Nine am starts could soon be a thing of the past for students at Bede Sixth Form.
The college, in Billingham, has announced plans to shake up its timetable, which will lead to students being able to improve their chances of getting great results.
From September, students will start their working day from 10am in a move that aims to better fit with teenagers’ natural sleep patterns and as a result improve their academic performance.
College Principal Ben Robinson said: “There is an abundance of research to support proposals for a later start to the college day, largely in relation to circadian rhythms and sleep patterns of teenagers.
“It is well documented that teens are among those most likely to not get enough sleep. The consequences are numerous and can result in students being unable to take full advantage of learning opportunities.”
Following consultation with students and parents, Bede has taken the decision to offer a more compact and focused timetable that the principal said will align more closely with young people’s natural body clocks and, as a result, encourage the highest levels of academic and personal progress.
Other benefits Ben described could include improved attendance and punctuality and further flexibility for students from outside of the immediate area travelling into the college. Plus, given the current need for social distancing in all of our everyday lives, the change in start time could help ease pressure on transport systems at peak times, seeing students utilising alternative methods of transport and offer increased flexibility of learning methods.
He said: “On average, a teenager requires approximately nine hours of sleep per night for optimal performance, most average fewer than seven hours. Academic research shows teens not only need more sleep but they also naturally wake up and go to sleep later.”
With evidence suggesting that a lack of sleep can increase anxiety, the likelihood of depression and affect holistic mental wellbeing in young people, the move could also have a positive impact on students’ physical and mental health.
The potential benefits of a later school/college start time were recognised in a parliamentary debate earlier this year in response to a petition signed by c190,000 people.
Pleased to position Bede among those at the forefront nationally, leading the way in this timetable model change, Ben said: “The primary focus of education is to maximise human potential, therefore our responsibility is to ensure that the conditions in which learning takes place align with the biology and stage of maturation of our learners.”
While the first lesson start time will be later, the college’s opening hours will not change, with the college building and facilities open to students as usual.
“While it goes without saying, that throughout this global pandemic, our focus has been on the health and wellbeing of our students, staff and communities, this is something that I and the team have been researching for quite some time,” said the college principal.
“We want to ensure we are prepared to provide the best learning environment for our students as possible. Bede sits at the heart of our community and we constantly seek to do the best for our students and take advantage of every opportunity to maximise their success. The changes to the college day support this.”
The proposal has received the backing of both current students and staff at the college who have included flexible working, increased student focus and engagement and the ability to have more control over learning hours in their positive feedback.
Bede Sixth Form College is a part of the Education Training Collective (Etc.). Chair of the Etc. governing board, Mark White OBE DL, said: “Across the group we constantly strive to achieve the best outcomes for our students. It is exciting, with the support of students, parents and staff, and following extensive research, to see Bede Sixth Form among those taking a lead on this new model.”