Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Head urges lie-ins for teenagers

Teenagers should get up two hours later, according to research

Teenage pupils should be given an extra two hours in bed to boost their learning abilities, a Tyneside head teacher has urged.

Dr Paul Kelley, of Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside, said continuous early starts created "teenage zombies" in the classroom.

He said research showed allowing teenagers to begin lessons at 11am had a "profound impact" on learning.

Dr Kelley has already pioneered shorter lessons at the school.

Research suggests teenagers' brains are wired differently to those of adults and work two hours behind adult time, he said.

Memory tests performed on Monkseaton pupils by neuroscientist Russell Foster, chair of circadian neuroscience at Brasenose College, Oxford, showed the students' brains worked better in the afternoon.

People need to consider what is at stake here and that is the well-being of our children
Dr Paul Kelley

This suggested young people's body clocks may shift as they begin their teens - meaning teenagers got up later not because they were lazy, but because they were biologically programmed to do so.

Dr Kelley said depriving teenagers of sleep could have an impact on their mental and physical health as well as their education.

He said evidence had shown rousing teenagers from their beds early resulted in abrupt mood swings, increased irritability, depression, weight gain and reduced immunity to disease.


Dr Kelley said: "This affects all teenagers from about year 11 and stays with them until their university years and beyond.

"The research shows that we are making teenagers the way they are and that we need to do something about it.

"Starting school later is important not just for their academic performance, but for their health and wellbeing.

"People need to consider what is at stake here and that is the well-being of our children."

Dr Kelley hopes school governors will approve a new timetable before the start of the next school year.

Last year he carried out a trial that found pupils scored up to 90% in a GCSE science paper after one session involving three 20-minute bursts interspersed with 10-minute breaks for physical activity.

The pupils had not covered any part of the GCSE science syllabus before the lessons.

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