National Schools’ Handwriting Competition 2017

Class A Winner, age 5

Class A Winner, Age 5

At the recent All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education meeting, a number of us who did not have close links with teacher training were shocked to hear that over the three or four years of teacher training, a number of students received just two hours of art, craft and design teaching – often only a lecture and not in any way practical – and most not much more than that.

 

 

Class B Winner, age 7

Class B Winner, age 7

 

 

 

 

 

Class C Winner, age 9

Class C Winner, age 9

Class D winner, age 11

Class D winner, age 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 and under

4 and under

That teachers were then expected to put across such subjects with confidence and enthusiasm with so little help and support is truly staggering. One secondary teacher asked her class how much art they had done in primary school and was told ‘none, because my teacher didn’t like it’.

 

 

 

Age 5

Age 5

This is desperately sad but not a surprise. How unfair for all children who should be experiencing creativity, and the joy of making. These practical creative subjects also, of course, develop hand-eye co-ordination and so much more.

 

 

 

 

Age 6

Age 6

In light of this, I was speaking to some young teachers recently and asked them how much training they had received in teaching handwriting. Their response was even more shocking – none! Detailed training is given in English, Maths and Science, but absolutely none in how to record those subjects – handwriting!

 

 

 

Age 7

Age 7

There are explicit curriculum requirements at Key Stages on what children should be achieving (http://www.teachhandwriting.co.uk/national-curriculum-england.html) but it seems that there is no guidance for teachers in how to teach this to children.

 

 

 

Age 8

Age 8

As one young teacher put it: ‘It’s like putting a maths sum on the board and expecting children to be able to work it out themselves without understanding numbers and their relationship to one another’.

 

 

 

 

Age 9

Age 9

In further conversation I was told that in one school, when they teach handwriting they are told to pass on to children that all letters start on the base guideline so that they can be joined.

 

 

 

 

Age 10

Age 10

So centuries of constructing letter-forms have been thrown out of the window because the head teacher does not understand letter construction, and a whole generation of children will have real problems making their letters legible when they start to join and speed up.

 

 

 

letter mI noticed this recently with a five year-old’s writing, who had started school last September. The letter m had no downstroke, and the letter d went all around the houses to get back to where it should end. The teacher had not corrected
this.

 

 

 

letter dWhat a disservice we are doing to our children, who will have either to work out for themselves how to construct letters properly, or will lose marks in exams and tests because their letter-forms are so poor that when they speed up they will lose legibility.

 

 

 

 

 

Age 11

Age 11

Fortunately many of those who are winners and finalists in the National Schools’ Handwriting Competition will have far fewer problems because their good letter formation and handwriting skills already put them on the front foot.

 

 

 

Age 12

Age 12

The standard of the four year-olds this year was particularly impressive, and this continued with the five and six year-olds. For the first time the challenges of choosing a winner and finalists from vast numbers of excellent entries from those in years seven, eight and nine did not arise, but all finalists here were of a very high standard.

 

 

Age 13

Age 13

Points to bear in mind for next year are that paper can be used either way, portrait or landscape. Some poems sit better on the page when landscape, particularly in the own choice class. It would also be helpful if teachers were able to emphasise ‘by doing’ the importance of writing carefully and well, as almost all do. However, the entries on paper torn (and not always carefully) from a pad with a serrated edge did not really send out this message to the children who had to write on that paper. There were three prize-winners whose entries were on a lovely card-weight paper, but there was no post code on the back, so they could not be considered. Someone in ‘Admin’ was also a winning entry, an adult, but with no post code, so could not be considered. Some schools print ‘Name’ (with a gap to be filled in), age (to be filled in) and also the school’s post code on the back of the paper used which then avoids this problem. And I sometimes struggled to work out the children’s names on the back when the teacher had written it!

Staff

Staff

But overall the standard is still high and it is to be hoped that those schools that are not serving our children well look at these entries and see what can be achieved by the finalists in these various age groups.

 

Patricia Lovett MBE

April 2017

Schools’ Handwriting Competition 2016

Class A winner

Class A winner

Is handwriting still important and should it be taught in schools? Isn’t it better to teach keyboard skills instead?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four year-olds. In each instance, the winner is on top, the runner-up on the left and the third place on the right.

