Avoiding the ‘summer slide’: should my child study during the summer hols?

summer slide

Is this the kind of summer slide you’d like?

Parents, teachers, educationalists and even children themselves will have wildly varying opinions – so, should children be studying during their summer holidays?

A recent article interviewed Adam Tindill, assistant director at an Explore Learning tuition centre in Wolverhampton. Adam recognizes the phenomenon of the ‘summer slide’ or ‘regression’, where children’s educational attainment seems to go backwards over the holidays, leaving them struggling at the start of the new school year in September. Adam remarks that summer learning is about ‘keeping the brain in an education mindset’ but in a flexible and limited way: ‘It’s not the same as doing five days a week at school’, he remarks.

The educationalist Noel Janis-Norton agrees, believing that ‘Half an hour of microskills practice – spelling, multiplication, handwriting and so on – is not onerous. If you start the day with half an hour of structure, the rest of the day feels like a treat.’

However, there is certainly no consensus on this. Chris Husbands from University College London, remarked that ‘There’s no clear evidence that summer catch-up work is useful, and it can be counter-productive as they need to be engaged to learn. If your neighbour’s children are building dams in streams, and yours are doing maths camps, they are going to be resentful.’  And Lee Elliott Major of the Sutton Trust reiterates that the jury is still out on whether children studying through the summer is beneficial.

As in most things in life, the key is surely balance. A recent opinion piece from Singapore (where there is currently much concern about ‘over-tutoring’) highlights children’s deep need for purposeless, unstructured play. As well as being fundamental to survival, The National Institute for Play in Monterey, California, describes play as ‘the gateway to vitality’.

It is safe to say, therefore, that both children and adults need to make space for play in their lives.