Later start to the school day?

2 March 2018

Given that March is national bed month we thought we look at the issue of sleep!
We often hear that teenagers need more sleep (usually directly from the teenagers themselves!) but what does the research say?

In adolescence, biological rhythms change in such a way that makes it difficult for teenagers to go to sleep and get up early. So if the evidence indicates that adolescents (aged 14-17) need at least nine hours of sleep, and they can’t fall asleep before 11pm we can see the issues potentially caused.  Can they get up in time, and are they able to maximize their learning when at school?

The Campbell systematic review published in December 2017 summarises the findings from 17 studies to examine the evidence on the impact of later school start times on students’ mental health and academic performance.
The studies included in the review were randomised controlled trials, controlled before-and-after studies and interrupted time series studies with data for students aged 13 to 19 and that compared different school start times. The studies reported on 11 interventions in six countries, with a total of almost 300,000 students.
The main results of the review suggest that later school starts may be associated with positive academic benefits and psychosocial outcomes. Later school start times also appear to be associated with an increase in the amount of sleep children get. Effect sizes ranged from +0.38 to +2.39, equivalent to an extra 30 minutes to 2 hours of sleep each night. However, the researchers point out that, overall, the quality of the body of evidence is very low, and so the effects of later school start times cannot be determined with any confidence.

So should schools base decisions on the evidence to date?  We are looking forward to the outcomes of a study you may have recently heard of in the news: A team of ‘sleep experts’ from the Universities of Birmingham, Oxford and Aberdeen are leading a study looking at teenagers sleep patterns and testing whether a later school start time could benefit them. This study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the EEF is looking at:

  • How feasible it might be to change school start times in practice
  • To compare mental health and academic outcomes for teenagers whose school start time changes to those whose school start times doesn’t change
  • The costs of making these changes

Read more of the study here

Posted on 2 March 2018
Posted in: Blog, Evidence, News
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