Pupils’ handwriting can make the difference between Ofsted awarding schools ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ yet, according to Government figures, one child in three is leaving primary school unable to write to the expected standard. Start-Bee and school teachers, Assistant Head Mrs Davinder Khangura and Early Years teacher and English Subject Leader Miss Bec Wakefield, share their experiences of teaching handwriting the right way.
Leys Primary & Nursery School is a large primary school in Stevenage, Hertfordshire teaching 514 pupils from ages 3 to 11. Recently rated Good by Ofsted the school’s ambition is to achieve the all-important ‘Outstanding’ rating and part of the strategy to do that is improving the pupil attainment in handwriting. Having identified handwriting as an area the school wanted to develop, Assistant Head teacher Davinder Khangura turned to local business and handwriting specialists Start-Bee for help.
A recent assessment of the handwriting capability of the school’s Year 1’s by Start-Bee revealed that some children were struggling to write to the expected standard and it is Mrs Khangura’s ambition to turn the children’s handwriting ability from zero to ten. To meet that aim, together the school and Start-Bee have working on trialing Start-Bee’s handwriting scheme for schools. Sponsored by BIC, the 10-week trial will ensure that Year 1 pupils master handwriting to the required Ofsted standard (correctly forming lower-case letters and capitals as well as digits nought to nine) and that the scheme works seamlessly and effectively within a school’s existing environment before it is launched at the Birmingham NEC’s Education Show In March.
Mrs Khanghura says, “Handwriting expectations from children have increased dramatically in 2015: by the end of Year 6, the Government expects every child to have joined up handwriting. However, due to the pressure of increased expectations, there are few training courses or resources available for teachers like me to teach pupils how to write neatly; we just don’t have the skills.”
Start-Bee’s handwriting scheme for schools is specifically aimed at teaching classroom beginners how to write, as well as fast-tracking those lagging behind. Developed primarily for primary school pupils, the Basics Bootcamp handwriting intervention programme can teach any pupil, who is struggling with handwriting, how to correct old habits and write legibly, fluently and with ease. Best of all every Start-Bee lesson can be run within the existing curriculum and classroom constraints by any teacher or LSA without having been trained how to use it or skilled in teaching handwriting. It is truly a ‘plug and play’ approach that works.
“Thanks to BiC sponsorship, our Start-Bee trial began for KS1 on the 4th January and we have been running the lessons twice a week for eight weeks (as of w/c 29th February). The children love it and very quickly, within three weeks, showed improvement, holding a pencil correctly (helped by the BiC® Kids Handwriting Graphite pencils) and sitting correctly. Start-Bee’s systematic approach, combining video lessons with practical exercises, is what makes it so effective. As a result, the profile of handwriting in our school has increased in keystage assessments.” Says Mrs Khangura.
Miss Bec Wakefield Early Years Teacher and English subject leader at Down Hall Primary school says, “Like The Leys, our schools in Rayleigh, Essex teaches 292 pupils from ages 4 to 11. Even in a digital age of iPads, whilst children have to handwrite their SATs tests it’s so important for every child to master a clear, fluid, legible style of handwriting if their work is to be graded. Some teachers don’t fully appreciate the importance of handwriting and from personal experience newly qualified teachers are coming into school without knowing how to teach handwriting. It would appear that the subject is being overlooked during teacher training. In my experience, if you haven’t been taught how to teach handwriting how can I expect these new teachers to deliver a lesson appropriately and effectively?
The school has experienced at first hand the greater emphasis Ofsted is now placing on the quality and presentation of handwriting in school. In 2013 our school was inspected by Ofsted during which the schools’ inspectorate specifically highlighted inconsistencies in the school’s teaching of handwriting, requesting that the school adopt a more consistent approach to teaching the subject so that every child would have an opportunity to develop their handwriting further. In response we have already taken several successful measures to address this: handwriting is timetabled three times a week, the school’s handwriting policy has been rewritten and the expectations for each year group clearly outlined.
Problem is, apart from one piece of evidence from the local education authority showing a clear and fluid style and the type of handwriting expected from Year 6, the school has had no direction as to the standard required for each year group.
I came across Start-Bee when a Year 3/4 Pupils, Seren Davy, won the Silver Prize in the BIC Handwriting Olympiad 2015 – a Nationwide competition which asked children from all over the UK to write in to say why they loved being able to write. A Start-Bee Handwriting Match Fit Assessmentä session for the school’s 90, Year 3’s and Year 4’s was provided as part of the prize. In the process, Start-Bee offered Down Hall the opportunity of running a trial of one of Start-Bee’s handwriting programmes with the Year 3’s and Year 4’s group of pupils.
Needless to say We were delighted to be running the Start-Bee handwriting programme trial in our school as it could only further improve standards of writing across Year 1 and 2 year groups. The company’s Handwriting Match Fit AssessmentTM had already helped us develop a child, class and year group specific handwriting strategy, which is exactly what Ofsted want to see. Finally, we could now see what needed to be addressed and have visual references of the standards we needed to be achieving.
Thanks to BiC sponsorship, our Start-Bee trial began for KS1 on the 21st January and, for Early Years on, 1st February for Early Years and we have been running the lessons, three times a week for six and four weeks respectively (as of w/c 29th February). The children love it and so do the teachers as it’s very easy to use and very simple to follow the onscreen instructions. The systematic approach develops a child’s handwriting/fine motor skills whilst making it a fun session for the children; as a result, right now, where we have seen the most improvement so far is in handwriting posture and improved pencil grip. That said, in just a relatively short period of time, improvement with Start-Bee has been rapid. You can learn more from the schools themselves by watching this video.
You can find out more about Start-Bee by emailing Melanie Harwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.