Our kids need sleep

26 July 2021

There are some extraordinary benefits from your child sleeping through their alarm in the mornings.

In a recent article published in The Conversation' CQUniversity's Professor of Education Ken Purnell explains that young people are not getting enough sleep. He says your child sleeping in later is benefiting their cognitive and behavioural development and therefore we should be delaying school start times.

After the News South Wales government announced it would give primary schools the freedom to change their hours under a new trial' he is encouraging other states and territories to follow suit.

Professor Purnell deep dives into the benefits of delaying or staggering school start times.

"The Australian sleep guidelines recommend children get between 8 and 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night' yet they are only averaging 6.5 to 7 hours on a school night'" he said.

"The sleep hormone' melatonin' naturally releases late at night and delays the body clock in teenagers. This then means young people feel sleepier later in the day and sleep in later in the mornings.

"This is one important reason why school start times' particularly for older students' should be delayed."

In 2020' there were approximately 9542 total schools in Australia. So' one size certainly does not fit all and never has' Professor Purnell said.

"School start times are an historical artefact from decades ago. More sustainable schooling is needed and staggered school starts can help.

"By doing so' it would boost their productivity and teach them decision making skills related to their learnings as they would have the option to choose the start time that best suits them' which may result in long lasting and intergenerational benefits right now and into the future.

"For staff' split shifts may create better blocks of teaching time and they could provide more support to students."

COVID-19 has taught us that blended or online learning may continue post pandemic' thus making the '9 to 3' school times almost redundant.

Professor Purnell said if we opted to move to staggered start times in our schools' it could provide flexibility for families and have a positive impact on the environment.

"Children would be able to ride a bike or walk to school at 9.30am when it's safer' while also reaping the benefits that exercise has on the brain and body'" he explains.

"Infrastructure costs would reduce with the funding being spent on school renewal rather than new schools."

The benefits of sleep quantity and quality for the development of new brain cells and connections' as well as memory formation and consolidation should be taught at school' Professor Purnell continued.

With more pressure put on our kids to succeed' providing learning options that best suit them' such as staggered school times' may be the grounds to their success.