How handwriting is taught in England
Across the UK, different approaches are taken to providing guidelines for teaching. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is used for supporting pre-school and Reception children while the National Curriculum regulates learning for all school-age children in state schools across England, while in Wales the Foundation Phase Framework for Children’s Learning caters for 3 to 7 year olds. Scotland has a different system again in the Curriculum for Excellence which provides a framework for pre-schoolers and its 377,000 primary pupils. In Northern Ireland it is the Northern Ireland Curriculum that caters for its 168,000 primary pupils.
When children first learn to write they typically print the letters and move on to joined up writing as they progress in school. This joined up writing is the continuous cursive style, recognised by its flowing movement as every letter is formed without the pen leaving the page. Depending on the handwriting style being taught, children generally start joining up their writing around the ages of 6-7 years. The basics of joined up writing focuses on learning four types of letter join, and the combination of joining letters varies according to the cursive or continuous cursive handwriting style.
The advantages of continuous cursive handwriting make it the predominant writing style in England, this is because:
- each letter is made using just one movement
- it is easier for children the learn the physical movement
- it increases speed and improves spelling
- it is easier to distinguish between capital letters and lower case
- it makes it harder for children to reverse letters such as b and d, or p and q
In the Early Years Foundation, the teaching of handwriting focuses on children learning a legible and fluent handwriting style through developing gross and fine motor control, pattern recognition, and the main handwriting movements involved in the three basic letter shapes l, c, and r.
No standardised style of handwriting in English schools
For school age children the teaching of handwriting varies. Although all schools must legally follow the National Curriculum, the guidelines on handwriting can be interpreted in their own way and taught in a number of different styles and methods. This means there is no standardised style of handwriting in English schools.
A handwriting policy should be accessible in every school, depicting the school’s chosen handwriting style. The school’s handwriting policy should also include:
- how the school will teach handwriting throughout the school
- how the school’s preferred handwriting style will be shared with parents
- how letters should be formed and how children are encouraged to learn the required movement for each letter
- how teaching styles vary for left- and right-handed children
- how much children are encouraged to develop their own individual writing style
Handwriting is a part of the Literacy programme and attributes core learning skills to each year group of the Key Stage:
- in the Foundation Stage children are taught how to hold a pencil and use it to write recognisable letters
- by Year 1 children should be able to form most letters, distinguish space between words, and be comfortable holding a pencil
- in Year 2 children will be able to write legibly using upper and lower case letters with correct spacing between words and use the four basic handwriting joins
The Primary Framework for Literacy uses the National Curriculum, supporting teachers and parents with specific focus on Literacy. This aims to ensure a consistent educational experience for children in school, with handwriting as a foundation of core Literacy learning.
To help children with their handwriting STABILO has developed a range of EASYergonomics experts. These are specifically designed to aid grip for both left and right handers as well as promoting a relaxed hand posture. View the EASY range here.
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