Most schools in fictionland and in real life have some kind of a break at the end of the academic school year. When it is and how long it is depends on where the work is set. This isn't just one or two weeks, but one or two months. note It's called an off-term, also known as summer vacation. However, just because the school year has ended does not mean that our character will be done with school. Sometimes, they may be forced to take summer school.
The reasons behind it vary — maybe they were so sick they fell behind, transferred too late, cut too much, or are just plain Book Dumb. Summer school is almost always dreaded in fiction — usually it's a specter looming over underachieving students that if they don't get their grades up, they'll have to go to summer school. Or if they are in summer school, it's often a sign that this character sucks, or is suffering. It's almost never portrayed positively, especially if the character's friends are enjoying their vacations. Oftentimes, the classes are taught by someone who doesn't care, or is just review.
Part of the reason for this trope is the stigma attached to it in the Americas — people who attend summer classes are often seen as stupid and/or troublemakers, thus highly Acceptable Targets. It's often seen as a last chance to avoid being Held Back in School. However, this stigma vanishes at the college or university level. A student taking summer classes might be seen as more devoted or hardworking. In Masters or Graduate programs, it may actually be required.
But sometimes, it may just be a form of a summer program that takes place at the school, and extracurricular activities may sometimes have a "camp" held over holidays or off-term.
Compare and contrast Cram School — which appears far more in Asian settings and typically lacks the association with subpar students. And Detention Episode where a character faces detention within a school year.
- Doki Doki School Hours: Zig-zagged. Most of the students agree that they'd rather not take summer classes, but two of them fail on purpose to do just that. Kudo deliberately fails because he banks on Suitake, the guy he's crushing on, to be stupid enough to need the summer classes, and he can be with him. It doesn't work out for him, as Suitake actually studied hard, and passed his exams. On the other hand, ace student Kitagawa deliberately failed because she's infatuated with their teacher, Mika-sensei, and figures this will allow her to spend the whole summer with her, to Mika-sensei's horror.
- My-HiME: In the series finale, Natsuki is talking to her informant, Sakomizu-sensei. She tells him that with everything done and over with, she's going on a journey to find herself. Sakomizu tells her he has something important he has to tell her as her teacher; she has far too many unexcused absences and if she doesn't take extra classes, she'll have to repeat the year. She fidgets and tries to ask if he can't pull some strings, but he clearly delights in telling her that nothing can be done, and it's no time for her to be going anywhere.
- School Rumble: Zig-zagged. Harima is not happy to see that he has received all turtles on his report card, as it means tht he will have to attend summer classes. But then his Love Interest Tenma reveals that she got all turtles too, so she will be right there with him. Harima's response is an elated "THANK GOD I WAS BORN STUPID!"
- Subverted in an Archie Comics storyline; with Riverdale High being painted, Principal Weatherbee decides to hold summer school at the beach. A day later, Archie points out that usually they spend their school days looking forward to the weekend, with this setup it's reversed!
- The Simpsons: One early storyline has Bart forced to go summer school, much to both his horror and Mrs. Krabbapel's, for the same reason; having to be near the other.
- A Goofy Movie: Principal Mazur, the head of Max's school, demonstrates he's a hardcore Dean Bitterman from the get-go by offering his students ideas on how to spend summer that are Summer School in all but name.
Principal Mazur: How about... science slumber parties?
- Big Fat Liar's first act involves the protagonist being sent to summer school because he fell behind, and needed to produce a story for his English class. When it goes missing (because a sleazy film producer stole his paper, It Makes Sense in Context) he is sent to summer school.
- In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one student mentions that Ferris is getting him out of summer school.
- In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Phoebe goes to summer school in order to avoid helping her mom fix up their grandfather's house, but calls summer school itself "a state sponsored work camp for delinquents". The classes themselves are mostly attended by apathetic students (except for Podcast), so much so that Mr. Grooberson, instead of teaching, just makes the kids sit and watch horror movies. He's genuinely surprised that Phoebe understands anything about his own scientific work.
- In Grease, some of the T-Birds are inclined to throw a pie at the coach (in a carnival game) for telling them they can make up their failing PE grade in summer school. Word of God says this was a Sequel Hook for a second movie about the gang in summer school but Paramount weren't interested in making it.
- This is the entire premise behind the movie Summer School, although summer school doesn't suck for the students quite as much as it does for their teacher, who is forced to cancel his vacation plans at the last minute in order to fill in for the sick teacher who was supposed to run the course.
