David Winfield is the founder of the Independent Schools Portal and has over twenty years teaching experience in the independent and state sector.
He set up www.holidaylearning.co.uk in September 2020 to provide primary schools with an innovative way to address the issue of holiday homework.
Having taught in a range of schools, from the most deprived state primaries to affluent well regarded independent prep schools, I’ve always found there are more similarities than differences. Whilst the problems may manifest or present in a different manner, the situation remains largely the same, swathes of hard working dedicated teachers wanting to do the best for the children in their care. One of the continual contentious issues I saw in all settings was the topic of holiday homework, with there being two strong schools of thought. At one end, those who found the idea abhorrent and thought children should relax and enjoy the holidays. The opposite end being those who quote that the summer holidays relate to the olden days when children used to work on the farm (incidentally, there is no evidence to confirm this) and think that the children should be learning.
Covid 19 has brought this debate back to the top of the agenda. With the government providing £200million for schools to provide summer schools – together with a further £200million for Holiday Activity Funds – aimed at pupil premium children – there seems to be a movement towards using the summer for learning. (I hesitate to use the word “catch up” as the negativity of such a phrase does not sit well with me – children should never be “catching up” they should be “moving forward.”)
Whatever your personal views on holiday homework, it comes with its own set of challenges. Not least, overworked staff who, at the end of a busy term, may find setting holiday homework the extra straw that breaks the camel’s back. Couple this with the fact that the children are moving year groups and teachers, one questions how the holiday homework is marked and used to influence teaching in September. There is then the issue of whether all children will participate, and will it result in a widening gap between those with engaged parents and those without.
One fact that isn’t up for debate is that “learning loss” does occur in the Summer, known by some as the “Summer Slide”. The extent of this loss in Maths and English is debatable with different studies citing different figures, from as little as 2 weeks to as much as 3 months. Conversely, there have been no studies to measure the positive impact school holidays may have on learning, e.g concentration levels in September compared to December, or how time away from school may have a positive impact on mental health.
I strongly believe that holiday learning is a great idea if done properly. One lesson we have learnt from the pandemic is that children can learn online – and thus with the use of video, online quizzes, and the increased accessibility of devices, there is the opportunity to provide a holiday programme that can now cover all bases. That is my reasoning for creating RocketLearn online holiday camps. Our Summer Programme offers Maths, English, Academic enrichment (coding, esports etc) Wellbeing and PE challenges. We are the solution for schools who either want ready-made materials for any holiday clubs they are hosting themselves or as a solution to holiday homework. Access to all our camps including our Summer Programme is only £295+ VAT for the year. Further information can be found at www.holidaylearning.co.uk If you would like a 15 minute conversation with me as to who we can help your school please do sign up here. Or if you would like free sample materials please do click here.