We are obsessed with the summer holidays in the UK and every year we trot out the same old tired news that the 6 weeks holiday was introduced a century ago because children were needed to help bring in the harvest.
We also hear why we should completely restructure the school year so that we have shorter, more frequent breaks. Even teachers agree with this!
Why? Shorter and frequent breaks are better for our wellbeing and mental health. This is surely enough reason to end the ridiculously long summer break. Yet still we persist with long breaks!
A couple of other powerful arguments are just crazy to ignore – summer learning loss (summer slide, back slide, learning lag) and food poverty (holiday hunger).
When children aren’t at school for long periods it doesn’t automatically mean they will lose skills – parental support, family income and opportunities to learn outside the classroom are just some of the factors that can influence what happens when the school gates close. In some cases learning can increase.
However, it is common for all teachers to notice that at the start of the new academic year, some children are playing catch-up and have to regain lost skills and knowledge before progressing. Shinwell and Defeyter (2017) investigated summer learning loss and the implications for holiday club provision and is
“….the first UK-based study to demonstrate that that summer learning loss, or at least stagnation, occurs in a population of children attending schools in areas of low SES in relation to spelling.
Children living in poverty are more vulnerable in the long summer holidays. If you aren’t sure then take a look at the following video by the Childhood Trust.
Child food poverty policy advisor Lindsay Graham wants a “radical rethink” of the long summer break and argues that it is “a travesty” that we still cling to it.
Children from low socioeconomic backgrounds can become disengaged, isolated and often go hungry or have unhealthy eating habits. Far from summer holidays being carefree and fun, they can be miserable, lonely and dangerous.
Ms Graham also says that it is a travesty that
…some of our best equipped and most child friendly community assets lie empty.
The issue is getting worse and we need to do something about it.