Do we need to worry about ‘summer learning loss’?

Also known as ‘the summer slide’ (which sounds like great fun until you realise it’s not play equipment), it is the theory that children lose skills and knowledge during the summer holidays.  An article in The Times Educational Supplement online How to avoid summer learning loss refers to recent US research that suggests up to two months of learning can be lost during the summer break from school.  To parents, this probably sounds terrifying. So, should we all be signing our children up for summer school tutorials, downloading learning apps and pressing teachers to ensure they set enough homework for the six-week break? Here's some thoughts on how we can actually use the summer holidays to our advantage...

summer holiday learning 

Opportunities for learning

If we take the time to think of the summer holidays as an opportunity for extending learning then we can immediately move away from the notion (and perhaps the pressure) that we should be replicating classroom learning at home. An online article in Psychology Today asks that if children are learning less over the summer, what are they learning less of? If school provides the skills and the theory then parents/carers can help to provide opportunities to apply them in practice. Some days, this may involve watching your children drive each other up the walls and justifying it to yourself that they’re engaging in negotiation and conflict resolution. I only half-joke at this because it’s well documented that play is an excellent way for children to learn such skills.  I like to tell myself that time spent swinging and spinning in the park is just practical physics.

summer holiday learning


Days out

Rather than quizzing your child over who did what during a certain period in history, it might be more fun to take a trip to a castle. Visiting places linked to what your child is studying at school is enormously valuable and likely to deepen their understanding.  But during these excursions, avoid worrying about how much your child is learning and just hope that it might be inspiring them – sometimes in completely unrelated areas! We have a National Trust Family Membership which we love (and don't use half as much as we should.)

summer holiday learning


Physical well being

Whilst the British summer can be an unpredictable one weather-wise, there are generally more opportunities for outdoor play.  The rise of Games addiction in children is a real challenge for parents and without wanting to dwell on gloomy issues, rickets and vitamin D deficiency is also on the increase. If you want to balance the concerns about summer learning loss, then the value of outdoor play may be your argument.

 summer holiday learning

The gap

It’s important to acknowledge that time and money are limited resources and as parent's we can't do exciting things every day of the holiday. But hopefully with some imagination we can continue to support our child's learning and make it enjoyable during the holidays. There are certainly plenty of fun resources out there if you want to take a gentle approach to helping your child ‘keep up’ over the summer.  

A degree of summer learning loss may be inevitable but by creating other opportunities for education we can make sure our children keep learning outside of the classroom. And whilst I probably won’t be advocating for year-round schooling (but maybe ask me again at the end of the holidays!), I will be making a real effort to ensure both my two little ones “negotiate” over the use of a favourite toy, visit the park (a lot) and bribe them to write a postcard to their grandparents.

Do you have any great holiday activities? Let me know in the comments below.

summer learning loss


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