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School’s (not) out for summer

Some UK schools are planning to open over the summer holidays to make up for lessons missed during lockdown.


Kids aren’t famed for wanting more school, but that’s exactly what the adult who is specially appointed by the state to represent their views and interests is calling for. Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said teachers should host summer camps in July and August, where kids can catch up on the education, socialising and extracurricular activities they may have missed out on during lockdown. Some are already doing so.

Is it a good idea? Well, lots of people are worried that closing schools during the pandemic has resulted in a big loss of learning. That might cause problems down the line - after all, one of the main reasons the government funds children's education is because it is supposed to make them into more productive workers as adults by building up their human capital.

Human capital is the economic term for all the skills and abilities we use to create things our society values. While we can build up our human capital throughout our lives, we create a lot of it at school, where we learn fundamental skills like reading and counting and working as part of a team.

When kids miss a lot of school they therefore risk ending up with fewer skills which in turn might make harder to get well-paid work. That could economically damage the students themselves, and also society as a whole (as there are fewer high-skilled workers around).

People like Anne Longfield are particularly worried that kids who are already economically disadvantaged will be hit the hardest by school closures - because poorer households are less likely to have the time and resources to provide homeschooling that is equivalent to regular school. Having extra lessons over what would normally be the summer holidays could help solve this problem.

Of course, there are other groups who would be impacted by the summer school plan, namely parents and teachers. For parents - particularly working ones - there are some obvious positives. Many have found that balancing 24/7 childcare with their regular job has negatively impacted their productivity and wellbeing. Summer schools would also mean fewer parents having to shell out for professional childcare during the summer holidays.

Teaching unions, however, are less thrilled about the prospect. They say that it’s unfair to expect teachers to work over the summer when many have also spent the lockdown months setting up and running online lessons.

Read our explainer on: human capital.

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