Students across the UK ditched their pens with delight as GCSE and A Level examinations drew to a close. Many are happy just to be free of exam-related stress and anxiety. Some are looking forward to action-packed holidays in exotic locations. Teachers are equally happy to have a few weeks to clear their minds and recharge their batteries in readiness for the next school year. However, some academic critics have claimed that two months is too long a break from education. Of course it is important for students to experience freedom beyond the confines of the classroom, but it has been argued that continual study is absolutely essential for a high level of academic achievement.

Summer learning loss

Academic researchers in America have found a significant level of students’ knowledge and understanding is lost during the summer holidays. Students have performed far better in tests taken immediately before, as opposed to after, the summer break. The level of summer learning loss has been found to be greater among students from poor socio-economic backgrounds. This may be because of the types of activities available to different students during time away from school. Parents who are actively engaged in their children’s education may be prepared to pay for places at summer camps and organise educational tours. Others may lack the finance or the will to interfere during school breaks. The differing attitudes and approaches account for variations in school grades.

Different educational approaches

The issue of summer learning loss is widely acknowledged by the UK’s teaching staff. A recent study revealed that 70 per cent of primary school teachers had introduced voluntary summer reading schemes in order to counteract the academic decline. Some had taken the opportunity to move students to the next year of learning at the end of the summer term. Students have also been given extended projects to complete by the end of the summer holidays.

However, the idea of increasing the regularity of short breaks has been rejected by members of the NAHT (head teachers’) union. Some teachers are understandably eager to spend extended periods away from high pressure classroom environments and avoid the prying Ofsted inspectors.

Expert opinion

Sir Andrew Carter, South Farnham School head teacher said, “I have no objection to the flexibility for schools to change the holidays around a bit, but independent schools shut down before the state schools and come back afterwards. They don’t worry about learning loss, because they are focused. I think there is a bit of summer learning loss but a good school recognises that and gets stuck in come September.” This comment was supported by the head teacher of a Bournemouth secondary school who said she had given the go-ahead for extended A Level projects during the summer.

Summer learning options

Thankfully, there are numerous ways to prevent educational decline during the summer holidays. Concerned parents can purchase books and encourage their children to participate in artistic activities. It’s also worth taking the time to gather as a family and discuss interesting topics. And of course there is the option of hiring a professional tutor for focused but fun one-on-one sessions. You could even take the opportunity to arrange some online sessions with subject experts via the Superprof website…



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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.