The school summer holidays are just around the corner; time to relax and enjoy warm days, fun activities and family trips away. But at this time of year, many parents are starting to worry about whether their children will fall behind during those weeks off school.
Summer learning loss - students forgetting what they’ve learned during long breaks from school - has been demonstrated by many studies. In the worst cases, especially in subjects like mathematics and languages, the loss can be up to three months of learning.
And the loss gets worse as students get older; a genuine worry for parents whose children will be sitting exams in the new academic year. The loss is so accepted that many educators have called for the school term structure to be drastically overhauled to get rid of the long holiday.
So as the longest school holiday starts, those weeks stretching away over the summer can be daunting. With no academic contact at all, children can easily forget learning, get into bad study habits and find the return to school challenging. For students with GCSEs, A Levels or entrance exams in the next academic year, there is crucial preparation work to be done as well as set homework tasks, but unsupervised; some children can struggle to structure study constructively.
Children may have been given set homework to complete, but without supervision they often leave it all until the last minute, rushing to get the work done in the final days of the holiday. Stress ramps up and the student struggles to remember the techniques they need, making the work harder than it would have been during term time.
Finding a solution
Working with your child to set up a structured study plan over the summer holidays is an important first step. Getting into a routine – whether it’s setting aside time for school work every day, every other day or a couple of times a week, means that children know what to expect and can look forward to time off in between study sessions.
Start by looking at what homework needs to be completed before the next term, and what subjects would benefit from study consolidation. It is often a student’s weaker subjects that suffer particularly from summer learning lag, so these are likely to be areas to concentrate on. Subjects that require data processing techniques like maths and computing are often most affected, so require particular attention.
But parents often struggle to manage their child’s learning over the summer break. If one or more parent is working or if there are siblings to consider, finding the time and imposing a study structure can be a major challenge. One increasingly popular solution is to book regular sessions with a private tutor. Some families even choose to take a personal tutor on holiday so that no time is missed! A tutor can provide structured lessons, working on official homework from school, going over subject areas to make sure learning is not lost and even expanding learning in preparation for a new term.
Maintaining good study practices
The advantage of using a personal tutor is that as an experienced teacher, they can structure study sessions to get the most out of them. It can be challenging for children to work without distraction for prolonged periods, but working with a tutor provides the structure of a classroom lesson. Interaction between a student and tutor is also invaluable, with a good tutor enhancing learning through questioning, discussion and structured sessions. A tutor is also a sounding board for a student’s questions, which might go unanswered or be forgotten about when a child is working alone.
An important function of academic work during a long holiday is to consolidate what has already been learned. Consolidation can drastically reduce summer learning loss and is great preparation for a new term. Private tuition can help to structure study consolidation, working through the curriculum and using techniques such as reviewing notes, organising information and actively applying learning to fix knowledge more permanently in a student’s head. This process helps with future revision, not only teaching children effective revision techniques but also laying down key information so that it is easier to retrieve at a later date.
A personal tutor can also stretch a student so that they actually increase their learning over the holiday period, returning to school further ahead than they were, not further behind. This can be a huge bonus for capable children who may find parts of the standard curriculum aren’t challenging them enough, and who will benefit from work tailored to their abilities. It can also help children who are struggling with areas of the curriculum – and it’s these kids who are most at risk from summer lag – by encouraging them to catch up with their peers.
A strategy to handle summer lag can reduce its impact and even eliminate it altogether, so whether you opt for a planned study structure that you and your child handle together, or go for a more formal solution of a private tutor, knowing that you have a plan in place will make those long summer days more enjoyable.
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