Summer Learning Loss

Summer Learning Loss

pink teacher man showing how learning can be lost over the summer

Summer Learning Loss goes by several names – summer slide, summer brain drain – but essentially, it’s the loss of academic skills and knowledge that occurs as a result of the long summer holidays. In this blog, we’ll be looking at what it is and how to prevent it by taking steps in the Summer Term.

What is the extent of the loss?

Some studies suggest that:

  1. Children can lose anywhere from 25-50% of their school-year gains in mathematics. That equates to losing more than two months’ worth of learning.
  2. Children backtrack in English too, but overall, losses in reading ability tend to be less dramatic than for maths. You may find younger children especially suffer small setbacks in verbal fluency, i.e., struggling to think of appropriate vocabulary.
  3. The phenomenon occurs amongst almost all age groups but often peaks at Upper Key Stage 2 when pupils are learning lots of new concepts.
  4. The loss can build cumulatively over a pupil’s school career, severely impacting his/her academic success and job opportunities.

Is it a problem?

Summer Learning Loss is not something new. The school holidays are intended after all to give children a break from their normal routines. And give them the opportunity to explore their extra-curricular interests. It’s a typical occurrence for some pupils to struggle in their first few weeks back at school in September.

The issues arise when groups of children are affected to differing degrees: some needing time to catch-up; others simply able to pick up where they left off. This makes it difficult to teach them all at the right level, especially when classes have no teaching assistants to lean on.

Who is most affected?

Research focusing on Summer Learning Loss indicates a link between socioeconomic status and the level of learning lost. One study looking at language skills reported that middle-class pupils, who may have enjoyed travel, arts and a variety of activities over the summer, showed no change in their reading and language abilities. Whilst pupils from lower socioeconomic groups, who may have had less access to learning opportunities, lost up to 3 months’ worth of learning.

What can schools do?

The positive message that comes out of the research is that Summer Learning Loss is not inevitable and that the effects are reversible. By taking proactive steps before schools break up and working with parents, there are simple steps that can be taken to increase children’s knowledge retention.

Some activities they could get involved with are listed below. Perhaps, as a school, you could create an activity booklet and get both pupil and parental buy-in to complete a set number of activities!

  • Make reading a habit. Encourage your pupils to take part in the libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge or launch your own!
  • Add an element of maths into everyday life. Can your pupils mentally calculate what they’re spending at the shops or estimate how many shells are on their beach? Ask them to calculate one thing per week and just make a note of it! Maybe have a prize for the most imaginative.
  • Get outdoors. Whether it’s gardening at home or exploring local parks, museums or galleries, getting outside gives the children opportunities to enjoy nature, art, history and culture. It doesn’t have to be approached like a school trip with learning objectives and follow-up activities, just being there and perhaps taking a photo is enough.
  • Get creative. Encourage pupils to make, bake or even code.
  • Get active. Whatever their passion – be it running, cycling or even mooching around the shops – harness it with a target! 10,000 steps may be a step too far but what would be realistic for them? Can they meet that target every day of their holidays or even every other day?
  • If it’s all about screen time, make some of it count! Giving your children access to educational websites like Busy Things via Home Access will keep their grey matter functioning. As their teacher, you don’t need to pin activities for them to complete but can leave it to them to play games that pique their interest. What will they choose? Maths, English, coding, science…


We hope you’ve found this blog helpful and provided you with both some new information and a few ideas that could be valuable. Now is the time to think about Summer Learning Loss, spread the word to parents and, in partnership with them, take action to minimise its impact. That way, you can wave your pupils off in July knowing that they are as prepared as they can be for the academic year ahead.

Interested in a Busy Things subscription with Home Access?

This summer, Busy Things is offering FREE Home Access to schools that take out a subscription before the end of July. On a whole-school subscription spanning Reception to Year 6, this means schools will get unlimited access to all our educational games, both at school and at home, for just £530, saving an extraordinary £240!

We know you’ll want to try before you buy, so take a free trial here and when you’re ready to subscribe, simply contact us for a formal quote remembering to quote SUMMER23. To enjoy the learning over the summer holidays, though, remember to leave some time before the end of term to subscribe and distribute login details!

Enjoyed this blog?

We’d love your feedback and if you’ve any tried and tested suggestions of your own to add to curb Summer Learning Loss, we’d love to hear them and share them with other teachers. Include them in the comments below and we’ll be sure to pass them on!

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