Early school starts help students maximise their potential claims one college principal.

Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College in Walthamstow implemented a 10am start time for lessons two years ago in September 2017.

The principal David Vasse said that the benefits to students are clearly observable.

He said: "As a college in east London our students have limited financial resources which means they are required to use buses as opposed to the Underground which adds to their commute times. Also many students are in single-parent families which means they have to care for younger siblings in the mornings. The later start to the day allows students to manage these activities in the morning and arrive at lessons calm and less stressed.

"We still open the doors early and students come in steadily from 9am. We also make sure we have staff in the entrance so that we can greet each student every morning which is a helpful way for us to keep a check on students’ wellbeing. There are many activities and workshops for students before 10.00am.

"We instantly noticed that students arriving were much brighter with smiles on their faces."

Many of the students agree that the later starts allow them to undertake more activities in the mornings.

Sixth form student Carla said: "The 10am start really allows me to pursue extracurricular activities which I wouldn’t have time for otherwise."

Another student called Caitlin agreed. She said: "The 10am start helps me to be more organised for example, like the days I have mentor meeting in the mornings before lessons start."

On Monday, MPs debated a petition for schools to start at 10am.

It takes 100,000 signatures to trigger a Parliamentary debate and this one, saying early school starts make pupils "so tired", had gained 180,000 by the time it was debated in Westminster Hall.

The Parliamentary Petitions Committee heard evidence from more than 5,000 students, parents and teachers that teenagers need more sleep than younger children or adults.

A succession of MPs supported the student’s demand for teenagers to be allowed to start school later, citing various scientific studies which showed it would lead to healthier students.

The MPs resolved to ‘note the petition’ and called for more research to be carried out on the subject.

However, the Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, speaking at the debate resolved that the decision on start times for schools lay with individual schools.

He said: "The current system gives schools the autonomy to organise the school day in a way that best suits their pupils, in conjunction with the wider community. If schools want to change their times, and do so effectively, they must work through a framework and a form of subsidiarity in their local authority area or more widely.

"Staggering ending times feeds into schools’ autonomy to decide when to start and finish. We trust headteachers to make those decisions, which will be based very much on local circumstances, including when other schools in the area finish for the day and so on. We are always open to more research being conducted on these issues. We certainly want to make sure that children are safe when they leave school and walk home in the evenings.

"The focus should be on ensuring that children and young people understand the importance of sleep and how best to get sufficient sleep at night, to enable them to achieve their best.​"

Mr Vasse reported that since introducing the later start time, students have improved their academic performance, but as part of a range of strategies to be implemented to improve students' concentration and motivation.

He said: "You can only benefit from a later start if you do it alongside other strategies to help students' wellbeing.

"We've seen achievement and progression rates improve substantially.

"Allowing the time for a more social start at the beginning of the day allows students to become more motivated and productive throughout their lessons."

He responds to the view that later starts are not preparing students for the workplace.

He said: "People often suggest that it is not fully preparing students for working hours, but in my experience the employment sector is becoming increasingly flexible to suit people's own wellbeing and needs.

"There's a larger focus on flexible working hours nowadays and I believe this system is applying that for the sixth form student.

"But I do not believe this scheme could ever or would ever be universal, it is not suitable to primary age students and would not be feasible for students in remote areas where there are fixed and limited bus services."