Thursday 7 February 2019 8:05 am

DEBATE: Should schools start later to help teenagers be more productive, as MPs will debate on Monday?

Will Williams is a wellbeing adviser and the founding teacher at Beeja Meditation in London.
and Jenny Afia

Should schools start later to help teenagers be more productive, as MPs will debate on Monday?

Will Williams, wellbeing adviser to the OECD, says YES.

We must take steps to reverse the sharp decline of our children’s mental wellbeing, and starting the school day later would be a brilliant start. Teenagers should be afforded the opportunity to rest more, be more mindful, and even to meditate.

Meditation and sleep are proven to aid mental health and productivity in young people, allowing enhanced coherence between brain parts.

Lack of sleep is directly related to heightened stress, which has been shown to shrink the brain’s capacity, leading to increased emotional tendencies and worsened short-term memory. How can we expect our children to concentrate at school if they are unrested and stressed?

The education system needs a drastic restructure, where wellbeing forms the foundation of learning. Ensuring proper sleep is a perfect first step. We must switch to a quality-over-quantity mentality, focusing on productivity and not excessive school hours. By taking sleep more seriously, we will find that our young people can achieve more.

Jenny Afia, partner at Schillings and member of the Children’s Commissioner’s Digital Task Force, says NO.

Starting the school day later would deal with a symptom of a major problem, not the cause of it.

Teenagers are more tired in the mornings nowadays because of their phones. The business models of social media companies are based around maximising the time people spend looking at their screens. Sleep is an inevitable casualty.

I want my colleagues to be productive. In contrast, my aim for my children is that they are well-rounded individuals, equipped with the skills and resources to happily handle life.

In today’s age, that means arming children to deal with the challenges posed by new technology, not changing how we structure the day around them.

They need to understand how persuasive design features are being used to suck them into the social media rabbit hole, how algorithms push incendiary material to the top of our feeds – and how to have the strength to ignore the temptation during the night and obtain the sleep they so badly need.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.