Written off

14th October 2011 at 01:00
How handwriting is disappearing from the classroom

Andrew Beswick is an unlikely revolutionary. His hair, receding slightly, is neatly combed. He wears a knitted jumper over a lilac shirt. His smile is amiable, his eyes twinkling. He looks, in fact, exactly what he is: a kindly primary school teacher.

But the Year 6 teacher is fomenting what may be one of the most significant revolutions of the modern age. Quietly but firmly, he is pushing his own school - and, potentially, all primary schools - into a brave new classroom world: a world in which there is no place for handwriting.

"The world is changing very, very quickly," is the message Mr Beswick repeatedly gives staffroom colleagues at Greave Primary in Stockport. "Less and less, I'm thinking that you need to teach children to write by hand beautifully. More and more, they need to master the keyboard and the skills they will need there."

His staffroom sermon, he says, is invariably met either with stony silence or heated debate. But he continues undeterred: "The skills we needed to master 10, 15 years ago - those are so not the skills you need to master for the next 10 to 15 years. Even in a primary school, you need to think about what's going to happen when children meet the big, wide world."

Mr Beswick may be a classroom revolutionary, but he is no maverick. Rather, he is at the forefront of a broad, far-reaching change. Earlier this year, education officials in Indiana announced that theirs would be the latest US state to adopt the Common Core State Standards: curriculum guidelines intended to guarantee educational consistency across the country. Under these standards, pupils must learn skills deemed crucial to their 21st-century success. Keyboard proficiency is one of those skills; handwriting is not.

You can read the full article in the October 14 issue of TES.

Original headline: Not so mighty any more

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