MPs support petition calling for later school starting times

MP Daniel Zeichner says in a parliamentary debate that evidence shows 'there is a real educational gain here'

Caroline Henshaw

MPs debate later school start times

MPs have voiced support for a non-binding petition arguing that schools should start later in the day for the sake of "night-owl" teenagers.

MP Daniel Zeichner argued that “there are strong scientific reasons for considering change”, citing studies from Singapore and Canada showing that it improved teen sleep patterns.

"I think there is plenty of evidence… that there is a real educational gain here," he told the debate today, organised by the Petitions Committee.

He said schools in Cambridge, his constituency, had told him later starts would make it easier for staff to get childcare, reduce traffic and reduce pressures on public transport.

Quick read: Later start time not solution for tired teens

More research: New study to look at start times and mental health

He quoted one parent as saying: “Having to wake five teens at 6.30 every day is like trying to raise the dead.

“Being forced to get up before they’re ready has a massive impact on their health and wellbeing, which suffers hugely, and, moreover, so does mine.

"The school morning is without question the most stressful part of the day for children and parents.”

Should school start later?

John Howell, the MP for Henley, said evidence showed that accidents fell when teenagers were less tired and more sleep could help their mental health.

However, others pointed out that any change could make life more complex for working parents, meaning that some pupils may have to walk home in the dark.

Mr Zeichner cited a teacher who warned: “By starting later at school perhaps we are not training our young people to be up and ready for a job, which would often be likely to start earlier.”

Petition debates cover general topics and cannot directly change the law or result in a vote to implement the motion.

The idea of later school starts has received a growing amount of attention in recent years as concerns grow about pupils’ sleep deprivation.

Last year researchers at the universities of Birmingham, Aberdeen and Oxford launched a study of students in Years 10 and 11 to gauge the impact of any changes.  

But a different study published in 2017 concluded that delaying school start times would still not help them to get the rest they need.

The petition that prompted the debate had received more than 182,000 signatures at the time of writing.

Proposed by A-level student Hannah Kinder, it reads: “School should start at 10am as teenagers are too tired.

"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.”

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Caroline Henshaw

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