Increasing numbers of schools are staying open year-round by running summer camps during the holidays. Offering activities from film-making to intensive sport training, and everything in between, these camps are a great opportunity for children to get to know a school before term starts.
In the past, schools would close down completely over the summer, with just a skeleton staff keeping things ticking over. But as financial pressures on schools increase, and with more families where both parents are in paid work, there is a demand for summer activities and classes to keep children busy and active and make sure schools’ excellent facilities aren’t lying unused during the long holiday.
Freed from the confines of the academic routine, and usually with a bit of warm, sunny weather to boot, summer camps offer schools the chance to come alive in completely different ways. In a much more informal atmosphere, different age groups mix, learning and collaborating while having plenty of fun.
Two years ago, Rome International School moved to a purpose-built campus set in natural parkland but still close to the ancient city. There, the summer programme caters for children from nursery age up to the age of 14. “While toddlers can enjoy play-based activities, older children can take part in outdoor cooking clubs, improve their writing and research skills through the use of technology, learning how to become responsible digital citizens,” says RI’s Tania Gobena. “For older students, there are a variety of music, drama, art and other courses. One of the most popular is our 'Weird Science' activity, which involves working on fun and engaging investigations ranging from solving and making a report on a crime scene, to creating simple fireworks, inventing parachutes that keep an egg safe from cracking and designing chemical-powered cars!”
Schools are also able to exploit their location and local connections to expose children to some of the most interesting, exciting parts of the local community during their summer programmes. “Thanks to our location in one of the most beautiful historic and culturally rich cities in the world, most of our activities include a trip or visit in the Rome area,” says Tania. “We want to take students beyond the usual tourist circuit, to look at the unusual, the bizarre or the challenging. This can include contemporary art and design or a different take on history.”
Similarly, at the residential camps run by Carlsbad International School in the Czech Republic, students are taken on weekend excursions to fascinating cities like Dresden or Prague. The school makes the most of the International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary, running a film-making camp during the same week, and have Czech Fed Cup team captain Petr Pala overseeing their tennis camp.
"...a fantastic way to introduce your children to their new school..."
Whether they’re day camps or residential ones like those at Carlsbad International School, summer activities can be a fantastic way to introduce your children to their new school if you arrive in advance of the autumn term. The activities offered by Sotogrande International School in Cadiz, Spain, are run in English and Spanish, with intensive language classes available alongside professional sports coaching in things like sailing, kite surfing, golf, paddle boarding, tennis and music.
“Joining one of our Summer Camps is a great way for new students to become accustomed to the school in a relaxed way and prepare for the start of term, meeting new friends and practising their language skills,” says Sotogrande’s Sophie Tilley. “We provide a wide range of opportunities through interesting and educational activities for children and young people to have fun, socialise and learn something new, in a safe, bilingual environment, and our camps are open to families from all over the world. It’s the perfect introduction to an international school.”
The ethos and approach of the school also shine through during summer activities. “As well as making friendships and strengthening their skills in an international environment, we are the only school in Rome that offers both the IB Primary Years Programme and the IB Diploma Programme,” explains Tania. “We provide children with activities that are academically challenging, individually rewarding and that promote their personal development, in line with the IB approach.”
“If you’re expecting a few tennis lessons with an exhausted PE teacher,” says Nathalie Boyce whose children attended a summer camp in the European city they’d just moved to last year, “then think again. Schools bring in highly trained staff who are specialists in their fields. Their enthusiasm is infectious and, though my children were shy at first, they loved their week at the summer camp. Before they started school in the autumn, they’d had a chance to familiarise themselves with the campus in a fun environment. It really took the pressure off the ‘big day’ when they put on their uniforms and went to lessons for the first time. And because the camps are open to everyone, the children even made a few local friends who don’t attend the international school. It made our new location start to feel like ‘home’ straight away.”