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Singing Without Hope on the Boundary

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How not to Lend Credibility to Exams or Scientific Studies.
Some interesting discussion has surfaced over the last day or so after the headteacher of Monkseaton High School remarked that starting school at 11 significantly boosted the learning abilities of teenagers as their body clocks (apparently) are two hours behind the normal adults.

The research into this is not new (as far as I can see, any contemporary links would be greatly appreciated) and as someone who has had to gee up many a drama class first lesson of a morning the description of teenagers as zombies isn't far from the mark; however, as the list of reasons in the link given state it is difficult for schools to push back opening times for a variety of reasons to do with the LEA, parents and the teenagers themselves. The main problem here though is that we're taking away responsibility (again) from the individual. Doctor Kelley states that:

"Evidence had shown rousing teenagers from their beds early resulted in abrupt mood swings, increased irritability, depression, weight gain and reduced immunity to disease."

and yes that correlates with the research done into the effects of sleep deprivation on teenagers. The problem is this line:

"The research shows that we are making teenagers the way they are and that we need to do something about it."

We are making teenagers the way they are? I'm sorry? Are you saying that all the bad behavior in schools is down to us waking the little darlings to early? Now I know teenagers, I work with them and I was one not too long ago and the fact is I was late to bed an awful lot during my teenage years. Yes sleep deprivation may have those effects that have been stated, but are these kids getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Working in the school I was before Christmas I constantly heard talk about television programmes that had been watched the night before by kids as young as twelve that were on well after I had gone to bed and I am by no means an early to bed person. Quite clearly if twelve to fifteen year old kids are staying up to watch TV programmes well into the early hours on a school night they aren't getting to bed early enough. That has nothing to do with schools and kind of disproves Doctor Kelley's assertions that we teachers are the ones causing the problems and making teenagers the way they are. Where is the parental responsibility in this and the responsibility of the individual child? Once again we seem to be sending the message to kids that all their problems are our fault and we'll try and do better for you next time while allowing them to stay up till all hours and take no responsibility for themselves. Also if we take this kind of attitude who's to say that kids just won't stay up even later if they don't have to be in until eleven?

The annoying thing here is that there is an argument for maybe knocking school opening times back to around half nine but this is lost in the complete drivel that Doctor Kelley spouts. Surely there is a better spokesman than this available?

The amazing thing is though that it doesn't end there.

"Last year he carried out a trial that found pupils scored up to 90% in a GCSE science paper after one session involving three 20-minute bursts interspersed with 10-minute breaks for physical activity.

The pupils had not covered any part of the GCSE science syllabus before the lessons."

You what? That last line is amazing. They had one hour long lesson split up into three and had covered no part of the GCSE syllabus before the lesson yet some scored 90% in the exam? Excuse me for thinking scientifically here, after all we are dealing with a science paper so it is in keeping with the theme, but this can only lead me to two conclusions and neither of them are any good. My first conclusion is that you have completely proved that GCSE exams are in fact easier than a Sudoku puzzle with one blank square and that exams have been dumbed down to a point where it is difficult to fail or indeed just do badly. My second conclusion is that you handpicked the students that took the test so they would provide you with the outcome you required and if you did that I would postulate that these pupils maybe did know a bit more about science than you are letting on. Either way Doctor Kelley you lend no credibility to the study of sleep deprivation on teenagers and the debate surrounding school opening time, you lend no credibility to the debate about the difficulty of GCSE exams and you lend no credibility to the study of new timetabling methods and their effect on learning.

In conclusion then I would like to opine that Doctor Kelley is an arse. He has successfully, in one media hit, managed to destroy any credence his arguments may have had and come across as a typical "innovative" Headteacher who is more worried about public image, getting his face on the news and delivering "classy" soundbites than any real scientific accuracy or educational benefit these theories might have. Nice one mate.

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Good point about starting school at 9:30. That would take the kids out of the rush hour traffic, which would be good for them and good for reducing the overall traffic load by spreading it out a bit.

Starting at eleven would mean running on to about six pm. Or, more likely, still finishing at four because it won't take long to teach them anyway, since the idiot headmaster has proved they don't need to study in order to pass the exam.

Idiot headmaster sums him up I think and if people like him are signaling the way forward in education don't expect any common sense any time soon.

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