Four year-olds. In each instance, the winner is on top, the runner-up on the left and the third place on the right.

As Chief Judge of the Schools’ Handwriting Competition, I am often asked these questions. Of course children should be taught keyboarding skills (as I type this I wish I had been!), but that should not be to the exclusion of handwriting being taught properly and well. We now have evidence for the importance of handwriting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five year-olds

Five year-olds

The Handwriting in the 21st Century summit was held four years ago in the US with very interesting findings 

Six year-olds

Six year-olds

 

 

 

 

Research revealed that handwriting influences reading, creative writing, language and critical thinking, yet 25–33% of US students are struggling to achieve competence in handwriting.

 

 

 

 

Class B winner

Class B winner

Here are three quotations from the report:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven year-olds

Seven year-olds

When students do not adequately develop handwriting skills, the negative implications can be lifelong. Without consistent exposure to handwriting, research indicates that students can experience difficulty in certain processes required for success in reading and writing, including:

  • retrieving letters from memory
  • reproducing letters on paper
  • spelling accurately
  • extracting meaning from text or lecture
  • interpreting the context of words and phrases

 

 

Eight year-olds

Eight year-olds

[Doubt about the value of handwriting instruction] is similar to what happened with math as calculators and computers came into vogue… people wondered whether students needed to learn how to do math. The answer in both cases is absolutely “yes.” Writing is not obsolete.

Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators

 

 

 

 

Class C winner

Class C winner

Illegible handwriting is a problem for a large number of children…it can affect [children] not only personally (their self-esteem), but also academically, and their careers in the future. So, it’s got a very long trajectory.

Dr. Gerry Conti, assistant professor of occupational therapy at Wayne State University

 

 

 

 

Nine year-olds

Nine year-olds

In the US many states do not teach handwriting beyond Grade 1 (age 7), yet in doing so, they are seriously affecting the future academic achievement of their young people as was underlined in this research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten year-olds

Ten year-olds

As a craftsperson, I know how important using our hands is to memory and how repetition can lead to perfection. But it is the influence on our cognitive functions where handwriting also scores. Students who hand-wrote wrote more words, wrote words faster and expressed more ideas than those who used a keyboard.

 

 

 

 

 

Class D winner

Class D winner

Teaching good handwriting should not be an option, as it is in US states, Finland and a few other countries, as it has such an important effect on so much more than just committing words to paper. And it is worth helping and encouraging children who struggle with writing to make progress as handwriting has far reaching effects.

 

 

 

 

 

Eleven year-olds

Eleven year-olds

All the finalists in the Schools’ Handwriting Competition are to be commended for the excellence of their writing, and, with almost 10,000 entries, all those finalists have done extraordinarily well.

 

 

 

Twelve year-olds

Twelve year-olds

The judges look for good handwriting, not calligraphy, nor specially fancy styles with distorted forms and lots of curls on the letters, but the sort of writing that will stand you in good stead whether you are making a shopping list or writing a school project.

 

 

 

Thirteen year-olds

Thirteen year-olds

Letters should be well-formed, and with comfortable joins where appropriate.

There should be appropriate spacing between the words and the poem should be placed well on the page.

 

 

 

 

 

Staff winners

Staff winners

The number of very competent entries from 4 year-olds is increasing year-by-year, and this year, too, there were far better entries from the older age groups. It is encouraging, too, to see the number of boys in the finalists, particularly as Class Winners.

However, some finalists lost out because there were no school postcodes on the backs of the paper (with 10,000 entries it is impossible to check which school ‘Sarah Smith’ belongs to), and putting entries into the wrong age-groups also was a disadvantage for the judges.

Overall, though, the standard was very high this year and all who entered the competition have the advantage of knowing that their skill in handwriting will also aid their reading, spelling, understanding and creativity – all a bonus!

 

National Schools’ Handwriting Competition 2015

IMG_2221In early June this year, there was an item in the news about crowd-funding to raise money to develop a font for computers. The font was based on the handwriting of Albert Einstein. The hard work had been done, but the designers wanted to add variations to letters so that it looks more like someone’s handwriting where letters do vary, such as different forms for the letters s and f.

