What should you do in the summer holidays?

With the summer holidays fast approaching, parents have been asking me what their young people should be doing in the summer holidays.

In this post I'll be sharing the things students in years 7-13 should be doing in the summer holidays to give you some clarity and reassurance.

What should you do in the summer holidays?

1. Take a holiday

This school year (I'm writing this in July 2020) has been like no other, with the closure of schools to most students and home learning happening from late March until July.

It's been a stressful and difficult year for everyone  – we've all been taken out of the way that we normally chose to live our lives and most people have struggled in some way.

That's why it's really important to be kind to our young people and give them a break. This is especially so if they'll be in year 11 or year 13 in September.

Both year 11 and year 13 are a long slog with little opportunity for a break. If your school is planning mocks before Christmas your only real opportunity to have a proper holiday will be over the Christmas holiday. If your school is planning mocks after Christmas October half-term will be your best bet for time off. All the other holidays, apart from a day or weekend off here and there, should be focused on revision and coursework. Check this post out for more information on the pattern and shape of the school year.

And, it's expected that next year's GCSEs and A-Levels will be pushed back so that they continue into July to give schools a chance to help their students catch-up on learning time missed during the lockdown – meaning that next year will be even longer.

So, whatever you do – prioritise your children getting a proper holiday.

2. Fill in the gaps

If your child hasn't done a lot during the months of school closures there may well be gaps in their learning to fill in. And, even if they have been following a full timetable of lessons and doing their best, there will undoubtedly be weaknesses in their knowledge and understanding.

If you think there are some major gaps to fill, the summer holidays is a good time to do this. But, take note of my first piece of advice, that they need a holiday, and prioritise that. If there are gaps – address them with a laser focus, rather than a generalised approach to learning.

Click here to download my Lockdown Learning Catch-Up Plan.

You can also find more detail on filling in the gaps in this free chapter of my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. If you've already got a copy, it's Step 8 that you're looking for.

3. Do any prep work for next year

Students starting in the sixth form in September and people moving on to higher-level study at university may well have been set preparation work or given a reading list. They should definitely be aiming to finish this in time for the new term to start.

One of the year 11 students who has been coming to the 9 am accountability call I've been running in The Extraordinaries Club while schools have been closed has been doing a few pages of her chemistry A Level preparation work everyday -she's slowly chipping away at it, and without much else going on in life, it's a great way to give her some structure to her days, as well as feeling that she's accomplishing. (The daily accountability calls will stop on 17th July – I've been running them since 18th March, even before the schools closed as an extra benefit to club members to support them through lockdown. It's now time for me to have a holiday too!)

4. Write your UCAS Personal Statement

Year 13 is tough, and next year it's going to be tougher than ever because of the time off school this year. Therefore, if your child is currently in year 12 and they're planning to apply to university it would be a great idea for them to get their personal statement done and dusted, ready to be approved by their teachers when they get back to school and then sent off straight away.

If you're looking for help with the Personal Statement check out my Personal Statement Masterclass which will walk you through the whole process, getting offers from your child's choices of universities.

5. Take part in The Extraordinaries Club Summer Award

The Extraordinaries Club Summer Award is a new initiative we're running this year to give students a chance to learn news skills and add something to their CV. Think of it like a mini-EPQ.

Here's a bit more detail…

What is The Extraordinaries Club Summer Award?

It's a chance to explore an idea, work with a mentor, present your findings to others and receive written recognition, advice and guidance on your learning.

Who's it for?

Anyone who is a member of the Extraordinaries Club. For younger members, this is a chance to learn independent research skills, older members can refine skills in anticipation of EPQs or IB Extended Essays and those who have recently left Y13 could take this as a chance to focus on an element of undergraduate study. 

Why do The Extraordinaries Club Summer Award?

This is an opportunity to use some of the time over the summer to deepen your understanding of the world around you, and to learn invaluable independent study skills which will help you in your future work, no matter what level you are at. And, with many things cancelled and holidays more limited, you'll have plenty of time to fill, so why not do something interesting with your time?

How does it work? 

Joining the Award will allow you to work through the framework below. 

What interests you? 

Now is the time to answer that question, explore that issue or share your passion. 

  • Identify a question, issue or interest that you want to explore further  
  • Plan your progress
  • Work out how you are going to tackle your topic 
  • Produce your project, research or artifact 
  • Present your findings during our Award evening 
  • Review and reflect – what has this process taught you about your topic and about yourself? 

With regular group mentoring calls to support, guide and advise you through the process, this is an opportunity to work independently and develop essential skills for learning to learn, as well as finding out some fascinating ideas. 

What could I choose? 

You can choose any topic that interests you, but we recommend that you don’t choose something that you’ve already covered in school or for another project – use this as a chance to learn something new. 

Think of it as an investigation – try and identify a question to be answered, or a theory you can test. 

Your idea can involve anything from robotics to biodiversity, from the past to the future, literature, art, design or music. 

What do you get out of it?

At the end, students who complete the award will get both a certificate and detailed feedback on their work. You'll also have an enriching experience learning something new about a topic you're really interested in and developing new skills that will serve you in the future. And, you won't be bored all summer long!

If your family doesn't already belong to The Extraordinaries Club, you're welcome to join to take part in the summer award. Click here to find out more (including dates and times) and sign-up.

Should your child be revising for autumn exams?

It has been announced in the last few weeks that there will be a full series of GCSE and A Level exams this autumn that students can take if they're not satisfied with the teacher awarded grades they receive in August.

Some parents have been asking me if their children should be revising all summer for these.

Unless you and your child are convinced that they'll be taking several subjects in the autumn, I wouldn't advise spending the summer revising. Wait until the results come through – you'll then have 6-8 weeks to really knuckle down knowing that you need to do the work, which is easier than working for something you're not sure is even going to happen.

How are you going to spend the summer holidays?

Has this blog post answered your question, “What should you do in the summer holidays?”

Having read this blog post, how are you going to encourage your child to spend the summer holidays? Are you going to balance some rest with some catch-up work? Is your teen excited to explore something they're interested in through the Summer Award?

Let me know in the comments below.

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