January is always a time for reflection and looking back it struck me that I’ve spent a lot of time talking about THAT national handwriting statistic. I’m sure you’re familiar with it – it’s the one former Education Minister Nicky Morgan used, claiming one pupil in three is struggling to master handwriting in primary schools across the UK. At the time, if memory serves me well, she was heavily criticised for getting it wrong. Now, finally, I agree with those critics also – that statistic IS wrong.
The figure is way too low.
Yes, you read that correctly. Having conducted over 3,000 handwriting assessments in the last 12 months, I can say for certain that only a handful of children are meeting the Standard & Testing Agency’s expected outcomes for KS1 (Years 1-3) and KS2 (Years 4-6) for handwriting right now. Partly that’s because teachers are in the dark about what the standards actually look like (more about that in the next blog) but in the main, according to the teachers I’ve spoken to, it’s because traditionally, teaching handwriting has been as challenging for teachers as learning handwriting has been for pupils.
This is why we at Start-Bee have created a handwriting scheme for schools specifically aimed at teaching classroom beginners how to write as well as fast-tracking those lagging behind. Judging by the standards of handwriting in schools today, our handwriting scheme has arrived at just the right time.
Before launching the handwriting scheme at last year’s Education Show, if you remember, we refined the final product with primary schools like Down Hall Primary in Rayleigh, Essex. Our trials were made possible thanks to sponsorship from stationery manufacturer BIC® UK. And I’m delighted to say that this year four more schools will be using Start-Bee’s handwriting scheme thanks to BIC UK sponsorship. I’ll be introducing you to them over the next coming weeks but for now all I’ll reveal is that one of the schools will be using Start-Bee to teach pre-schoolers handwriting whilst the others will be joining Down Hall in getting their Year 1’s joining up.
Down Hall will be appearing with us again at the NEC’s Educations Show (16th-18th March) and will be discussing the progress the children have made (last year’s EYFS and Year 1’s) over the last year. It’s not just their handwriting that’s improved.
Now, if you’re not familiar with Down Hall’s story let me bring you up to speed. Like most schools, Down Hall Primary was using an off-the-shelf handwriting scheme as part of the school’s handwriting policy. The problem was the scheme wasn’t all-encompassing and with basic elements missing (like pencil grip, handwriting posture and the importance of starting each letter in the correct place), teachers, who were less experienced in teaching the subject, struggled to use it. Down Hall turned to Start-Bee for help with handwriting after the school had been marked as ‘Requires Improvement’ by Ofsted for inconsistencies in the school’s teaching of writing and handwriting (including presentation). Thanks to BIC’s sponsorship, Down Hall began teaching handwriting using Start-Bee’s handwriting scheme. You can watch their story so far.
When Ofsted returned in May 2016, the school had been using Start-Bee’s handwriting scheme for only three months, yet the schools’ inspectorate saw dramatic improvements, noting that the children in EYFS and Years 1 and 2 were now exceeding expectations in handwriting. As a result, along with other improvements, the school’s grade was lifted to ‘good’. However, the school has seen other benefits which have been directly linked to handwriting improvements: increased engagement in lessons, increased confidence and better behaviour in class.
Down Hall was told by Ofsted that they were now exceeding expectations in those years where they continue to deliver Start-Bee’s handwriting scheme for primary schools ie EYFS and KS1 (Reception, Years 1 and Year 2). Here’s why:
After only six months of using Start-Bee, out of 41, Year 2 pupils:
- the majority of pupils (63% of Year 2’s in this case) have improved their handwriting
- in some cases, the progress has been dramatic – with 11, Year 2’s (26%) writing to the standard of KS1 (denoted by a 4)
- one child is writing to the expected standard of KS2
After only two terms of learning to write using Start-Bee, of the Year 1 pupils, out of a class of 30:
- the majority of pupils (66%) are very nearly meeting the expected standard for KS1
- 12 pupils (40%) are handwriting to the expected standard for KS1
The expectation is that all of the Year 1 pupils will be writing in a joined up, legible and effortless script by the end of July 2017.
If you’d like handwriting results like Down Hall’s and want to know more then come and talk to me and Down Hall’s English Subject Leader, Bec Wakefield, at the Education Show 16-18th March, 2017. We’ll be on BIC’s stand # H20 (opposite the main entrance). To tempt you further, I hear BIC® UK has organised some unmissable show offerings with the BIC® KIDs handwriting range, which includes graphite pencils, mechanical pencils and ballpoint pens, available at a special show discount. Plus Start-Bee will be offering a 10% discount off Handwriting Match Fit Assessments and 20% off the first year’s licence fee for Start-Bee’s handwriting scheme.
Happy New Year to you (I think I can still say that) – wishing you a successful 2017 and I’ll see you at the Education Show!