Just 10 minutes more – time for a later school start?
I wonder how many wake-up calls, shouted up how many stairs are made every day, not just across the Emirates but the wider world?
If you are in the enviable position of having a teenager in your home, that daily ritual of shouting, waiting for a response and then shouting some more to make sure they are awake and out of bed will probably be familiar, writes Sara Hedger, former vice president – Safeguarding & Child Protection, GEMS Education, independent consultant, educational safeguarding specialist, leadership coach, lifelong learner and yogi.
Like an unending game of verbal tennis which sometimes appears like you are talking to yourself, the stress levels rise and what should be just any morning, turns into a battlefield.
So, if this daily reveille is becoming too much, it seems there might be what appears to be a simple solution…schools start their day later, but is this really the panacea that it seems? Recently in Dubai a couple of schools have tried this approach and are seeing some real improvements for students, parents and staff.
There has been much research on the benefits of sleep and its particular importance as our brains develop (critically during the teenage years and early 20’s.) In international communities, where often families don’t live within walking distance of their school, school days can begin with very early starts indeed.
The recent Dubai Student Wellbeing Census reflected that students felt that they weren’t getting enough sleep and conversely, with remote learning during the pandemic, they actually saw their sleep patterns improve and felt more ready to learn.
The schools who have already instigated later starts are reporting that, in general, punctuality and attendance have improved, with students having a more relaxed start to the morning with family time maximized. However, this is not without its challenges.
Running a school is a wonderfully rewarding job but complex, with a multitude of factors to be balanced every day, that parents and students are rarely aware of. Timetabling, logistics of extra-curricular activities, staff rotas, managing school transport, teaching and learning, curriculum expectations, exams and the school run etc. all must be planned for with military precision.
Also, what if you are an early bird and not a night owl? The thought of having to go to school later and stay later may not be for you, and we know our circadian rhythms are important for our wellbeing.
Perhaps the answer lies somewhere between. Finding a way to offer a choice to students about the time they start school, balancing the demands of school life and good bedtime routines may be the answer. However, before any lasting changes can be made we need to see evidence of the impact on home and school.
Whatever happens, with a clear focus on wellbeing and the importance of getting enough sleep, you can be sure we will all be watching how this unfolds, as it could be the right time to think differently.