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Helsinki puts off decision on later school starts

The councillor who proposed the motion, Emma Kari of the Greens, said she was surprised at the moralising tone of the public debate on letting teenagers sleep later in the morning.

Jalat sängyssä.
Image: Wokandapix / Pixabay

Helsinki city council’s education committee on Tuesday delayed a decision to recommend schools start their lessons later in the morning. The matter will be considered again at the next meeting in a month’s time.

“People had lots of questions about this and they wanted answers,” said Emma Kari, the Green councillor behind the proposal to end early morning starts for schoolkids.

Kari declined to elaborate on the committee’s discussions.

“The issue has become massive, when these are only recommendations,” said Kari.

Helsinki’s education department proposed that it would recommend school lessons started at 8:30-9am each morning.

“Helsinki isn’t going to ban eight o’clock starts, even if these recommendations are approved,” said Kari, who said that she thought there was a moralising tone to some of the debate.

'Talk of lazy kids'

“In the [public] discussions there has been talk of lazy kids, when the proposal is really about chronic tiredness among teenagers,” said Kari.

Kari said those points were not raised in the committee’s meeting on Tuesday. If the committee does approve the change, the matter will go to a meeting of the whole council for a vote.

The proposal is based on expert advice and studies that suggest teenagers’ body clocks naturally shift to a later rhythm, and that schools should attempt to reflect that.

Helsinki would be the first Finnish municipality to recommend later starts for schools, which traditionally start at 8am. The idea has the support of upper secondary (high school) pupils, according to a recent survey which showed 70 percent of respondents would like to be rid of early mornings.

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