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 +2 months

What is it?

Summer schools are lessons or classes during the summer holidays, and are often designed as catch-up programmes. Some summer schools do not have an academic focus and concentrate on sports or other non-academic activities. Others may have a specific focus, such as pupils at the transition from primary to secondary school, or advanced classes for high attaining pupils to prepare them for University. 

How effective is it?

Research suggests that attending a summer school results in an average impact of about two additional months’ progress.

Greater impacts (as much as four additional months’ progress) can be achieved when summer schools are intensive, well-resourced, and involve small group tuition by trained and experienced teachers. However, summer schools without a clear academic component are not usually associated with learning gains. Other variables, such as whether the teacher is one of the student’s usual teachers, seem to make less difference on average.

A recent evaluation for the Department for Education in the UK found that one of the greatest challenges was ensuring attendance, with only about half of the selected pupils attending a minimum of one session. 

How secure is the evidence?

The evidence is extensive. There are a number of meta-analyses, which consistently find small average effects. Studies include both primary and secondary pupils and mainly focus on reading and literacy. Some studies indicate that gains are greater for disadvantaged pupils, but this is not consistent.

Most studies took place in the USA. However, a meta-analysis of three recent EEF-funded evaluations of summer schools indicates that average gains in literacy of an additional two months progress are achievable in the UK. 

What are the costs?

Overall, the costs are estimated as moderate. Costs include the employment of teachers for the duration of the summer school, hiring a venue and providing resources (books, photocopying etc.). Courses typically cost in the region of £250-£300 per week per student. A recent evaluation of a summer school programme in England estimated the costs as being slightly higher for a summer programme at £1,370 per pupil over four weeks (£340 per pupil, per week). 

What should I consider?

  • Summer school provision that aims to improve learning needs to have an academic component. Does your summer school include intensive teaching component (small group or one to one)?

  • Summer schools are relatively expensive. Have you considered delivering alternative approaches during the school year, which may provide similar benefits for a lower cost?

  • Maintaining high attendance at summer schools can be a challenge. If you are running a summer school, what steps might you take to engage pupils and their families?