Learning and Teaching Toolkit

Summer schools

Low impact for moderate cost, based on extensive evidence.

What is it?

Summer schools are lessons or classes during the summer holidays. They are often designed as catch-up programmes, although some do not have an academic focus and concentrate on sports or other non-academic activities. Others have a specific aim, such as supporting learners at the transition from primary to secondary school or preparing high-attaining learners for university.

How effective is it?

On average, evidence suggests that learners who attend a summer school make approximately two additional months’ progress compared to similar learners who do not. 

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. In contrast, 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. 

How secure is the evidence?

Overall, the level of evidence related to summer schools is extensive. There are a number of meta-analyses, which consistently find small average effects. Studies include both primary and secondary-aged learners and mainly focus on reading and literacy. Some studies indicate that gains are greater for disadvantaged learners, but this is not consistent.

What are the costs?

Summer school costs include teacher pay, venue hire, and resources such as books and photocopying. Costs are estimated as moderate (from £200 to £720 per learner per year).

What should I consider?

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

Summer schools are relatively expensive. Have you considered providing additional learning time during the school year, which may achieve similar benefits for a lower cost?

Maintaining high attendance at summer schools can be a challenge. What steps will you take to engage learners and their families?

Challenge questions to support collaborative self-evaluation

  • How well do we identify and use evidence to ensure improvement for the learner is central to activities beyond the school day or term?
  • To what extent are we ensuring the sustainability of benefits secured by specific monies, for example, PEF?

The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity and a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England, Number 114 2111 Copyright 2019, Education Endowment Foundation all rights reserved.