Summer of tutoring 'awaiting many pupils'

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

image captionSome parents pay for catch-up help for their children

School may be out for summer, but a survey suggests many parents are unwilling to let their children have a holiday from studying at all.

More than a quarter plan to hire tutors to help prevent the so-called "summer slide" in academic ability, the poll of 1,000 primary school parents suggests.

A fifth hire tutors so their child can be "the best in the class", the survey for a maths tutoring website adds.

Research has long shown pupils' grades slip back over the summer break.

This is especially the case if they do not engage in educational activities.

'Slipping back'

Students typically do less well in tests set at the end of the summer holiday than they do in the same tests at the beginning.

And some say much of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income pupils can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.

But the independent survey carried out for, which offers online tutoring courses, suggests more than a third of parents are unaware that their child's learning may slip back during the holidays.

However, most of the parents were planning to undertake some low-cost learning activity with their children over the six-week break.

These included reading books (29%), tapping into the latest literacy and numeracy mobile apps (14%), Sats revision (8%) and online courses to keep children's minds active (7%), according to the online poll.

The finding that 27% were planning to hire tutors for their primary-age children, surprised the firm that commissioned the poll, but is in line with earlier estimates of pre-GCSE tutoring.

Research from London University's Institute of Education has suggested more than a quarter of students have private tuition before their exams.

Many schools do not set much, if any, homework over the summer. However, it is a time when many, especially working parents, have more time to help their children with it.

'Time to play'

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said "kids should be allowed to be kids" during the holidays.

"Children need a break from learning pressure and time to play - which is itself educational."

She added that the minority of parents who did not let their offspring relax during holidays should not feel obliged to pay for what she described as "unnecessary services".

Tuition company Explore Learning said the summer holiday was one of its busiest times.

Heather Garrick, the firm's marketing director, said: "July is by far our busiest sign up month. Last year for example, we had 2,600 new members sign up in July compared with 988 in June 2012. As a result we have longer opening hours throughout the summer to deal with this increased demand."

William Stadlen, founder and director of Holland Park Tuition and Education Consultants, said he had seen an increase in parents with younger children seeking tuition at this time of year.

"It's a very good opportunity to do some catch-up work because the parents have more time and the children are not at school.

"If there are a couple of issues that just need to be ironed out, you can go through it in a stress-free way rather than spending five hours struggling.

"The idea of tuition is to take the stress out of a child's life - then they can go off and play football or whatever else they would much prefer to be doing."

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