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Summer Schools

Education programmes held in the summer holidays

Insufficient evidence of impact


Evidence quality:

1 2 3 4 5


1 2 3

Prevention Type

  • Primary
  • Secondary


  • School and college


Other Outcomes

Evidence quality

  • MODERATE impact on improving in Academic achievement
    1 2 3 4 5
  • MODERATE impact on attending and completing in Higher education
    1 2 3 4 5

What is it?   

Summer schools take place in the summer holidays, between July and September. They are often delivered in education settings and are typically delivered between several days and several weeks. Summer schools generally include a combination of educational support, arts and sports activities, and social activities.   

Summer schools may also include mentors who provide support for children transitioning between schools or create space for open discussion on topics that might be causing concern, such as bullying.  

Summer schools can broadly be categorised as: 

  • Catch up programmes, focussed on addressing attainment gaps and preventing loss of learning during the summer. 
  • Raising aspirations programmes, aimed at inspiring and motivating children to pursue the next stages of education, usually higher education, or to explore various career paths. 
  • Transition support programmes, aimed at facilitating a smooth transition for children from one education level to another, such as from primary to secondary school or from secondary school to higher education. 

Summer schools are generally voluntary and provide a safe space with trusted adults. This review of evidence focuses on children identified as at-risk of offending or facing disadvantage. This includes children in the care system, in low-income families, in schools in areas of socio-economic disadvantage, Black and minority ethnic children, and children with lower academic attainment. Summer schools include a wide range of ages depending on the purpose of the summer school, ranging between 10- to 17-year-olds. 

Summer schools might protect children from involvement in violence by diverting or distracting children away from harmful activities or situations that increase risk of violence. Summer schools may improve self-esteem and confidence, social and emotional skills, responsibility, and time management, and encourage new peer groups to form. Improvements across these characteristics may lead to increased engagement and progress in school, and improved future employment prospects. These changes may reduce instances of violent behaviour or offending. 

Is it effective? 

There is insufficient evidence to calculate an impact rating for summer schools on reducing violence.  

 The review summarises evidence from 49 studies. None of these studies measured the impact of summer schools on violence.  

The research showed a moderate impact on improving academic achievement, and likelihood of attending and completing higher education.  

How secure is the evidence? 

Of the 49 studies in this review, 28 of these were undertaken in the UK. These studies show wide variation in the impact of summer schools on education outcomes.  

We have moderate confidence in our estimate of the impact on academic achievement because this is based on eight studies, and there is some variation in the results. Some studies suggest that the impact is higher, and others suggest it is lower. 

We have moderate confidence in our estimate of the impact on likelihood of attending higher education, which is based on eight studies and includes some variation in the results. We also have moderate confidence in our estimate of the impact on likelihood of completing higher education, which is based on five studies.  

One study found that summer schools can be effective at reducing the likelihood of persistant absence, and the likelihood of having a suspension, which are known risk factors for later involvement in crime and violence. 

How can you implement it well?  

Provide social activities that support learning  

Successful programmes combine a variety of social activities, such as sports, arts, and team-building activities, and deliver them in a creative and fun way. These help children to practice social skills, develop new relationships with peers, and may improve motivation to engage in learning.   

Partner with external organisations  

Partnering with external organisations and drawing upon their expertise in activities such as sports and arts, may increase the quality of the programme and the variety of activities delivered. This may also increase the number of children that attend and may encourage them to complete the full programme.  

Good governance 

Summer schools should provide a structured curriculum of activities, that are sufficiently resourced. The involvement of school governors in monitoring delivery plans and impact can provide a transparent approach to accountability and support consistency of programme delivery.   

Provide high quality mentoring  

There should be consistency in the mentors children are supported by during the summer school as this can enable positive relationships to be established and maintained. Mentors should adapt to the needs of the children, which may vary across educational support, confidence-building, developing social and communication skills, dealing with anxiety related to transitions between school environments, bullying, or anxiety about making new friends.  

Ensure changeover of teachers  

Depending on the length of the programme, staff can be rotated during the summer school to maximise the energy they bring to the programme, and to minimise fatigue that may impact upon their performance at the beginning of the new academic term in September. Handovers between teachers should be organised to allow new teachers to meet their colleagues, learn about the children, and understand the programme routine.   

How much does it cost? 

On average, the cost of summer schools is likely to be moderate. 

Costs generally include staff salaries and training, resources for activities, venue hire, food, travel, and administration costs. Costs will vary depending on the type of programme delivered, and the duration of the programme. Staff may work voluntarily to reduce costs, programmes may also seek support from businesses to further reduce costs. 

Based on evaluations of four programmes in the UK, the average cost per child is £1,106, varying greatly based on the length of summer school, and whether staff salaries or costs of laptops, resources, and venue hire were included. Th from £170 to £2,197 per child per programme.  

Topic Summary 

  • Summer schools take place in the summer holidays.  
  • Summer schools generally include a combination of educational support, arts and recreation activities, social activities, and mentoring.   
  • Whilst there are several studies that evaluate summer schools, there are no studies that measure impact on violence.  
  • The research showed a moderate impact on improving academic achievement, and likelihood of attending and completing higher education.  
  • Programmes are more successful when they partner with external organisations with expertise in social and enrichment activities, when they have good governance and high-quality mentors, and when they include a rest period for teachers.  

Education Endowment Fund  

A summary of evidence examining the impact of summer schools on education outcomes.  

Department for Education  

Guidance on running summer school programmes.