin Varney, 30 January 2018

●       Changing Time : Findings from the First Longitudinal Study of Later HIgh School Start Times, Kyla Wahistrom, 1 December 2002

●       Middle School Start Times: The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep for Young Adolescents, Amy R. Wolfosn, Noah L. Spaulding, Craig Dandrow & Elizabeth M. Baroni, 5 December 2007

●       Pros And Cons of Later School Start Time, Leigh Ann Morgan, 13 March 2019

●       MPs to debate late school starts for teenagers, BBC News, 7 February 2019

●       ‘Tired Teenagers’ at Surrey school to start lessons later, BBC News, 10 May


[1]School Start Time for Adolescents, American Academy of Pediatrics, September 2014, voume 134/issue

2- Effects of insufficient sleep on blood pressure in hypertensive patients, Paola Lusandi, Annalisa Zoppi, Paola Preti, Marie Pesce, Elena Piazza and Roberto Fogari, American Journal of Hypertension- Volume 12/issue 1, January 1999

3- Is lack of sleep affecting your work?, Dr Justin Varney, 30 January 2018

4-National Sleep Foundation, Sleep Drive and your Body Clock

5-High Schools starting later to help sleepy teens, Michelle Trudeau, NPR, 18 January 2007

6- Changing Times: FIndings from the FIrst Longitudinal Study of Later High School Start Times, Kyla Wahistrom, 1 Decmeber 2002

7- Middle School Start Times: The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep for Young Adolescents, Amy R. Wolfson, Noah L. Spaulding, Craig Dandrow & Elizabteh M. Baroni, 5 December 2007


8- The Pros and Cons of Starting School Later, Amy Morin, 13 March 2019

9–MPs to debate late school starts for teenagers, BBC News, 7 February 2019

10-’Tired Teenagers’ at Surrey school to start lessons later, BBC News, 10 May 2014


12-How Blue Light Affects Kids and Sleep, National Sleep Foundation

13-Mental Health Foundation, Children and Young People

14– Copying the long Chinese school day could have unintended consequences, Kan Wei, 24 February 2014, The Conversation

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