- WarGames: David demonstrates his hacking skills to his classmate Jennifer by hacking into the high school computer system and amending their grades so that they don't have to go to summer school.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid mentions that the school Greg attends does summer school. It is rumoured that the air-conditioning is shut off, and that one of the teachers is actually the janitor.
- The threat of summer school is held over Junior's head in My Wife and Kids when he has poor performance in math. When taking the final, the teacher says that if they fail they will have a chance to make it up — Beat — this SUMMER.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In "Tutors", Ned discovers that his marks aren't on track for him to pass Science, landing him in Summer School, unless he aces the final exam. As such, he spends the episode trying to find a tutor to prepare him. After several failures, the science teacher Mr. Sweeney volunteers to tutor him himself, simply cause in his words "summer is no time for school."
- Stargirl's second season was subtitled Summer School. After being busy with hero-ing and fighting against the Injustice Society in the previous season, Courtney has to attend summer school after failing two classes. Each episode is syntaxed as "Summer School: Chapter [episode number]".
- The Suite Life of Zack & Cody has Zack failing his English class and couldn't graduate middle school. Even the mention of "summer school" makes him stutter unless someone finishes the phrase for him. After confessing that he faked his graduation, he's forced to attend summer school (the alternative would have been military school) and, much to his derision, it's found out that he's the smartest kid in that batch and his classmates bully him for that. After getting fed up with this, Zack devises a plan to help both himself and his classmates pass the class by using his and Cody's hotel room as a tutoring place.
- Kevin & Kell: In one early story arc, Rudy flunks his final exam and is forced to attend summer school. He's not very happy to learn that the material is mainly geared towards his fellow students (all bears), but he's able to pass when Lindesfarne passes herself off as the prey he caught (as payback for rescuing her from cougars).
- In the Bowser Junior's Summer School series, Bowser Junior fails kindergarten and has to do summer school. He's not happy about this since he hates school and his summer school teacher Jackie Chu gives everyone difficult homework.
- "Jeffy's Summer School" has Jeffy get all Fs in second grade and he has to do summer school, meaning he can't go on vacation with Mario and Rosalina. After Jackie Chu drops off the summer school materials at the house (because he's going on vacation), Jeffy has Drawing Jeffy do his work with Mario while Junior and Cody sneak into the school and change Jeffy's grades so he doesn't have to do summer school anymore.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In "Hypno Birthday to You", Jimmy has to wait until the end of summer for his birthday so he can get a modern chemistry set from his parents. When he tells Carl and Sheen that he wishes he could invent something to chew up three months of his life, Sheen tells him "Summer school, trust me." At the end of the episode, when Mr. Giggles the clown charges Jimmy's parents $1,695.00 for his services for the many birthday parties they threw (thanks to Jimmy hypnotizing them), Jimmy is forced to scrub floors at summer school.
Jimmy: No one with a genius IQ should have to scrub floors to pay off a clown! How long does this go on for?
Sheen: Forever, trust me.
- Arthur in one episode has to take home an envelope from Mr. Ratburn to give to his mother. While wondering what it is, Francine tells Arthur he has to go to summer school. This prompts an Imagine Spot in which Arthur is essentially locked inside the school.
- Bob's Burgers: In "Synchronized Swimming", the Belcher kids make up a fake synchronized swimming class to blow off gym class, but are told by Mr. Frond that if they don't hold a demonstration to prove they're taking the class, they'll be sent to summer school. Gene does a Skyward Scream... because he doesn't know what he'll wear to it. Later, the kids complain about the prospect of taking summer school.
Louise: What's next? Summer church? Summer dentist?
Gene: Summer trip to grandma?
Tina: Summer camp? Wait, I'd go there.
- Craig of the Creek: In "Capture the Flag Part 1: The Candy", Kit gets a bad report card and has nothing to show to her grandma to get goods for the Trading Tree. Craig tells her grandma not to send her to summer school, but she hadn't even thought of it and does so immediately. Kit's absence leads not only to a famine, but King Xavier taking advantage of it to conquer their side of the Creek — and it's revealed the next episode that he sabotaged Kit's report card to do it, meaning she got sent to summer school for nothing. Come "Beyond the Overpass", Kit resents Craig for inadvertently making her miss out on the summer, and she hires Raj & Shawn as her new suppliers to ensure it never happens again.
- In F is for Family's third season, Kevin flunks out of math and has to go to summer school, much to his contention since he hates school. His summer school teacher Mr. Durkin is a Jerkass to all of the students and humiliates Kevin for not being able to solve a simple algebra problem. Kevin gets back at him by accusing him of not actually caring about his students and only being in it for the money, as well as calling him "Mr. Jerkin".