Challenges in implementing and assessing outcomes of school start time change in the UK: experience of the Oxford Teensleep study.
Illingworth G., Sharman R., Jowett A., Harvey C-J., Foster RG., Espie CA.
OBJECTIVE: Later school start times for adolescents have been implemented in the US and associated benefits found, although no randomised controlled trials (RCT) have been undertaken. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of two school interventions in the UK, a delayed start time and a sleep education programme, on students' academic performance, sleep outcomes and health-related quality of life. METHODS: The study had an RCT design to enable an investigation into the differential effects of two interventions or a combination of both: schools were to delay their start time to 10:00am and/or provide a classroom-based sleep education programme. The recruitment target was 100 state (non-fee-paying) secondary schools. Participants were to be students in Year 10/11 (14-16-year-olds). RESULTS: Despite much media coverage, only two schools volunteered to take part in the RCT. The main challenges faced in recruitment fell under three categories: research design, school, and project-specific issues. The delayed start time and prospect of randomisation to this intervention were the overwhelming reasons cited for not taking part. Facilitators and barriers to research were identified. Recommendations include carrying out a feasibility study prior to a main trial, allowing adequate time for recruitment, involving stakeholders throughout the decision-making process, incorporating independent (fee-paying) schools in recruitment, focusing on students not taking important examinations or involving an older year group with greater independence. CONCLUSION: The Teensleep study provides supporting evidence that evaluating the effects of a change in school start times through an RCT is unfeasible in the UK.