Are morning lessons redundant for secondary school children? I always thought that period 6 was the toughest time to teach with pupils itching to go home!

E-petitions actually make a difference

A debate, which featured in Parliament this week, originated from an e-petition launched from Hannah Kidner, an A-level student which gained significant press coverage.

She proposed that the government should require secondary schools to start later, which will lead to increased productivity for pupils at school.

There are obviously pros and cons to both sides of the debate with research to support differing viewpoints. There is actually quite in-depth and informative research on the Parliament UK website which is reassuring to know. You can watch a video of the debate here.

I’m actually quite impressed with the level of thoughtfulness and depth of this debate, in addition to the time it must have taken to accumulate the research. The topic in general, could actually be used to stimulate a good ‘for and against’ debate in an English lesson as I’m sure pupils would have strong views about it.

There have been many studies over the years, particularly in the US, that suggest a later start time may have a positive impact on pupils. Some reviews have, however, found more mixed results and there are some
concerns about the quality of the evidence.

Research would be difficult to implement into practice

Personally, I believe there would be a disconnect from the research and the practicalities of implementing a standardised start time for all secondary schools across England and Wales.

From my personal experience of teaching secondary school pupils, I found that the first couple of periods of the day were actually the most productive. Pupils in years 7-11 were ready to learn, engaged and generally more well-behaved. I think there is a sense of kicking the day off positively, making sure that pupils have arrived safely, have the correct uniform etc which settles both pupils and teachers in a school. If that doesn’t happen until 10am I think there would be a feeling of playing catch-up throughout the day.

As time progresses throughout the day, there are more opportunities for distractions both in and outside of school. I would be a stronger advocate of ending the school day earlier which I know many academies have taken their freedoms to do so.

How did the DfE respond?

The DfE’s standardised response of “it’s up to schools to decide when to start the school day” will probably not satisfy the majority of young people who signed this petition. It seems to be a bit of a ‘get out of jail’ response as only the most maverick of schools would actually start the school day at 10am (I’m not aware of any after conducting research.)

The distant future …

In the not too distant future I believe that the start and end times of the school day will be more flexible to accommodate the needs of staff, pupils and parents. It does seem a bit antiquated that 1,500 people turn up and leave at generally the same time Monday to Friday each day. Until someone comes up with a better system of educating thousands of pupils on a physical school site I don’t see the standardised school day changing anytime soon.

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