Harris Cooper, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, researched how much children forget over the long summer break. The long summer break, along with other holiday patterns are largely hangovers from an agricultural age when harvests had to be gathered.
We know enough about memory to predict that a long period in which there is no reinforcement will lead to decay in what is known. Now we have some research that quantifies that decay.
1 to 3 months lost!
The results were staggering. Children typically forgot between 1 and 3 months of schooling during the summer break. The two areas that suffered most were numeracy and spelling, two primary educational targets. This massive drop in productivity shows that we should spread learning more evenly across the year. More terms with more, but shorter, holidays is the clear solution to poor standards in these areas. It would also help parents get better holiday deals. Unfortunately, any attempt to modernise the timetable is met with predictable and stiff resistance from teacher unions.