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From Nigel Latta. Interesting read.


Parents don't need to worry about their primary school aged children falling behind in their learning during this stay at home time. Luckily, this is not a new worry – and lots of research about loss of learning over the long American summer holiday (up to three months) has been done.

The first study using modern statistical methods was carried out by Parsley and Powell in 1962. They found some loss in skills requiring practice, such as computation and spelling, but gains in maths reasoning and comprehension. [Parsley K.M. and Powell M. 1962 [Achievement gains or losses during the academic year and over the summer vacation period, General Psychological Monographs 66k285-34]. Over the next decades, numerous studies have found much the same.

A study by Grenier in 1975 found that those same losses in skills requiring practice were recovered in four weeks once children were back in school. [Grenier M.A. (1975) “An investigation of summer mathematics achievement loss and the fall recovery time” Doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, 1975, Dissertation abstracts international, 36, 3069A]

In 1984 a major study called “The Sustaining Effects Study (SES)” followed 120,000 elementary (primary) students over three years. This data was used by Carter in 1985 to consider subject areas and concluded: “There are large reading gains over the summer. There are math gains and losses over the summer and particularly in the higher grades there may be math losses.” [Carter L.F. (1984) “The sustaining effects study of compensatory and elementary education”. Education Researcher, 1984, 13(7), 4-13

A meta-analysis of all studies in the area was published in 1996. It concluded that learning which required practice to retain, such as computation and spelling declined, but deeper cognitive abilities involved in mathematical concepts and reading comprehension improved over the summer.[Cooper H., Nye B., et al 1996 “The effects of summer vacations on achievement test scores: a narrative and meta-analytic review” 1996, Review of Educational Research Fall 1996, Vol 66. No. 3 pp227-268.]

So, relax about this time away from school, putting all this together the most important aspect of academic success is maturing cognitive abilities, and these develop even over school breaks. And also remember that the study of Grenier (above) shows even if there are a loss of specific skills requiring practice, this all comes back very, very quickly.

That said, if doing nothing academic with your child makes you anxious – maybe spend a little time each day with timestables or spelling as long as it doesn’t cause stress or arguments. Don’t try to make yourself an instant maths teacher though, other research shows parents are probably better off leaving that to the experts.

So... relax. You're good.

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