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The whole discussion about what time school should start has been triggered by people challenging the adoption of school systems and practices through generations. Those advocating for school to start later in the day argue that the rest is equally as important as the time spent learning for students to perform well academically. However, education is highly valued in society, and most parents and students are eager to generate all the success they can from the academic system. This kind of ambition is often paired with the willingness to spend financially on education. In return, they expect institutions to maximize the time they can spend educating them. In addition, school starting later is associated with improved academic performance and positive mental health for students and administrators.
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Improved Academic Outcomes
It is expected that starting school later improves the student’s alertness and increases their eagerness to learn. When students are alert, their ability to understand, retain and apply the knowledge they acquire in school increases. Younger kids have been observed to function and perform normally if the school day starts early or later in the day. Adolescents, on the other hand, perform better when they get more sleep. Experts attributed this to the sleeping time of the two groups, with younger kids sleeping by 9 pm while adolescents are often up until 10.30 pm. Puberty is responsible for these changes in the sleep cycle as the change in different hormone levels affects the circadian rhythm (Schmidt, 2019). It is recommended that teenagers should have an average of 8-10 hours of sleep per night; anything fewer results in sleep deprivation. However, with homework to be done, a part-time job, and early school hours, these students cannot get the sleep they need.
On the other hand, their younger counterparts do not have part-time jobs and often have their parents help them with their homework, making it easy for them to achieve the recommended 9-12 hours of sleep. Therefore, starting school later allows school-going children to get enough rest, accommodates the biological changes they are undergoing, and allows them to show up academically as their best selves. Furthermore, sleep is essential in consolidating the memories that an individual intends to preserve and improves the ability to recall details by 20% (Papalambros et al., 2019). All these aspects are vital for better academic performance. In addition, getting enough sleep enables one to think on their feet, improving their decision-making skills, an aspect crucial for middle and high school students. Poor decision-making may result in a student keeping bad company, behaving irresponsibly, or having their priorities disorganized. In this case, the student must work harder to maintain or improve their academic performance. Therefore, educational professionals and educators should adjust the school start times to accommodate middle and high school students.
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Better Mental and Physical Health
Starting school late positively impacts the mental and physical health of students. Evidence of the positive impact is reduced delay, fewer missed school days, and a positive attitude towards school among students. Starting school late is related to better mental health among students as they have more time to participate in extracurricular activities. This way, they can become all-rounded students and use either school or the other activities they are part of to manage their stress levels (Neuroth et al., 2021). Enough sleep affords an individual good mental health, as it is during sleep that the repair and restoration of the brain occurs.
Additionally, the processing of emotional information occurs during REM sleep giving an individual the stability and intelligence they need to tackle day-to-day life. Later school starting times give students enough time to improve their physical health by focusing on healthier lifestyles, engaging in outdoor activities, and improving their nutrition. A lifestyle adjustment that can positively impact a student’s life includes choosing to walk or cycle to school; this way, they have an active lifestyle. In addition, students can adjust their daily routines with more time on their hands. School starting later allows more time for the students’ morning, during which they can prepare and eat a balanced breakfast, consequently improving their physical health. Often, students juggle between extending their sleeping hours and having breakfast, with most students opting to have breakfast on the go, which is not nutritionally beneficial. Regulated school hours allow students some time in their evenings to participate in physical activities, improving their well-being (Berger, Widome & Troxel, 2019). With better health, students are more motivated, productive, and involved in academics. Accordingly, starting school in the later hours can improve students’ mental and physical health as they have time to live an all-rounded life.
Generally, starting school early for most students is associated with not having adequate rest to function normally. The practice, however, has benefits that include helping students get accustomed to functioning in the morning and making their transition into college and work life easy. Nevertheless, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits, which is why many people want school schedules to be reviewed and restructured. The benefits include better academic performance and better student well-being.
- Berger, A. T., Widome, R., & Troxel, W. M. (2019). Delayed school start times and adolescent health. Sleep and Health, 447-454. Academic Press.
- Neuroth, L. M., Ma, M., Brooks-Russell, A., & Zhu, M. (2021). The relationship of school start times, sleep duration and mental health among a representative sample of high school students in Colorado, 2019. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(11), 5708.
- Papalambros, N. A., Weintraub, S., Chen, T., Grimaldi, D., Santostasi, G., Paller, K. A., … & Malkani, R. G. (2019). Acoustic enhancement of sleep slow oscillations in mild cognitive impairment. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 6(7), 1191-1201.
- Schmidt, S. (2019, December 6). Later, school starts linked to better teen grades. Science News Explores. https://www.snexplores.org/article/later-school-starts-linked-better-teen-grades#