This item was picked up in a number of news outlets and it did seem rather exciting for a scientist to be able write an academic paper about relativity, say, in a typeface that resembled Einstein’s own writing style.

It might not be that surprising to appreciate that, as Chief Judge of the National Schools’ Handwriting Competition, I found this both interesting and sad. How much better to use traditional styles of letter-forms for formal printed or digital work (Times Roman, Helvetica, Cambria, or my own favourite – Hermann Zapf’s Palatino) which have been developed so that they are easy to read and read quickly both on screen and in print, and then your own handwriting for anything that needs to be hand-written.

The advantages of handwriting are well rehearsed, but the fact that they increase business is perhaps not fully appreciated. A company producing development kits in the US started to hand-write personal messages on the backs of the envelopes before posting them. They timed the process and it took about 57 seconds to do this and a few simple drawings were added too. The effect on their business and the engagement of customers was huge. Photographs of the envelopes were tweeted, and customers talked about what they were using the product for – this in turn increased awareness of the product and sales. Handwriting proves its worth yet again! More details here.

Winner 6 years-old and under

Winner 6 years-old and under

Handwriting, since September 2014, is now in the National Curriculum, and children are being taught how to hold a pen or pencil, how to form letters and how to join letters; spacing between words is also included. Good teaching of handwriting, though, is apparent from the entries to the National Schools Handwriting Competition. Almost 7,500 entries were sent in and the first sift this year was done at Cambridge University Press, the new sponsors of the competition.

On the right is the winner of the six year-olds and under. The winner was six years-old.

 

 

Four year-olds and under

Four year-olds and under

This year there were more entries for those aged four and under than previously, and teachers are to be commended for enabling young children to hold a pencil, concentrate, and form good letters for the length of time it takes to write out the poem. In each instance the pictures of the finalists show the winning entry on the top centre.

 

 

Five year-olds

Five year-olds

The five year-olds entries were good too, some schools using parallel lines to ensure consistency of letter height. The winner’s entry showed very good letter-formation, and I liked the variety of forms of the letter ‘y’.

 

 

 

Six year-olds

Six year-olds

By six years-old some children are joining their letters, as demonstrated by the winner in this age group. This was not the reason for winning, but here the clear letter-formation, rhythm and flow of the writing stood out.

 

 

 

Seven years-old

Seven year-olds

By seven years old, many entries showed joined writing and writing in ink, and this was the case with the winner and some of the highly commended entries. The placing of the poem on the page of the winning entry was very pleasing.

 

 

 

Eight year-olds

Eight year-olds

By eight years old, the writing in all entries was joined up and showing the beginnings of personal style. I particularly liked the unusual placing of the lines of the entry that was third, shown on the left in the photograph, where the shape of the poem is rather like a ziggurat; I thought that rather clever.

 

 

Winner for seven and eight year-olds.

Winner for seven and eight year-olds.

The winning entry for these two classes was very difficult to choose as there were many really good examples of handwriting. In the end the well-formed letters, good joins, clarity and consistency, and rhythm and flow of the handwriting all indicated that it was a worthy winner.

 

 

 

 

 

Nine year-olds

Nine year-olds

Individuality and personal style is well-shown in the handwriting for the entries at nine years-old. The winner shows a very mature writing style and a clarity that many of us would like to have in our own writing! It was difficult to choose winners and finalists in this age group, too.

 

 

 

10s

Ten year-olds

The winner of the next age group, those who are ten years-old, shows very clearly that writing which slopes backwards is not anathema that it used to be. There is a real flow to this writing and it is extremely clear to read with well-formed letters.

 

 

 

Winner of the nine and ten year-olds

Winner of the nine and ten year-olds

There was a slight backwards slant to the Overall Winner for these two age-groups as well, the Class C winner, but the letters are beautifully formed, the writing clear and it shows a good rhythm and flow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eleven year-olds

Eleven year-olds

From age eleven onwards, children can choose their own poem, and it is sometimes difficult to concentrate on the writing rather than spending a lot of time reading personal choices of poetry or even poems written by the hand-writers themselves! The problem of personal choice, and in which it would be very helpful for teachers to advise, is that poems should be of a reasonable length to allow for the writer to get into a rhythm of writing, but not so long that the poem does not fit well on one side of A4 and may even have to go on to a second sheet. Occasionally, the prescribed poem choice in the previous Class is written out, and this is perfectly acceptable, as the case with the eleven years-old winner.

