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Can physical fitness improve academic achievement? Would teenagers do better in their exams if they could sleep in and start school later? These questions will be part of a multi-million pound research project, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), to investigate a variety of ways neuroscience might improve teaching and learning in the UK.

Thousands of pupils across England will take part in a series of randomised controlled trials after the Wellcome Trust and the EEF identified a need for more robust evidence about how neuroscience relates to learning in order to support teachers and schools keen to use the science. Six projects have been awarded grants, totalling almost £4million. In addition to the total spent on grants, funding will also be provided to ensure the rigorous and independent evaluation of all of the projects.

The six funded projects include two from our Department:


Professor Russell Foster, Director of the Oxford University Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute and Professor Colin Espie, Professor of Sleep Medicine, will lead a trial of later school start times, along with a sleep education programme, to assess their impact on teenagers’ educational achievement. Some participants will wear non-invasive bio-telemetric devices to provide additional physiological data.

Fit to study

Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg from the University of Oxford will lead a study to look at the effect of medium to high cardiovascular activity on academic attainment, using brain imaging to investigate the correlation between them. 

See more on the University of Oxford website...

Read more from the Guardian...


Despite the well documented phenomenon of delayed sleep in teenagers, until now there have been no large-scale randomised control trial to assess whether a later start to the school day will have a positive impact upon both academic performance and overall health in the teenage population. 
- Russell Foster
Children are living increasingly sedentary lives and there is considerable scope for increasing their activity levels. We all know that exercise is good for the body, but research suggests that it’s also good for the brain. Making PE lessons more active could boost subsequent lesson performance and academic outcomes over a longer time, but the only way to know for sure is to test the idea. I’m looking forward to working with the schools to find out.
- Heidi Johansen-Berg