Many teenagers across the UK are tired coming into school and seem to have no energy to get through the day, or the rest of the week for that matter. Teachers say we should get more sleep. Schools do not enable this. Science proves that schools should start later. This was even debated in the Houses of Parliament and decided that each school should choose their own schedule. So why doesn’t it change?


Most school days start between 08:00 - 09:00 but with travel from home to school, many teens have to wake up earlier than 06:00. We are told to go to bed sooner, but between homework, extra-curricular activities and hobbies, the hours in our days seem to fly past and it is impossible. Moreover, school structure plays a key part in this issue as students are increasingly feeling more pressure to perform well. 


In 2019, a petition to make schools start later gained over 100,000 signatures so the motion was debated in Parliament. The outcome was that schools could choose what time to start and end. Nevertheless, this debate has been overlooked by schools as there has been no change in their systems. Just 1 hour would make a huge difference and schools would see higher energy in students therefore a higher level of motivation ultimately showcasing an improvement in performance nationally.


The UK is in the top 10 countries for the best education system in the world, however it is not the best. The best education system is set in Finland. The focus of education there is not on exams or homework but experience. Homework is often voluntary as schools believe students should spend their time doing other activities such as going out with friends or family. Younger children go to school for 20 hours a week on average in Finland including breaks. The fact that they are free to experience things for their own means that they are less stressed and more relaxed so they are able to perform better and learn more. In the UK the structure of our education system is very effective but the long hours at school mean that students tend to be more stressed and often nearing exam periods, people will go to sleep later as they feel the need to revise into the night. Scientific research shows that the average teenager should get 8-10 hours’ sleep and the strict school schedules demotivate students as they are unable to relax, affecting how they perform in school.


Furthermore, the human bodies have a body “clock” in which we function meaning that at different ages you require a different amount of sleep. This also means that our bodies fall asleep at different times. When you are young your body clock tends to work similar to older adults meaning that they get sleepier in the early evenings and are thus able to wake earlier in the morning. When you are in your teens, you naturally fall asleep later and wake up later. This is why it is often so difficult to wake up in the mornings. Therefore, schools starting early mixes up our circadian rhythm (the timings and routines our bodies are used to.)


On the other hand, scientists have proven that you can change your circadian rhythm and one of the best ways to do so is waking up with natural sunlight. Nonetheless, if schools started later they would have to end later and they would be reluctant to make this change particularly in winter as in the UK the sun often does not rise until around 07:30 and it sets early in the afternoon around 4pm.


In conclusion, by the way our circadian rhythms work, school should start later for older children as sleep is necessary to complete everyday tasks and teens and young adults fall asleep much later than other age groups. A lack of sleep affects performance in schools as students feel unmotivated and stressed. Schools have the ability to change this which can ultimately improve the UK’s education system, so why don’t they?