Beware the summer slide

Aug 2015
The importance of keeping children's minds as active as their bodies is well known.
The importance of keeping children's minds as active as their bodies is well known.

School's out for summer! For parents as well as students, the summer holidays can be a welcome break from all the toing and froing, sandwich making and uniform washing.

For six weeks it's a chance to take your foot off the pedal and relax and hopefully make the most of the sunshine. Recently, however, more and more Headteachers are writing to parents to inform them of the perils of the 'summer slide'.

Typically these letters start by mentioning how everyone is looking forward to a well-deserved break, before highlighting the problem of children returning to school in September with rusty basic skills and the negative impact it can have on their learning throughout the new school year.

So what is this notorious summer slide and is there anything to these polite pointers? The short answer is yes, there is. Whilst the summer holidays are often jam packed with bike rides, swimming, football and dancing, the importance of keeping children's minds as active as their bodies has been well known in education for a very long time.

Research spanning 100 years shows students typically score lower on standardised tests at the end of summer holidays than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906). How much more however, may well come as quite a surprise.

Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical skill over the summer months and more than two months in reading achievement compared to their peers who keep their brains active (Cooper, 1996). As well as the 'lost summer months' it's common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material students have forgotten over the holiday period. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month which could have been spent teaching new information and skills. Like musicians and athletes, maintaining practice levels is often key to high performance and achievement.

Sociologists Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle have shown that the cumulative effect of summer learning differences is a primary cause of widening achievement gaps, as children progress through primary and into secondary school.

At Kumon, we understand the importance of striking a balance between keeping both the mind and body active. The maths and English programmes are designed to allow students to progress naturally through the levels with Instructors setting an amount of work that is appropriate to each individual student.

For students, the summer holidays will always be a magical six-week break filled with paddling pools, hanging out with friends and endless telly. With daily Kumon added into the mix, it can also have an element of routine to keep the brain active (and fight boredom) and ensure students come back to school completely refreshed and raring to go in the new school year.