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Long summer break sees children’s spelling deteriorate

Research has shown a reduction in children’s ability to spell after the long summer holiday, according to academics at Northumbria University’s Healthy Living Lab in, Newcastle.

The study, Investigation of Summer Learning Loss in the UK – Implications for Holiday Club Provision, is the first in the UK to demonstrate that after a seven-week holiday, primary school children’s ability to spell declines across the summer holiday.

More than 70 children,  between the ages of 5-10 years of age, from three schools across deprived areas in Scotland and the North East of England who did not attend a holiday club over the summer, were tested in spelling and reading ability immediately before and immediately after the school summer holiday, and then approximately seven weeks later.

The research showed that children’s spelling scores were significantly poorer upon returning to schools compared to scores at the end of the previous term. Once children had returned to school, they showed significant gains in spelling but it took nearly 4 weeks to reach the same level of performance shown at the end of the previous term.

Children’s reading ability, however, did not improve or get worse after the summer holiday, according to the study.

Jackie Shinwell is a collaborative PhD student within the Department of Psychology at Northumbria University and co-authored the study under the supervision of Professor Greta Defeyter, Director of Healthy Living at the University.

“This study is part of a wider evaluation, funded by Brakes and Northumbria University, of the network of holiday clubs across the UK that are being delivered by a range of partners,” said Jackie.

“It was important to do this research to first, establish whether there was quantitative evidence of children’s learning loss across the summer in the UK. I am now interested in investigating whether holiday clubs can help attenuate this loss.”

Professor Defeyter advises a number of national governmental and international committees on the importance of school breakfast clubs and holiday interventions.

This research is important in demonstrating that holiday hunger is not simply about children going hungry or eating unhealthy foods. Professor Defeyter added: “The Healthy Living Lab at Northumbria University has carried out extensive research into holiday hunger, and these data provide insight into the impact of long school holidays on educational attainment in primary-age children– particularly in areas of poverty.

“This research adds to a growing body of evidence that shows there is a real need for accessible activity provision during the school holidays for children and young people in the UK. Future research investigating whether children show similar patterns in terms of mathematics, and whether learning loss is attenuated by social class may have important implications for UK educational policy and further inform the need for the type and scope of holiday provision in the UK.”

Tori Hickson, Brakes’ Communications Manager, said: “It is really sad that children are suffering academically, simply because of their circumstances.  Our Meals & More holiday clubs are designed to try to tackle not only holiday hunger, but also some of the issues around ensuring a stimulating environment for children.  We hope others, including the government, will join us to put an end to the scourge of holiday hunger.”

20th Oct 2017

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