We know that knowledge and skills need regular practice and reinforcement, preferably spaced-practice, to consolidate retention and recall. Yet our education system at all levels does its best to insert a huge ‘forgetting period’ right in the middle of the year. The July to September holiday, originally designed around agricultural harvesting and fruit picking, leads to serious summer learning loss, undoing much of the good work done in the last term before the long break.
A well regarded think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, has recommended five eight-week terms, with two weeks off between and one month in summer. Some weight is given to this new structure as an Essex school, which has adopted the new system, saw a huge hike in their exam results. Pupils gaining five good GCSEs at Greensward College in Hockley went up from 70 per cent to 88 per cent.
Of course, this is a relatively small piece of evidence, but if it were replicated across many schools, this one act alone would do more to increase productivity in learning than every other initiative over the last decade. Of course, we all know why the long summer break exists – teachers love them.