Summer schools

Moderate impact for moderate cost based on limited evidence.

Cost Per Pupil Cost estimate: Up to £720 per pupil per year. cost per pupil
Evidence Rating Evidence estimate: At least one meta-analysis or review. evidence rating Average impact: + 3 additional months. Impact +3 months

What is it?

Summer schools are lessons or classes during the summer holidays, often run as catch-up or enrichment lessons. Some summer schools do not have an academic focus and concentrate on sports or other non-academic activities. Others may have specific focuses, e.g. for pupils at the transition from primary to secondary school, or for students identified as being "gifted or talented".

How effective is it?

The effects are reasonably consistent (with an average impact of about three months progress), though usually higher for higher attaining pupils and lower for low income pupils. Programmes are usually more effective in mathematics, when they are specifically tailored to students’ needs, and when parents are involved, such as by attending conferences with teachers, observing their children in class and reading with them at home. Summer schools which do not have a clear academic component are not usually evaluated for, or associated with, learning gains. Other variables seem to make less difference, such as whether the teacher is one of the student’s usual teachers.

The impacts vary according to the focus of the summer school, with more academic benefits linked to those with teaching or tutoring. Benefits have been identified in a range of subjects, particularly for secondary school pupils but are not consistent across all programmes. This indicates that it is important to have a clear focus on learning. The EEF’s evaluation of Future Foundations found improvement of about two months in literacy skills from a four week programme, but no effect on mathematics attainment.

How secure is the evidence?

There are a number of meta-analyses, which find broadly similar effects, but are mostly based on studies in the USA. As mentioned, a crucial factor is whether the summer school has an academic focus.

What are the costs?

The costs involved are the employment of teachers for the duration of the summer school, with associated venue and resource costs (books, photocopying etc.). Courses are in the region of £250-£300 per week per student. A recent EEF evaluation estimated the costs as being slightly higher for a four-week summer programme at £1,370 per pupil or £340 per pupil, per week. Overall, the costs are estimated as moderate.

What should I consider?

  • Summer school provision that aims to improve learning needs to have an academic component.

  • Qualified and experienced teachers are more likely to support improvement in literacy or mathematics (or other subjects) than less well-qualified staff.

  • Intensive tutoring (one to one or small group) can be productively included in summer school provision.

  • Summer schools can also provide support for the highly able and transition to university.

  • As with after school programmes, providing a stimulating environment, support from teachers and promoting interaction appear to increase participation.

  • If you are considering running summer schools, have you considered how you will evaluate the impact?