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Wakey, wakey! – Headmaster’s Blog – Ballard School – 18th November 2015

November 18, 2015

Wakey, wakey!

Hampton Court House School in Surrey, a day independent school, has started an experiment with its newly opened sixth form: the older teenagers, in Years 12 and 13, begin their school day at 1.30pm and end it at 7.00pm. This is in keeping with some recent research which suggests that teenagers’ sleep patterns best suit a later working day. A number of schools have tried a late morning start time but Hampton Court House is the first to go for an all-afternoon timetable.

New approaches to the teaching day are certainly to be welcomed. A few years ago at Ballard School we moved from a 5 lesson day with one hour periods and one of an hour and a half, to a six 50-minute lesson day. This has allowed for greater curriculum flexibility and gives a 5 minute ‘move’ time between lessons. We also decided to put the Assemblies and main Form periods in after lunch to maximise the ‘lunch hour’. I am open to the concept of a later start time for teenagers but can’t see how it would work in a ‘through school’ such as ours where teachers are often deliberately spread across age groups. Where there are dedicated sixth form teachers, for example, this may work (and could also help spread access to resources) but otherwise the length of the teaching day would be too extensive. The parental working day might also be an issue, not least where they have children of varying ages, and I’m not sure what we would do about matches in the winter months and the journey home which would definitely be in the dark! Moreover, a 1.30 to 7.00pm school day amounts to only five and half hours and we currently have seven and a half hours to our day with an additional hour for activities.

I can’t help wondering if a later start for teenagers simply encourages them to go to bed even later with all the attendant temptations of social media, digital games and television – but I could be simply a boring, skeptical parent and headmaster! Perhaps a more interesting experiment is the one being carried out in a Scottish school where the children come in and run a mile every day before lessons start? The seems to have the benefit of blowing away the mental cobwebs – but maybe this should be the routine for the younger pupil with the later start being for older ones? Oxford University is currently carrying out fuller research into this ‘teenage idea’ and until then I shall expect to see all Ballard pupils in school by 8.30am!

We tweet @BallardSchool

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)


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