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Primary Education News
News Shorter holidays will stop private tuition widening the achievement gap
More parents are employing private tutors to stop the 'summer slide'. Would Gove's idea of shorter summer holidays stop disadvantaged students falling even further behind?
An interesting survey about tutoring has surfaced this week that raises some pertinent questions about the state of our schools and the practicalities of summer holidays.
Summer tutoring is on the rise according to an independent survey of 1,000 primary school parents, commissioned by www.themathsfactor.com. The research found that a significant number of parents were concerned about the 'summer slide' – when academic progress goes into reverse over the long holidays. Plus, 27% of parents surveyed stated that they have or will hire tutors so that their primary-age child can be "the best in class".
You can't blame these parents for being concerned, especially considering the noises coming from the Department of Education regarding the outdated nature of the long summer break and its negative impact on academic performance.
This survey focused on primary-age children but the results mirrored research from the Institute of Education which suggested that more than a quarter of students have tutoring before GCSE exams.
How does this reflect on our state schools? Is the summer tutoring boom a threat or worry? If we have a such a significant number of parents seeking tutors, does this show that children aren't learning enough in our classrooms? Possibly.
This isn't necessarily an indication that poor teaching is taking place in schools, however. In regards to primary education, it could just mean that, as we feel the impact of a baby-boom, class sizes have grown so much that it's becoming too difficult to reach academic targets – or worse still, not stretch students to exceed them.
So we can see that upper-middle class parents can send their children to a private school and middle-class parents can send theirs to a tutor. But where does this leave the parents who struggle to make ends meet? At the back of the line, that's where.
Children with working-class parents suffer because their parents don't have the financial means to mitigate the summer slide. These families are never going to be able to keep their children ahead of their peers because of the economic straightjacket they wear.
Michael Gove believes that this balance can be addressed through the reduction of school holidays and specifically the summer break. If it's true that the length of a school holiday leaves economically-deprived children at a disadvantage, then maybe Mr Gove is correct. We should try and do all we can to level the playing field for those who are faced with the undulating terrain of academic performance.
Many state schools are now offering enrichment activities that run over the summer break to help bridge the learning gap that appears over the summer. It might not be too long before we see US-style summer schools appearing across the state sector.
If we reduced the summer holiday to just four weeks then is the cost of two weeks less in the summer really too higher a price to pay for this balance to redressed? Most teachers who I speak to are receptive to the idea of a shorter summer break. I certainly would be willing to sacrifice two weeks during the summer if it meant that our students would have a more level playing field.
With a caveat that the two weeks lost are redistributed elsewhere on the school calendar. Sadly, our unions seem as truculent as always when approaching changes in policy.