Background to the Programmes

Throughout the school year teachers, students and their families work together to support students learning and achievement. The gains made are widely celebrated at end of year assemblies across New Zealand; however it is what happens to some of these gains over the summer holidays that is a source of concern for many educators.

While there is a large body of international research on ‘Summer Learning Effect’, also known as Summer Learning Loss, Summer Reading Loss, Summer Slide or Summer Slump, the names given to the phenomenon where students’ achievement drops over summer, until recently very little New Zealand-based research had been undertaken.     

The New Zealand research, which became the springboard for this website, began in 2010 as part of a PhD doctoral thesis by Louise Turner, then the Associate Principal of Flat Bush School in South Auckland. The initial pilot study involved Year 3 students from one decile 1 South Auckland school and investigated whether providing students with 15 self selected books matched to their reading and interest levels over the summer holidays would reduce summer learning loss in reading achievement. In addition to receiving the books a home liaison person visited each home three times over the holidays to talk with the student and family about the programme and offer support where needed. Analysis of assessment data indicated that on average students gained in reading achievement over summer.

As a result of these initial positive findings refinements were made to the 2010 programme and the number of schools involved increased. Over the following five summers the programme has continued to be modified based on data analysis, discussions with home liaison visitors, feedback from schools and parents, and current research findings. Consistent results have occurred over the years and indicate that providing students with appropriately levelled books and support with comprehension strategies promotes gains in reading achievement over summer. The greatest gains appear to have been made by students in the ‘below’ and ‘well below’ groups. These results support international research findings, especially the work of Assoc. Prof. James Kim (Harvard Graduate School of Education).

Since 2015 the programme has not been primarily focused on research and as such there has been greater flexibility in its implementation and can be adjusted to meet schools' needs as required.

Schools participating in 2020/21 are Bairds Mainfreight, Dawson, Finalayson Park, Flat Bush, Koru, Mangere Central, Manurewa South, Papatoetoe South, Riverina, Rongomai, St Johns, Southern Cross, Kingford and Randwick Park in Auckland, and Hora Hora, Manaia View, Otangarei, Totara Grove and Whau Valley in Whangarei.

These programmes have been funded by the MSA Charitable Trust.