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News3rd September 2021

The children who loved going to school during the holidays

Many of our schools have made the most of the summer to help students catch up. Along with a focus on literacy and numeracy, students have embarked on a range of adventures. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with many students feeling much more positively towards school as a result of activities over the summer. We spoke to some of our headteachers and principals to find out how their summer schools went.

Max Haimendorf from King Solomon Academy in Marylebone said, “We always want to give our children as many any opportunities outside the classroom as we can to enhance their learning, but Covid-19 stopped much of this. Government funding this year meant that we had a unique opportunity to put on a transformative summer school. We targeted children in Years 7 to 9 that we thought would benefit, especially those classed as vulnerable during the lockdown or those coming into community classrooms.

“Year groups were supported by staff and some sixth form students to participate in group reading, sports and maths activities. They participated in a performance piece from the musical Hamilton, learned about climate change and got creative with murals. We had day trips to museums and Brighton Beach, which was a definite highlight. We saw some of our most vulnerable pupils thrive and come out of their shells and being able to express themselves, which makes it all worthwhile.”

In Portsmouth, Ark Charter‘s Fiona Chapman said: “Summer school was unlike anything that has gone before! We aimed to ease the transition for our incoming Year 7 pupils, close learning gaps, get to know individuals (and their families) and have fun! Our outside classroom facilities lent themselves well to a programme of character development. Children thrived every day, from using our private woodland setting to learn survival skills (including preparing, cooking, and eating whole fish) to swimming in our indoor pool or cooking in our state-of-the-art kitchen facilities.

“Summer schools like this are powerful tools to aid children on their educational journey. We’re confident that we met the needs of some of the most disadvantaged children in Portsmouth.”

Ela McSorley from Ark Victoria in Birmingham explains, “Our camp was a chance to reconnect with our community, especially those who needed us the most. We targeted and supported more than 80+ pupils in primary and secondary with this unique summer camp experience. We focused on attendance, reading skills, mathematics, and teacher feedback to support the cohort.

“We were ambitious with the scope of what we wanted pupils to experience within the two weeks: scaling castle ruins, chartering the stars, engaging with the maths Olympics, fossil excavation and investing in some immersive reading. Pupil feedback showed that Explorer Dome’s Life Beneath the Stars was the blockbuster moment of the week. Summer camp allowed us to sow the seeds of success for pupils, who were sometimes left without the room to thrive during lockdown. We hope to see their enquiry-based learning and love for reading grow throughout their Year 7 journey this year.”

Karinne Faddy, from Ark Bentworth in West London, said: “We offered a remote summer school programme called The Really Wild Readers Club, which gave pupils one-to-one sessions from the comfort of their homes. Funding came via the Academic Mentoring programme, and our academic mentor offered video calls in both reading and maths. The Really Wild Readers Club offered pupils one-to-one reading in a local garden along with outdoor learning activities for their whole family. This is the second year we have taken part, with additional funding from the John Lyon’s Charity.

“We had excellent attendance, and children were offered a free visit to Grove Farm to pick fruit at the end of the summer. The pupils had a graduation ceremony, which included a special appearance from John the Lyon. We hope that the pupils who took part maintain the improvements and confidence we saw across the summer. We also hope the reading sessions will inspire families to keep up the habit at home.”