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Sharp response to lead or ink debate

2B or not 2B?

When the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority asked teachers whether pencils should be banished from the Year 6 tests, it had no idea of the passionate response it would unleash.

The move was prompted because ACCAC, the test regulator in Wales, stipulates that only pens can be used by 11-year-olds.

But English teachers felt that handing over control of what implement children write with was just one government guideline too far.

About 40 per cent of the 145 teachers asked said they would be concerned at children being forced to use pens, nearly three times the 14 per cent who welcomed the move.

Rosemary Bailey, head at 211-pupil St Vigor and St John Church of England school in Chilcompton, near Bath, said: "Our Year 6 teacher said she liked pens because you can write faster with a pen. But the children like pencil, because you can rub it out.

"I think you should not handicap children in a test over which tool they use. I think there should be a choice between pen and pencil."

Head Annalyn Davies, of Ysgol Llanfihangel ar Arth, near Carmarthen, said:

"I introduce fountain pens in Years 4, 5 and 6 and suggest they use them in school, and certainly use them for the tests.

"I think it leads to better handwriting, it gives better control. Children do use ballpoints, but I provide fountain pens for them and I suggest they have their own as well to do homework with.

"A pencil is easier to rub out, but you need to get children out of that tendency. Then they will take more care with their work."

A QCA spokesman. said: "The use of pen is compulsory in the Welsh national tests. As part of its evaluation project, the QCA asked teachers whether they felt that, by age 11, children should be working in pen.

"The QCA has no plans to implement this change and no current plans to require children to use a pen in the national curriculum tests sat in England."

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