Why you need to know about the ‘summer slide’ and how to avoid it

What do COVID 19 and the summer holidays have in common?

summer slide research
Cluey Learning Wednesday, 3 November 2021

What do COVID 19 and the summer holidays have in common?

Sounds like the beginning of a cruel joke. The truth is, when it comes to the academic decline of your kids, the two are actually quite similar.

A recent report released by the Grattan Institute addresses the learning gaps that have been created by this year’s disruptions to normal schooling. It shows that the longer kids are away from regular classes, the worse the damage can be. We’re talking widespread gaps in learning that cause kids to fall further and further behind; and that’s with remote learning. Imagine the damage that could happen if they’re not learning anything at all ­– like during the summer school holidays.

The idea that kids forget some of what they learned in the school year during the summer holidays is referred to as the “summer slide.” With 30 years of experience in education, the phenomenon is something Cluey Chief Learning Officer, Dr Selina Samuels is intimately familiar with.

“During the school term, students have regular access to their teachers, school resources and the library, learning programs and content, and, indeed, one another. During the holidays, however, students no longer have ready access to learning resources,” she explains. As a result, many students start the new school year with achievement levels lower than where they were at the end of the previous year.

In fact, this 2017 report from the Brookings Institute shows that on average, students’ achievement scores declined over the long summer break by one month’s worth of school-year learning. Interestingly, the extent of learning loss was larger as students progressed through school, indicating that the older children get, the more of a problem it becomes.

Research also shows that the declines are more pronounced for Maths than for English – kids are unknowingly improving their literacy skills through reading and writing during the holidays but understandably, Maths doesn’t really seem to feature in holiday activities.


So how do we keep the kids off the annual ride down the summer slide?

Dr Samuels believes that any learning during the summer holidays, no matter how small, can help prevent summer setbacks. “Creating opportunities for learning over the summer is the best way to keep your child intellectually active and engaged,” she says. Here’s how:

1. Read. A lot.

As the old saying goes ‘the family that reads together, fights the summer slide together.’ Well, maybe not. But there’s no denying that reading, even for pleasure, encourages learning. Ask your child to read you the news while you’re making breakfast or set aside reading time during the day for the whole family. If you’re in it together, it’s more likely to stick.

2. Use screen time for learning

We all rely on screen time more than we’d like during the long holidays, but it doesn’t have to be the enemy. Believe it or not, online tutoring can be a lot of fun! Kids are predisposed to view anything on a screen as entertainment, plus, there’s no denying the benefits of summer tutoring (read about them here) when it comes to keeping minds active.

3. Daily Maths

Integrating Maths into your children’s lives is easier than it sounds. It could be as simple as asking them to help measure out ingredients while you’re cooking, or calculating the amount of time left before they can watch TV. Any way you can inject more maths into everyday activities will help.

4. Summer Tutoring

Summer tutoring sessions, like Cluey’s, seamlessly slot in with the slower pace of the holidays and believe it or not, can be a lot of fun for kids. “Parents often tell us how much their children enjoy their Cluey tutoring sessions,” Dr Samuels says. “Their relationship with their tutor is more like a learning partnership than a student/teacher hierarchy so learning feels less like a burden and more like an opportunity,” she adds.

As well as one-to-one learning, Cluey offers group tutoring, which is not only a great way for your child to hang out with and learn from other kids but get some much-craved extra screen time too. For parents, a little more time to yourselves while your child is engaged in meaningful activities is an added bonus.

Find out more about the benefits of summer tutoring here.


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