Summer learning loss, also known as the “summer slide” in the US is ‘children’s loss of knowledge and academic skills over the long summer period’ (Gallagher, 2016).

This article is one of our four part series focusing on the loss of learning that typically occurs during the summer break. This week we will discuss the evidence behind the ‘summer learning loss’ and whether we should reduce the UK school summer holidays.

The evidence for Summer Learning Loss


Since the early 1900s there has been research into the negative impact of long summer holidays on children’s performance in their studies (White, 1906). The UK Education Secretary is in favour of longer school days and shorter holidays which he believes will improve academic performance and make life easier for working parents (Gallagher, 2016). Michael Glove is anxious about the slipping standards in schools and is keen to combat any loss of learning that occurs during the summer break in order to raise the standards of learning in UK schools.

In fact, in 2016,  Barnsley Council in Yorkshire became the first local council in England to decrease the duration of school summer holidays to under five weeks (with the extra week on to the October half-term as an alternative). Their motivations behind this change was to combat “learning loss” in the 2017-2018 academic year (, 2016).

Cutting the summer break short is one method to tackle the learning loss but is this really a solution for the schools in the UK? Would teachers and pupils really want to give up the last week in August to return to the classroom early?

Next week we will be looking at the effects of the summer break on pupil performance.

References (2016). Barnsley cuts school summer holidays to five weeks – AOL. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 May 2018].
Gallagher, S. (2016). Summer Learning Loss: Should Parents Really Be Worried?. [online] HuffPost UK. Available at: [Accessed 2 May 2018].
White, W. (1906). Reviews before and after vacation. American Education, 10(3).