Flexible school start-finish times hit snags

Buses and access to public transport are the major factors limiting Warrnambool secondary schools adopting alternate start and finish times, two principals say.

Buses and access to public transport are the major factors limiting Warrnambool secondary schools adopting alternate start and finish times, two principals say.

BUSES and access to public transport are the major factors limiting Warrnambool secondary schools adopting alternate start and finish times, two principals say.

Warrnambool College principal Michael Fitzgerald and Emmanuel College head Peter Morgan said they could see merit in staggering timetables to allow students to start earlier or later than the traditional 9am start. 

The idea has been advocated for some time and hit the headlines again this week when a Melbourne school announced it would give students the option of three start times. 

The idea is in response to research which shows adolescents need at least 10 hours’ sleep a night to be able to learn and function effectively. 

Students at Templestowe College in Melbourne’s south-east will be able to stick to the current 8.50am to 3.30pm timetable or opt for the earlier 7.15am to 1.15pm or the later 10.30am to 5.15pm schedules from next year. 

Melbourne High School is also considering the idea along with running some classes as university-style lectures or online. 

Mr Morgan said the idea wasn’t being considered at his school, but said public transport would be the major hurdle to it being implemented in regional areas. 

“There is only one bus taking students to and from outlying areas and public transport is also very limited, which would make it difficult,” Mr Morgan said. 

“There is merit in the idea. Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg has been advocating it for years. As teachers we know that some students do perform differently at various times of the day and now with part-time work, we are finding that some students are coming to school very tired at the start of the day.

“It’s something we would be happy to explore, but transport would be the biggest hurdle we would face.” Mr Fitzgerald said the only reason staggered times hadn’t been introduced at his school was due to buses. 

He said the idea worked well in European countries where students started school at 7am and finished at 1pm. 

“I saw it in Italy where the students were finished school by 1pm and then had the whole afternoon to study or work,” Mr Fitzgerald said. 

“We asked our students what they thought and most of them said they would prefer the later start, but they could also see the benefit of having the afternoon off. 

“There could also be some flexibility for students if online subjects were introduced at the start or finish of the day.”

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