The early morning pain

A paedatrician going by the rather marvellous name of Gonzalo Pin claims that bucketloads of Spanish children are in a permanent state of jet lag. This, asserts Señor Pin, is because the little tykes are obliged to start their school day at 8am and don't finish filling their heads with largely superfluous guff until 2.30pm.

Where this universally accepted, yet patently absurd, timetable originated is not entirely clear, although it may have its roots in the days when parents spent their days working in the fields and were desperate to take advantage of every available daylight hour. Drop the little ones off with the harsh but fair village schoolmistress and get stuck in to the olives and almonds.

It doesn't take an expert to see that, these days, this state of affairs doesn't make much sense and can't be very healthy. When I was at school back in the Middle Ages, my teachers thought I had a particular gift for languages and mathematics which was considered to be a very odd combination of subjects to excel at. Only later did I realise that my relative competence was because of what the German, French and Maths classes had in common: they were all in afternoon when my very limited grey matter was slowly awakening, blinking its way into the daylight and retaining the odd past participle or external angle measurement.

By the same token, I was completely useless at Geography because all the classes were at 9am, an ungodly hour, which any sentient soul knows is only fit for employing a thousand yard stare and intermittently dribbling down your blazer.

"Edgerton! Wake up! What's the capital of Uruguay?"

"La plume de ma tante, sir? 45 degrees? Er, 3.142? Je ne sais pas. Zzzzzzzzz."

The really cruel twist in the Spanish system is that, very often, primary school children begin their finger painting or terrible singing or whatever it is they do at 9am but when they reach secondary school age, they're obliged to begin at eight. That's right, just before their teenage body clocks begin screaming and shouting for twenty-three hours of sleep a day, the system requires them to get up even earlier. This is surely a matter to be dealt with in the court of teenage rights in Brussels or Strasbourg or one of those other places that no one would ever go to if it weren't for the courts.

So, I'm very definitely with Gonzalo Pin and, for that matter, Pink Floyd, on this one: "Hey, teacher! Leave them kids alone!" At least at eight in the morning, anyway.