Don’t take a six-week break from learning, education expert warns (July 2015)

Don’t take a six-week break from learning, education expert warns (July 2015)

An education expert has called on families across Britain to keep their children’s minds active during the long summer holidays. Studies, and anecdotal evidence from teachers, have shown that children academically regress following the six-week break. Now teacher, government advisor and education author, Dr Stephen Curran, said quick and fun learning activities can stop children falling behind.

Any teacher will tell you that when they welcome children back to the classroom in September most of their pupils’ academic ability has fallen back by about two to three months,” Dr Curran said.

This is particularly noticeable in primary school aged children and in their reading and maths.

I’m not advocating that children should study throughout their holidays or even do lots of homework but simple, fun brain activities will make their return to school so much easier.

The brain is like any organ – it needs regular exercise to keep it at its functioning best.”

Dr Curran, who is the author of a series of workbooks aimed at primary school aged children, has developed a series of books designed to stimulate children’s brains through visual activities.

Called Non-verbal Reasoning, the books were primarily written to help children who plan to sit the 11 plus entrance exams for grammar schools.

But such visual activities can have a knock-on benefit for children from poorer backgrounds and whose first language is not English as images are used to solve problems.

There are lots of ways we can keep children’s minds active and continually learning without destroying the fun element of holidays,” Dr Curran added.

On rainy days, card games which have visual clues can help children to solve problems and stimulate that part of the brain.

Or on sunny days why not set your children a ‘treasure’ hunt while on trips to the beach or park?

Such activities don’t have to cost a lot of money or take up too much time. Regular, but short doses of activity which involve some element of problem solving, will keep the brain in tip-top condition.”

Dr Curran, who was on the government panel advising on the new maths National Curriculum, also recommends children read during the holidays and said public libraries often hold fun – and free – challenges throughout the six-week break.

He said bringing maths into everyday activities for very young children will also help them start school again with a flourish.

It doesn’t take much to keep children’s brains up to speed. When buying an ice cream give your child the money to buy it and ask them to tell you how much change they have.

Or when they have friends over to play, get them to share out and divide the toys up between them.

Small things like these will help your child start school in September just as strong as when they left in July – while still thinking they’ve had a wonderful holiday.”

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