Twelve year-olds

Twelve year-olds

The winner of the twelve years-old group coped well with a long poem, which fortunately had short lines. The writing is particularly clear although the writer may well need to join the letters to speed up.

 

 

 

 

Thirteen year-olds

There is more individual style in the writing in the age thirteen years group, as would be expected, although far fewer entries in this age group.

 

 

 

 

Winner for eleven, twelve and thirteen year-olds

Winner for eleven, twelve and thirteen year-olds

The overall winner for CLAS D shows a great deal of individuality and character at age 12 and stood out as the winner for these age groups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff winners

Staff winners

And entering for a handwriting competition as an adult – and all staff in a school can enter – not just the teachers, gives a very strong message to children that handwriting matters whatever age you are. As expected there were some very individual styles here and choosing between them was not an easy task, so congratulations are due to the winner and finalists.

 

 

So what can schools and teachers do to ensure that their pupils are in the finalists of the handwriting competition? Apart from teaching handwriting well, which goes without saying, encouragement is so very significant. It is also important to emphasise how important handwriting is throughout life, and so as teachers, entering the competition themselves, and including all those working in the school to do this ­– Teaching Assistants, Lunch Time Ancillaries, Kitchen Staff, Caretakers, volunteers who listen to children reading, even, as we had one year, the school’s Father Christmas, all will show that, no matter how good, or bad, their handwriting is, it is still important to hand-write as an adult.

All the physical aspects of handwriting should, of course, also be allowed for – height of table and chair being conducive to sitting for a period of time and not cause pain or discomfort, appropriately-sized pen or pencil – not too large or small – and with a triangular grip if that helps. Assistance with placing the poem on the page is also a good idea, not too far to the left and further down the page if the poem has few lines.

Before the writing starts, children should be reminded that, unlike the normal process in a classroom, their names do not go on the front of the sheet of paper, but on the back. And when the writing has been completed, the schools should ensure that the correct name – first name and surname – as well as the child’s age is written on the back of the paper. The school’s postcode is essential, and this year, a couple of children missed winning an age group because there was no postcode and no surname. Children are identified by postcode and first and surnames and with almost 7,500 entries it is impossible to go through all the lists of entries from schools to find a ‘Thea’ or ‘Joseph’ with nothing else to go on but the name of their school house.

It was a particularly successful year this year and with very worthy winners. Congratulations to all the successful children, the schools they go to and the hard work teachers have put in to ensure that success.

National Schools Handwriting Competition

Four year-olds

Four year-olds hand writing

Each year schools up and down the country focus on encouraging their pupils to write their best handwriting for the National Schools Handwriting Competition, run by SATIPS and sponsored by the Manuscript Pen Company. The huge advantage of this competition is that everyone in the school (up to the age of 13 for children) can enter for free, and that includes the teachers, caretakers, secretaries, teachers’ assistants – there is no selection of only few entries by schools – and it shows that handwriting is important no matter what your age.

Five year-olds.

Five year-olds handwriting

What the four-year-old prize-winners (above right – and in each case in this post, the winner is shown on the top and second and third prize-winners below) and the five year-olds (right) won’t fully appreciate is that, if they continue to write well, then they should not lose marks in exams as highlighted in an article in The Times in May. ‘Almost two-thirds of teachers said that they had marked down pupils because of illegible answers and three in ten reported a deterioration in children’s handwriting in the past five years.’ More to the point, children themselves (39%) were more worried about their handwriting in exams than not being able to remember things (37%).

Overall winner, Group A

Overall winner, Group A

With the increased concerns about how easy it is to cheat using a tablet or computer, it looks likely that examiners will emphasise the importance of handwritten answers more in the future. As educators, we are doing our children a disservice if we do not equip them with the skills they need to perform at their best in examination conditions. The well-developed cursive style of handwriting of the Overall Winner of Class A (seen on the right here) should have few problems about performing well.

Six year-olds handwriting

Six year-olds handwriting

How can teachers and parents help their children to develop good handwriting. I posted Top Ten Tips for Children’s Handwriting on my website blog this year. It is not difficult to ensure that children develop a grip which will not cause them pain later in life from a very early age, particularly if and when they go on to sit 3-hour examinations.

