SHOULD SCHOOL START LATER?
Later school starts are proven to have many benefits to students. These include improved health, reduced health risks, higher test scores/grades, improved sleep duration, better attendance and behavior, less reliance on caffeine and reduced participation in unhealthy activities.
Improved health and reduced health risks
When investigated further, it’s proven by ‘OU Academic’ that absences due to illnesses dropped by 50% plus after 10am start times. This suggests that earlier start times can result in sicknesses. Sleep deprivation is not serious, but a big problem amongst students and there are lots of health issues which relate to it. These issues include obesity, type two diabetes, high blood pressure, drinking alcohol, smoking and using drugs. Sleep deprivation can result in obesity, lack of involvement in physical activities, depression, poor school performance and unhealthy behaviors. These unhealthy behaviors are mainly smoking, drinking, and using drugs, which have already been mentioned as health issues relating to sleep deprivation.
Higher test scores and grades
Later school starts also benefit test scores and grades. Better amounts of sleep can make teenagers more alert, especially in school, and improve their academic performance. It is proven that students who get more sleep have a better memory and learning capabilities which result in higher test scores and grades.
Improved sleep duration which meets requirements
The debate on school start times was the result of an e-petition on a government website which attracted nearly 200,000 signatures. It stated: "School should start at 10am as teenagers are too tired." It also said that "Teenagers are so tired due to having to wake up very early to get to school. The Government should require secondary schools to start later, which will lead to increased productivity at school." Teenagers should have no less than 8.5-9 hours sleep on a school night; however, hormonal shifts make falling asleep earlier for teenagers difficult; if not impossible. Currently, it’s proven that adolescents sleep for around 7 hours each night, even though they should be getting 8 to 10 hours sleep. Teenagers’ biological clocks don’t allow them to fall asleep before 11pm, even when they’re tired, as the teenage body clock works differently to others. During puberty, teens become sleepy later at night and need to sleep later in the morning, although current school start times don’t allow that. Studies show that adolescents experience a sleep-phase delay, meaning that their sleep is nearly always delayed by two or more hours from conventional sleep times. Waking up while it’s still dark outside can be very disruptive to an adolescent’s natural internal clock and sleep researchers, teachers, and physicians agree that delayed school start times would be better for the overall health of the students and their success in the classroom. The website ‘Each Night’ conducted a 4-year study in 2017 to examine the relationship between start times and academic performance. Students were observed before and after a 70-minute time change was put into place. Researchers found that academic success improved significantly after delaying school start times. From this study, a behavioral sleep specialist observed that, “Start times were at 8:50AM for a year, 10AM for two years, then switched back to 8:50AM. The change to 10AM produced positive changes in students’ health and academic performance, which went back to baseline levels when the start time was moved earlier again.” This supports the idea of delaying school times having a positive impact on students and the school. When deprived of sleep, teens tend to experience more frequent mood swings, higher levels of irritability, attention, attitude, and behavior related problems. Sleep deprivation is linked to poor academic performance and delayed start times can help teenagers sleep more in their natural sleep and wake cycles. Students can use their natural sleep and wake times, which are generally from after 11pm to 8 or 9am. This can give the body time to repair and restore itself, benefiting the immune system, muscle recovery, athletic performance and reducing daytime sleepiness. This will all lead to higher productivity in class and students benefiting overall.
It is also proven that later school starts can result in a better attendance for students. This may be because of students being late for school or missing buses, or even because of how tired they are. Whichever reason, later school starts benefit teenagers in this way too.
Less reliance on caffeine
Since it is widely known that teenagers don’t get enough sleep, they must rely on other things to keep them awake during a school day. Teenagers put a lot of reliance on these products, which most often include caffeine, tobacco and alcohol and are linked to poor sleep. However, these products are not healthy for teenagers, and they should not have to use them.
Delaying school starts can have a huge impact overall
Delaying school starts by even the tiniest bit can have an absolutely huge impact on students overall. By delaying the beginning of the school day by just 30 minutes, studies show that this can have a drastic impact on teenagers’ health and their school performance. Most schools start at 8:30am and students who live close get up around 30-60 minutes before the beginning of school each day, with the exception of those who take a bus to school. A slight change in starting times could have a significant impact on students daily. Those who take the bus can get up as early as three hours before the beginning of school, meaning that some students get up at 6:00am each day just to get a bus to school. These teenagers would most likely face the biggest changes in association with their wake times. This proves just how huge an impact the delay of school starts can have on the students.
Getting home later
With schools starting later, students will also get home later. This may not be seen as a good thing in many teenagers and teachers’ eyes, but it also has benefits. This would reduce the time which is spent at home alone and reduce the likelihood of teenagers taking part in unhealthy activities such as smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs.
When running late for school in the mornings, breakfast is usually the thing which is skipped. Or sometimes it’s skipped because students are still sleepy and feel it’s too early to eat each day. Skipping breakfast can result in low concentration in class and bad eating habits; with extra time in the morning, teenagers can eat breakfast and focus more on learning at school.
Behavior is a problem in every situation. However, teenagers are particularly unpredictable, behavior-wise. Teenagers experience mood swings because of puberty. Poor sleep habits only worsen their moods and outbursts and therefore their behavior at school. Students who are exhausted tend to skip school more or work too hard, making themselves more exhausted.
Although delaying school starts is proven to be incredibly beneficial, it has its disadvantages. It can interfere with bus schedules, after-school activities, whole district events which don’t fit into agreed times, and childcare. Teens who provide childcare for younger siblings may not be able to anymore if school finish times are put back. Especially if they sometimes stay even later for extra-curricular activities, which may mean that they quit things which benefit their mental health. Teens who provide childcare for younger siblings may be unable to do this if school finish times are put back as a result of later start times. These are only a few ways which cause delaying school starts to become negative.
When asked, 100% of students said that they thought that school starts should be delayed. When asked why, sleep was a commonly re-occurring factor. They told us that they get up at times which vary from around 6:00am and get home as late as 50 minutes after school has finished. Teenagers should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep each night, but students feel as if they are always tired and do not get enough sleep. One student was interviewed and told us that they thought school should start later. They argued that the biggest benefit was higher concentration levels due to less fatigue and the biggest negative impact was less time in school. However, to solve this issue, they said that school should still end at the same time, but it should have only 5 lessons in a day and there should be less of a particular subject each week. They said that delaying school starts would benefit health and improve behavior and test grades as they will be less tired and more aware. The question remains but there is an obvious answer which has been portrayed by students – yes it should be delayed.