Everyone has an opinion on handwriting.
It’s a divisive issue that can take up whole staff meetings and Inset sessions, and often commands its own official policy in school.
Speaking to a colleague recently, we got on to the subject of teachers’ handwriting. While we agreed that it is essential for teachers to lead by example and write neatly and legibly in learners’ books, we disagreed on whether that should be in a certain style.
She felt that all staff should use the school handwriting policy. She pointed out that I do this – which is true. But that is how I prefer to write at work; it does not mean everyone should do it.
I recently worked with a fantastic colleague who wrote neatly and legibly in students’ books but who did not, at any time, use the school’s cursive style.
I didn’t feel this mattered as the children could read the comments. It just happened to be that person’s style.
We should be making handwriting a priority with our children. My personal belief is that handwriting is an art form and something that should be enjoyed.
But how important is it, really, for that handwriting to be cursive? Is a child producing better work just because their letters join together?
I decided to run a Twitter poll to gain just a snapshot of what other educators think. It ran for only 48 hours and gained a modest 133 votes, but the result was overwhelming.
I asked if it is important for handwriting in schools to be cursive: 16 per cent said yes, 9 per cent said learners should be able to choose whether to join or not, and 75 per cent said it was more important for writing to “just be neat and legible”.
A flexible approach
It would appear they are in agreement, then, with the assessment framework for Year 6, which requires children to write “legibly, and at speed”. A cursive style is not mentioned.
Cursive writing has long been linked to economy of effort and therefore greater output. But my experience, and it would seem, the experience of many other teachers, is that this is not the case for all children.
There is also the argument that cursive script tampers with learners’ ability to read and decode texts produced in other fonts. As a former Year 6 teacher, I always strived to expose my class to as many different types of text as possible - mainly in preparation for the infamous reading test booklet, but also because I believe a more rounded reader is produced from picking up and perusing leaflets, online texts, reference books, newspapers, archaic texts, playscripts – the list goes on.
It is important to take pride in our work and in the writing that we produce. Writing is in many ways becoming a lost art, with texts and emails often replacing pen pal letters.
But perhaps in our quest for perfection, for that approval following the book scrutiny, we have lost the ability to allow children to express themselves, find their personal style, and work around any fine motor issues to become confident, legible writers.