According to a survey by the Institute of Education, handwriting practice across and inside schools is inconsistent. A quarter of schools had no policy on teaching handwriting at the time of the survey, and over half of the teachers questioned felt that they had not received sufficient training in the teaching of handwriting.
“Unless children learn to write legibly and at speed their educational achievements may be reduced and their self-esteem affected,” commented Professor Rhona Stainthorp, one of the researchers who carried out the survey. “Handwriting is an essential skill for everyone, even in this age of computer technology.”
Why is handwriting so important?
Being able to write legibly, fluently and quickly is essential in order to cope with tasks such as essay writing and note taking. And speed handwriting is important, too. It allows the child to concentrate on thinking through their ideas and arguments rather than on the effort to write.
At the start of a recent academic year, five per cent of 11 year olds in England moved on to secondary school with below average literacy skills – that means that almost 30,000 children would find it difficult to keep up with the demands of language learning, of which writing plays a key part.
The impact is long term, too. Figures show that of the pupils who reached level 4 or above in English at Key Stage 2 in 2001, nearly 70 per cent went on to get five good A*-C grades at GCSE, compared with only 11 per cent of those who didn’t reach level 4.
The Institute of Education says that poor handwriting impacts a child’s chances in further and higher education and may be just as much a handicap in the jobs market as poor reading and numeracy skills.
How can you help your child with handwriting?
There are lots of ways you can support your child's handwriting at home. Here are a few tips...
- Provide your child with a special handwriting book and pen. The book should be lined and kept neat at all times. The pen or pencil should only be used for handwriting practise, so it stays novel and exciting for your child.
- Encourage your child to write letters. Whether it's to a friend, family member or neighbour, keeping the art of letter-writing alive is a lovely way to help your child practise their handwriting skills.
- Give plenty of encouragement. Not every child will find handwriting an easy task to grasp, so it's important to offer plenty of support and be very patient. Try to identify areas or 'joins' that your child has difficulties with, and provide plenty of practise activities.
- Do imaginary handwriting activities where your child's finger becomes the pen and they trace the words in the air. You could extend this to a tray of sand or a steamed up window. It will make the task a lot more fun!
- Remember to think about posture – how your child sits when they write and where they position the paper on the table. Think straight backs, slightly slanted paper, and feet flat on the floor. No rocking back on the chair!
- If your child has difficulties gripping the pen, try a special easy-grip one. You can buy these in stationery stores.
Choose from lots of different handwriting worksheets, available to download and print out now, and read our handwriting practice guidance to help your child get the most from the practical activities you do at home.