Should you offer summer school this year?
What constitutes a summer school, and should you be offering them this year?
Summer schools traditionally involve a provider (school, independent organisation or hybrid) offering condensed courses and tuition over the summer holiday period.
The aim of summer schools traditionally has been a blend of additional support for more vulnerable children at a time of transition, activities to limit learning loss over the longer holiday period, offering enrichment activity to a group of pupils, or to offer additional childcare throughout the holidays.
Although summer schools are not common practice in the UK, there is a history to them whereby the DfE at one time provided funding to support transition-based Summer schools and there are lots of companies who offer holiday clubs throughout the year to help support working parents.
We have always talked about learning loss and how schools can implement tasks over the holidays to ensure that ‘learning loss’ is limited.
Children have worked hard for months in the run up to the summer break. The sudden stop in formal teacher-led learning and academic stimulus can cause children to forget the knowledge they have acquired. Basic skills when they are not practised and reinforced can deteriorate over time. Furthermore, children of primary school age don’t have the social experiences to engage in social learning.
Under normal circumstances we see very few schools push work over the holidays for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the holidays are meant to be just that. A holiday where both staff and pupils relax before the turn of the next academic year. Children invariably need a mixture of activities, and the summer break enables learning to take place in different ways and at a different pace including, but not restricted to, the exploration of the outside world, social and fun activities. Teachers need the opportunity to rest, refresh and plan for the year ahead. They are not available for the teaching intervention and interjection required for children to make normal academic progress.
Secondly, setting children work before they move into their next year sometimes means the work won’t be marked by the teacher who sets the work in the first place so seems counter-intuitive.
Transition into the next academic year is incredibly important for pupils and has often been a focus for schools.
For 2020 children this transition is going to be tougher. Not only are they going to be transitioning to a new year group with a new teacher, they are also going to be adjusting to returning to school in what will no doubt be very different circumstances.
It is going to be unsettling and they won’t have had the same experiences getting to grips with their new surroundings and expectations.
Could summer schools help?
Whilst formal in-person summer schools could be put in place, our feeling is that this added pressure and stress could have a negative impact. Teachers certainly will need a proper break this year. They have had to deal with unprecedented times and at a moment’s notice have stepped up to ensure that a wide range of provision has been in place for their children from remote learning to the delivery of school meals, from supporting the children of key workers to rearranging schools and classrooms to cope with social distancing as select year groups return.
However, what schools could be looking to do is to set work and provide resources, which will help limit further learning loss and help introduce them to the surroundings they will face when they return. Such activity should be available with minimal set up for teachers, intervention or follow-up. It should support children’s learning, help them reinforce concepts, knowledge and understanding and enable them to make a smoother transition on their return to school for the coming academic year.
What would we recommend for summer school learning?
It is possible to put in place a programme of summer learning with minimal effort. It doesn’t require significant amounts of planning or intervention. It simply requires access to the appropriate resources.
We are helping schools by creating a series of virtual summer school programmes, which can be delivered through our online learning portal DB Primary. Consisting of no more than five hours a week, they offer self-marking learning activities in core areas with no teacher marking required. Furthermore, if required, the school may use class communities to help introduce the children to their new class, teacher and peers, including collaboration opportunities through blogs and forums.
The government has provided significant resources to protect the economy. The DfE has offered funding for laptops for key year groups, supported the development of resources and provided guidance. Perhaps now they should look to support children and teachers through the summer break. Should the DfE fund the emergence of summer schools to help combat the effect of children missing so much of their current year?
If you would like more information around how our products can help limit learning loss and support you in teaching pupils remotely, please get in touch.