More Zs, less Fs: Manchester Uni sleep boffin backs ‘lie-ins boost GCSE grades’ theory

More than 100 schools will be delaying their starting times by one hour to give schoolchildren extra time to sleep in a bid to boost GCSE results.

Teensleep is one of six projects awarded grants and will track almost 32,000 students with some being fitted with non-invasive bio-telemetric monitoring devices to record sleep patterns.

Dr Simon Kyle is a Sleep Researcher at University of Manchester and believes the theory that later school starts may be benefitical to grades is nothing new.

“Researchers have known for decades that early school start times may be working against the adolescent body-clock.

“The ambitious question addressed in this study is whether optimising sleep quality will translate into improved school performance. This may have significant implications for our approach to learning and education.”

The project will be jointly-funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) with the grants awarded to the six projects adding up to almost £4m.

“We know that many teachers are keen to try new approaches based on neuroscience,” said Head of Education and Learning at the Wellcome Trust Dr Hilary Leevers.

“However, we have so far lacked evidence about what will actually be beneficial to their students.”

The multi-million pound project will be run by the University of Oxford, who claim teenage brains do not start to function properly until two hours after adult brains.

A smaller trial at a school in North Tyneside has proved the benefits of this scheme. After shifting starting times from 8.50am to 10.00am, there was a dramatic improvement in GCSE grades.

The percentage of students gaining five good GCSEs increased from 34% to 50%, with disadvantaged pupils showing even better results, going from 19% succeeding to 43%.

Dr Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the EEF, said: “Our mission at the EEF is to narrow the attainment gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their more affluent peers.”

The trial will involve students from Years 10 and 11, who will be divided into two groups, with one starting the day as normal and the other beginning at 10.00am.

The students will also be given lessons on the importance of a good night’s sleep and will have their grades assessed throughout the trial.

Colin Espie, Professor of Sleep Medicine, added: “If we adapt our system to the biological status of the young person, we might have more success than trying to fit them into our schedules.”

Image courtesy of Pete with thanks

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