Teens go for slow start to school day

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014

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Sleepy students looking for a lie-in are choosing Wellington High School because it stands alone in offering late starts.

As school heads back this week, year 12 and 13 students at the Mt Cook college will take their seats at their desks up to an hour after their counterparts at other Wellington schools.

Other principals say they have looked at following suit, but decided, among other factors, that late starts would not help students prepare for either tertiary study or the real world of the workplace.

Wellington High principal Nigel Hanton said that, since the late-start policy was introduced by predecessor Prue Kelly, more students were attending the school for the senior years.

"It's probably down to a number of factors, including the late starts, no uniform and a range of different subject choices for the senior students."

Tawa College principal Murray Lucas said it had considered moving to a late start for seniors but decided against it.

"It's part of preparing for other tertiary institutions and the workforce by coming in early."

He said school started at 9.30am on a Wednesday to allow for staff professional development time - and that was the day students were most likely to arrive late.

Naenae College also had a late start for professional development on Thursdays, but had no intention of extending it beyond that, principal John Russell said.

"Teenagers actually can get out of bed on time, and we need to get them up and under way for the day."

But Mr Hanton said the late starts took advantage of a teenager's peak hours of productivity.

The change introduced by Ms Kelly was made based on "well-documented science" from the Massey University Sleep Wake Research Centre, which showed changes to adolescent sleep patterns made it more beneficial for them to sleep later.

NCEA results had continued to head "in an upward direction" since, Mr Hanton said.

Helping teenagers manage their own time was part of it.

"They arrive later but then attend class all day with no breaks or study periods. They have a clear focus when they arrive and work right through, and it gives them the flexibility to do some work in the morning if they choose to."

By the time students left school, they had experienced two years of managing their own time.

"We think the positives outweigh the negative."

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- The Dominion Post

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