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Debate whirled around the school timetable today. Should we change the school timetable to let teenagers start school at 11am? Maybe, maybe not.  But the really confusing thing is, when did we all start thinking government tells schools when to open in the first place?

Debate whirled around the school timetable today. Should we change the school timetable to let teenagers start school at 11am? Maybe, maybe not.  But the really confusing thing is, when did we all start thinking government tells schools when to open in the first place?

Russel Foster's neuroscientific research into teenage concentration levels throughout the day suggests that young people over the age of 10 are more able to complete certain tasks in the afternoon than in the morning. The conclusion drawn by Monkseaton Community High School in North Tyneside was that they should therefore start their school day at 11am to be more in keeping with the natural rhythms of teenage brains.

This sparked a debate. Paul Kelley, headteacher at Monkseaton, has advocated the adoption of this approach more widely, though it is worth saying that they haven't yet trialled the approach yet. Meanwhile, Roisin Maguire, the headteacher of St Joseph's college in Stoke-on-Trent, said that she had observed that the opposite was true: that her pupils "slowed down" as the day progressed.

The debate is an interesting one, and it is great it is happening. We need innovation stimulated by new knowledge, but the differences in professionals' views aren't surprising. Diverse lifestyles, student and parent preferences, average distance from the school all surely play a part, meaning schools are likely to want to take different approaches and then argue about the advantages and disadvantages.

What is odd about the debate is the apparent misconception that all schools are told by government to open their doors to students at the same time. Instead of assuming diversity in the system, everyone from teachers' unions to journalists speak as if schools must all do the same things at the same time and so the whole affair - like so much innovative work in education - is getting blown out of all proportion.

So, when reporters asked DCSF whether there were going to be any changes to the school timetable, and were told - quite correctly - that "timetables are a matter for schools and headteachers", it gets translated into 'the government refusing to change the timetable'.

The problem with education debates playing out this way is that, while schools can essentially teach when and where they like as long as they teach for a minimum number of hours per year, the fallacious but popular belief that government control this sort of thing gets perpetuated.

Wouldn't it be better to have a debate that highlighted the potential for diversity and local control? The law does not specify how children should be taught, does not require year groups, or separate subject lessons, or the school timetable to be anything in particular, or even for schools to teach Monday to Friday.

The sooner schools, the wider public and the media realise that despite the pressures of Ofsted and league tables, our state schools are in fact free to do all sorts of things to meet the needs of their particular learners, the sooner parents, teachers, students and wider society are likely to actually get the schools they want.

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