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Toby Young
Monday 31st July 2017

How to be a pushy dad on holiday? Just bribe them


One of the shortcomings of being an “education guru”, as I like to style myself, is that it can leave you feeling rather anxious about your own children’s progress. As a father of four I have lost count of the times that I have stumbled across some research paper only to think: “Blimey! I’m a really rubbish parent.”

Take “summer learning loss”, one of the most robust findings in the literature. Numerous research studies have shown that children lose, in aggregate, one month of schooling over the course of the summer holidays. In maths the average loss is 2.6 months. That is to say, when children return to school at the end of the holidays they are 2.6 months behind the point that they were when the school broke up.

Admittedly these figures are based on research carried out in America, where the long vacation lasts from mid-June to early September, so the average loss here won’t be as great. However, British schoolchildren still suffer compared with their counterparts in some of the world’s highest-performing school regions, such as Hong Kong, where the summer holidays are only four weeks long. Children in the UK attend school on average for 190 days a year, compared to an OECD average of 195 and an east Asian average of 208.

The reason this discovery left me feeling like a crap dad is because for years I was in the habit of leaving my children to their own devices during the holidays. (To read more, click here.)

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