Why summer school is increasingly gaining popularity among parents and children alike

Summer schools and programs have been around for a while. They were popular in America, and now the UK has joined in. More and more people are realising the benefits of attending a high-quality summer school. This is partly because of the need for childcare during the long summer holidays, as many parents work and cannot take time off. Summer schools provide an excellent resource for parents who need childcare.

The disruption caused by the pandemic has also highlighted an increased need for the summer schools’ provision of enriching educational opportunities outside of termtime. School closures meant children across the country missed out on vital learning experiences, and even now educators are looking for ways to support those who have fallen behind in their studies. The prioritisation of academic subjects, meanwhile, has contributed to a steady decline in arts and sports provision, which is addressed by summer schools.

Bursting with benefits

Katie Paynter, Head of EYFS and pre-prep at IAPS member school Lochinver House, says: ‘Summer schools are playing an increasingly important part in education during the 21st century, as they are an incredible way for children to learn new skills not covered in the normal school curriculum.

‘Over and above the opportunities to expand knowledge and broaden mindsets, summer schools also allow pupils to have fun and meet new people. They build on children’s current interests and strengths, but also enable opportunities to venture into new fields and embrace challenge.’

Summer schools offer activities which encourage teamwork and communication skills, while simultaneously building self-confidence, as well as fostering the soft skills of resilience, collaboration, leadership, initiative, originality, and focus. The number of courses is constantly multiplying, with a vast array of opportunities now available for youngsters.

Additionally, with more young people spending long periods of their leisure time inside, choosing to engage with digital devices as opposed to participating in sporting activities or spending time outdoors, summer programmes provide parents with the opportunity to mobilise their children, and facilitate balance and recalibration.

‘Summer schools also allow children time to unwind, so they still have plenty of opportunity to relax and make the most of their summer break. Spending time with peers and like-minded individuals with an array of facilities and activities at their disposal is the perfect way to achieve this,’ adds Katie. ‘Children have the opportunity to meet and make friends from different backgrounds, cultures, and faiths. This encourages understanding, respect, compassion, and responsible cultural awareness and diversity, and enables young people to realise we are all connected.’

Attending a summer school helps keep routine and to experience life more independently. Summer schools are also, fundamentally, designed to be fun and create lifelong memories, to be held tight and cherished.

GOLD standards

Sedbergh School, in Cumbria, prides itself on its summer school provision. Sedbergh courses are run on strong core principles of growth, originality, leadership, and determination. These GOLD skills underpin how Sedbergh courses inspire young minds and encourage children to take responsibility and problem solve – an invaluable foundation for success throughout a pupil’s school career.

Dan Harrison, headmaster of Sedbergh School, is a fervent believer in the benefit of summer school to the development of children. He says: ‘The pupils who attend our summer courses benefit not just from the intensive tuition and skills they learn relating to the course content, but also from expanding their social skills. Pupils make new friends with similar interests, and develop confidence communicating with peers from a range of backgrounds – potentially from many different nationalities.’

What’s more, summer school allows students to enjoy a fun, recreational breather after a concentrated term of regular school, the headmaster adds. ‘For pupils moving to the school, it’s also a brilliant opportunity to become more familiar with the environment – the staff, the boarding experience, locality, and even the food,’ Dan explains. ‘We find our international students from non-English speaking backgrounds appreciate the opportunity to build their English skills too.’

Partnering up

Many independent schools work within their communities to incorporate summer schools into their partnership initiatives. Reflecting on the success of Alleyn’s School’s summer programme, Ben Jones, the school’s director of partnerships, says: ‘The Alleyn’s Summer School has been an absolutely brilliant scheme to be able to offer to families for free through generous fundraising support from our parents and alumni. We’ve been delighted with the positive feedback from participating partner heads and teachers, their pupils and parents, and equally pleased to see some of those families go on to engage with our admissions process, too.’

The summer school at Alleyn’s began during the pandemic, when the school embarked on delivering a series of practical lessons to families from numerous local state primary schools who would benefit most from the support. The sessions covered subjects ranging from science and art to PSCHE and first aid, as well as allowing the pupils to participate in sports activities each afternoon.

The summer school has been very well-received by those in the community, with one parent saying: ‘Thank you so much for giving my child the opportunity to take part in this week. He has thoroughly enjoyed it and I have never known him to be so enthusiastic about school. It has been amazing.’ A member of staff at one of the partner primary schools echoed this sentiment, ellaborating: ‘One pupil, a school refuser, completely loved it – he was transformed.’

It's clear to see that summer schools continue to play an important role in children’s education, unlocking valuable educational experiences for those involved. Schools are continue to develop and enhance their provision, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for these activities.

The Independent Association of Prep Schools is a schools association, representing around 670 preparatory schools.