Could a one-hour lie-in improve pupils' exam results? UK schools 'could move class start times back to 10am'

A UK academy is one of the first UK schools to try pushing back school start times to 10am - after research claimed the extra sleep time cut truancy rates among pupils and improved exam results.

Sleepy start: Experts claim teenagers should be allowed to start school later (Fotolia)

It's the news teenagers nationwide will welcome with open arms.

Secondary schools could push back the start of the school day to 10am - giving pupils a later start 'more in line with the teenage body clock'.

The UCL Academy in central London has become one of the first in Britain to introduce the new timetable, which bosses claim has improved pupils' punctuality and alertness in lessons.

Neurology experts say teenagers are biologically predisposed to go to bed at around midnight, and wake up late.

One professor even told Yahoo! News that teens not getting enough sleep due to early school starts is 'almost a public health crisis'.

UCL studies concluded that teens are not properly awake and engaged until somewhere between 9am and 10am.

Their body clock remains in this state until the age of around 21 for males, and 19 for females. By the age of 55, experts say our body clock has shifted back again so that we go to bed and get up at around the same time we did before puberty.

Similar late start schemes are already in place in Germany and in hundreds of American schools, and have been largely successful in cutting absenteeism, say teachers.

In this country, Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside were first to try a 10am start time, which they introduced in 2009.

Their head teacher at the time, Dr Paul Kelley, said GCSE results with a 10am start significantly improved, with 5 GCSEs A*-C with English and Maths up 19%, and similar rises in core subjects.

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Dr Kelley has since left the school, and new bosses have reverted to the traditional 8.50am start time.

The debate continues as to how effective the later start is - Monkseaton's current head said overall attendance 'fell below the national average' with 10am starts, so statistical proof of its success remains hard to come by.

Adam Chedburn, Executive Headteacher at Monkseaton High School, said: "During the period when the school had a 10am start, overall attendance fell below the national norms and the standards we’d expect at the school, and it was important that we took action to address that.

"Since the 8.50am start was re-introduced, we have seen significant improvements in both punctuality and attendance."

Teachers are also split on the scheme, as it would no doubt lengthen their working day, and parents were also undecided, as it could affect their own daily schedule.

Dr Kelley, who left Monkseaton High School last year after 18 years as head, said the school should've kept the later start times which he introduced.

He told Yahoo! News: "Secondary schools need to consider changing starting times to 10am - or certainly later than current times.

"Running a school isn't easy, but they should've kept the later starts. The children did fantastically well (when lessons started at 10am)."

New start times at schools can only be introduced at the start of a school year, and the decision has to go through a consultation process with parents.

Dr Kelley said parents had approved the move at Monkseaton, before the u-turn back to the conventional hours after he left.

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He added: "Parents said their children were much friendlier to them with the later start, and were having better conversations.

"There were some parents whose children showed spectacular improvements in behaviour."

Dr Kelley, along with Oxford University academic Professor Russell Foster, will present a paper on research of teenagers' sleep patterns to an American conference later this year.

Prof Foster told Yahoo! today: "Teenage kids are falling asleep in classes and the talents of fantastic teachers are being squandered. It's almost a public health crisis."

Professor Foster said that as well as later starts, children should be taught how treating the bedroom as an 'entertainment room' with endless gaming, TV, and social networking, only disrupts their sleep further by leading to poor 'sleep hygiene'.

Campaigners say later school starting times would cut truancy rates, boost pupil performance, and even lower depression and suicide rates among teens.

At UCL Academy, headteacher Geraldine Davies said the later starts 'seem to be working'.

She told the Sunday Times: "Attendance is excellent and we are having no problems with punctuality.

"Youngsters are turning up alert and ready to learn, and are focused and engaged in lessons.

"Pupil and teacher surveys have so far been positive. We are applying cutting edge research here and if it works then we would hope other schools might copy it."