There are many good reasons why schools should be starting later.
MENTAL WELLBEING is essential for a student to obtain a good education throughout their schooling life. One must have good relationships with others, eat the correct food, and scientifically, the most important factor is to sleep well.
As proven by many universities, hospitals and institutes, the teenage mind functions best when provided with nine hours of sleep a night. Despite this, recent surveys conducted have found that Australian teens on average are only sleeping 5-7 hours per night.
This may be because they want to sleep at later times but for the majority of teens in Australia, this lack of sleep is due to the ample amount of homework presented and the ridiculously early starting times of schools. High schools in Australia start from 8:30 to 9:00 am meaning sleep-deprived students are unwillingly forced to wake up at roughly 6:00 am.
This leads to the worldwide debate on the matter of school starting times and whether they should start at later times to allow students to rest. Some schools around the world and in Australia have realised this issue and pushed back the starting times of schools and the time that they finish as well.
Alice Miller School is roughly an hours drive from Melbourne and is well known in Victoria for their different approach on this. The school opened in 2016 and has a starting time of 10 am and an ending time of 4:30 pm, meaning students are able to balance sleep and education. The six and a half hour day ensures that a student at the school is able to complete a syllabus without having a disadvantage to other school kids with a regular starting time.
Sarita Ryan, the Head of Campus, has told a similar story to many newspapers including Teacher in April of 2018. ‘Many kids love the later start time … we’ve found that the students tend to [bounce] off the bus in the morning and are ready to start their day. There is a buzz in the school that is unlike the general lethargy that can pervade schools in the morning’.
Alice Miller School has become globally known for its later starting times and its positive effects on the students.
This "buzz" and excitement around school that Ryan mentioned has had a huge effect on students' academic achievements and mental state, as found by Dr Rachel Sharman, a researcher at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute of Oxford University.
According to their research, 70% of the 1500 teenagers they tested who start school earlier that 9 am experience an absence of sleep and therefore have restrictions on their learning ability and their mental and physical health.
Few people realise the risks which a lack of sleep can bring. A serious lack of sleep can make one prone to dangerous medical conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. These conditions are due to the chemical leptin which is the hormone in the human body which ceases hunger when one is full.
As well as this, teenagers experience a shift in their biological rhythms due to puberty and the fact that a teens body is constantly changing and growing. This dangerous situation is causing more and more distress in communities and schools around the world.
As one progresses through their schooling, the amount of study and homework is expected to increase hastily though the final couple of years at high school.
Now this study and extra work are understandable as an individual prepares for arguably the largest exams in their life. However, this work is demanding that students take more time out of their already busy schedule to complete this work.
As a student just starting the HSC in year 11, I spend roughly three hours a night completing school-related tasks. I return from school at 6:30 pm when I have finished sport and start study and homework at 7 pm after eating.
This means I finish by 10 and sleep by 10:30 pm. Like most schools, mine starts at 8:30 which results in my alarm sounding at 6 am meaning that I can only find 7 hours to sleep. Many of my peers find that they have similar problems with their sleeping patterns and agree with this concept that schools should start at later times in the day.
So the question remains: should schools start later to allow sleep-deprived students to rest and catch up on the huge amount of work set by schools? A huge amount of the global community thinks so.
Luke Maxwell is a Year 11 HSC student in NSW.
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