Summer Learning Loss: How Parents Can Prevent 'Summer Slide'

Here's what you can do about it.

What Is Summer Learning Loss?

Summer learning loss, or the “summer slide” (as it is referred to in the USA) is defined as children’s loss of knowledge and academic skills over the long summer period.

The degree of this loss depends on individual factors, including the child’s age, subject matter and the circumstances at home, in particular their family’s socio-economic status.

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The criticism levelled at the “summer slide” is that the gap in the learning cycle over the summer holidays allows more vulnerable students to fall further behind their peers.

Summer Learning Loss; Fact Or Myth?

Summer learning loss has been a recorded phenomenon in children’s education since the early 1900s.

Professor William White was the first person to publish research into the affect of the long summer holidays on children’s performance in the classroom in his paper “Reviews Before and After Vacation” published in the American Education journal.

“A survey showed 59% of parents wished the holiday was shorter"”

- Explore Learning

In the century since White’s study the problem has persisted, particularly now most children are getting a minimum of six weeks holiday over the summer months.

Indeed a survey of 2,000 parents, conducted by Explore Learning, 75% said their child’s academic ability slips over the summer.

They also revealed that 1 in 5 parents say their child is significantly less engaged by the time they return to school in September.

And not only that, but 50% of children are not looking forward to resuming their learning.

What Are Schools Doing About It?

In 2016, Barnsley Council in Yorkshire became the first local council in England to reduce the length of school summer holidays to under five weeks (and adding the extra week on to the October half-term instead).

They have officially said this was to combat “learning loss” in the 2017-2018 academic year.

Should I Be Worried About My Child’s Summer Learning Loss?

Dr James Lane told The Huffington Post UK it takes on average six weeks to re-teach students material that has ben forgotten over the summer.

Explaining that parents need to take accountability for ensuring their child doesn’t fall behind over the summer, Dr Lane said: “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.”

Dr Lane is supported by Charlotte Gater, Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning who HuffPost UK: “While it can seem a little daunting at first, it’s very important for parents to actively encourage their children to keep learning to avoid the negative impact it can have on their return to school in September.”

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It is important to reassure parents that supporting your child over the summer holiday doesn’t mean planning a schedule of daily classes.

National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas told HuffPost UK that even ten minutes a day spent reading can make a “huge” difference.

In fact research by the National Literacy Trust, showed that children who read daily outside school are five times more likely to read above the expected level for their age compared to children who never read outside class.

Tips For Parents To Help Combat Summer Learning Loss

  • Encourage them not just to play with iPads but to proactively continue with their learning.

  • Read a chapter of a book every night (or if you are on public transport).

  • Visit the library so your children can read about things that interest them (or hobbies) and look up information in a book rather than always on Google.

  • Take days out to museums and cultural sites to make learning fun.

  • Visit the park regularly, to play on the swings, but also take a chance to point out any flowers, birds or insects you see along the way.

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