One of the most detrimental periods in a child's life is the summer holiday. It is soon to be an issue that will impact many children in Britain, as schools will soon break up for summer; and learning will slip a dramatically. The summer learning loss is one that currently has negative consequences in later life, and must be dealt with immediately.
During the summer months it is vital that children are still learning, as many teachers will explain that when they return after the break, it usually takes between four to six weeks to re-teach students material that has simply been forgotten over the summer slide. There must be an initiative to focus on educational opportunities for when schools close their doors.
Evidence for this summer slide is more than just anecdotal. The Institute for Public Policy Research points out that pupils fall behind academically due to the six week break. Summer learning loss affects all children, but the research shows that the lack of development increases further for children from a poorer background. This is because they do not have the same access to educational material or out of school activities as their more privileged peers. It is estimated that 66% of the achievement gap can be explained by summer learning loss. Whilst it disproportionately affects children from lower incomes, it is a problem for children from all backgrounds.
An American study published in the Review of Educational Research has found that students show at best little or no academic growth over the summer, and worst, they can lose between one to three months' worth of learning. Whilst spelling and literacy are affected, it is mathematics that suffers the most. Overall the study found that there were disparities between middle class and disadvantaged students in terms of their reading scores. Other studies have found that these disparities occurred because disadvantaged students they were the least likely to practice reading and writing during the six-week summer break.
These studies in Britain and America have shown that children from low-income families are less likely to succeed in later education; that most children are likely to gain weight over summer and that a large percentage of parents struggle to keep their children entertained over this period. The issue for parents is to find a way to ensure that children are mentally prepared for when they return to class.
Britain is gradually pulling themselves out of the financial crisis, with budget cuts across all sectors it is difficult to provide a government backed educational resource for children to engage in over the summer, one that will not only keep their level of education up, but also encourage learning. The onus falls on privately funded companies. In America there are various private companies in each state that provide various learning activities for children, the same is happening in Britain too.
I have spoken before about the importance of game based learning and our game Pora Ora. We don't want kids to think they are in school when playing on Pora Ora, or to feel like they are being forced to learn. We have managed to achieve a perfect resolution by infusing as much education as possible into all our games but still keeping it fun.
Summer holidays are one of the key areas to focus on for parents, and it is time to address this problem before the consequences become worse. The more the summer slide is addressed by the government, schools and parents, the stronger a future our children will have.
Currently the view is, school is boring; summer is fun, school is constricting; summer is freedom. We don't want children to feel like learning must be a chore over the holidays, it doesn't, and through games like Pora Ora they can learn and play at the same time.