Supporting disadvantaged pupils, are Summer Schools the answer?

5 October 2018

As winter approaches, some of you may already be looking ahead excitedly to next summer and contemplating whether to run a Summer School. This is a hotly debated topic, fuelled by the fact that the EEF says Summer Schools have a relatively low impact on pupils’ academic outcomes despite being rather costly.

This has led some people to question whether they are worth the time, money and effort they take.

However, some projects have found that greater impacts can be achieved when summer schools are intensive, well-resourced, and involve small group tuition by trained and experienced teachers.

In July 2018 the NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research) conducted a review of 21,065 pupils in 461 schools, with a specific focus on whether Summer Schools can be used to improve the outcomes for disadvantaged students.

Can summer schools help disadvantaged pupils to make a successful transition from primary to secondary to school?

There are many summer schools that take place for disadvantaged students at their new secondary school and this report found that most students who attended these stated that they enjoyed the experience (although boys were less positive than girls). Attendees of a summer school were more confident about starting their new school and had more positive attitudes concerning schools readiness and socialisation.

Can summer schools improve access to higher education for disadvantaged pupils?

Many Year 12 students attend Summer Schools run by higher education institutions (HEIs) and there was evidence for the effectiveness of residential programmes and mentoring, tutoring and helping disadvantaged pupils with their university applications. Attendees were more likely to apply to the university that hosted their Summer School as well as other ‘elite’ universities.

This all sounds very positive but the conclusion of this review is that Summer Schools are a promising intervention if they engage young people whilst addressing any barriers to participation BUT alone they are not enough and the review states:

‘Summer schools need to be seen in a wider context of initiatives to encourage social mobility, such as high quality teaching, tutoring and mentoring and the use of contextual information by HEIs in offering places to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds’.

We should move on from the debate about whether Summer Schools are/ are not worthwhile and recognise that they do have a place. However, they need to be part of a long-term approach in order to have any positive impact on the outcomes of disadvantaged pupils.

If you do decide to run a Summer School next year make sure you check out these top tips on how to design and plan, run and embed the Summer School activities.

 

Posted on 5 October 2018
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