Seven year-olds

Seven year-olds

 

Nor is it rocket science to help children develop that good grip by placing paper and books in the best position. So for neither should the paper be straight but slanted, and for right-handers, the top right-hand corner should be highest, and for left-handers the top left-hand corner should be highest (it is very easy to remember). This helps left-handers particularly to avoid developing an ‘over-the-top’ claw-like grip which causes strain on the wrist, forearm, shoulder and spine. If pen-hold is a problem, then triangular grips that slide over pens and pencils can be very helpful.

Eight year-olds

Eight year-olds

Ensuring that children do not have to reach up to write, nor hunch their bodies over a table are also essential. Both seating positions – stretching and hunching – may result in pain and poor posture which could cause problems later. No-one enjoys writing if their experience of it brings back memories of being uncomfortable or hurt. Standard issue chairs and tables are not the best for children of many different heights in a class from quite small to very tall – one having to stretch too much and the other having to bend over too much.

Nine year-olds

Nine-year-olds

And, of course, writing at a slope is far more preferable to on the flat, but I sense this is a lost cause nowadays! Those old-fashioned wooden desks with a sloping lid were far better for writing, especially when doing so at length.

 

 

 

 

Winner Group B

Overall Winner Group B

Research has also shown that children who hand-write, rather than type, are better at composition and reading and also have better memories. The same research from Washington University also found that children ‘wrote’ more quickly when hand-writing their compositions than when ‘writing’ them on a computer, even for those who had learned to touch type. Many authors, too, find that handwriting allows ideas to flow more easily as the brain keeps up with the speed of the hand-writer. What better proof then to emphasise the importance of everyone learning to handwrite well and how much it helps children’s learning in so many other ways.

Ten year-olds

Ten year-olds

This year’s competition was as difficult to judge as previous ones, with many examples of excellent handwriting, which will surely stand all in good stead in future years. As always, the judges looked for well-formed letters. It is important when it is time for speeding up that the heights of ascenders are consistent with the letter ‘t’ usually being smaller than that of other ascenders but higher than the x-height, the body of the letters.

 

 

 

 

Eleven year-olds

Eleven year-olds

Once letters are joined, the joins should be smooth and natural. Of course, not every letter in a word has to join, but where they do it should not look contrived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner Group C

Winner Group C

There are always some difficult letter combinations, and the ‘fl’ and ‘bl’ combinations in this Overall Group C winning entry is an example of those combinations being well resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twelve year-olds

Twelve year-olds

There should also be a consistency of slant. For some people their natural ‘ductus’ results in letters that slant forwards, or the letters are upright, or backwards. Consistency is more important than the direction, and examples of all three can be seen in these prize-winners.

 

 

 

Thirteen year-olds

Thirteen year-olds

It has been said in previous Judge’s Reports, but placing/position on the page/paper does make a difference. It is not that difficult for a teacher to indicate (or even draw a margin for younger children) so that the poems are not crammed tightly over on the left-hand side. A beautifully placed piece of writing, as in the winner of the ten year-olds (above) comes as a real joy!

 

 

 

 

Winner Group D

Winner Group D

And the style of lettering makes no difference either – Italic, round letters, Copperplate-style looped letters are all in evidence here.

 

 

 

 

Staff

Staff Winners

And to show that good handwriting does not stop when children leave school, the three prize-winners in the Staff section are all to be praised for a natural, legible and consistent style.

Children’s Handwriting

children's handwritingTo me, the value of teaching children to write is undisputed; it is a skill that everyone should acquire. Whether they do it well, and their handwriting is a thing of beauty, is not essential – as long as it’s legible – in the same way that most can sing or shuffle a bit but not everyone can be a singing star or a champion at dancing.

As Chief Judge of the National Schools’ Handwriting Competition, and as a practising scribe, I am often asked about how to help children with their handwriting, so here are my Top Ten Tips for parents and carers:

photo copy 71. Encourage children to write, it doesn’t matter what, as long as they get something on paper. Suggest they keep a holiday diary, draw and write captions perhaps instead of thank you letters (which can be rather a chore), write letters to Father Christmas, and let you know, in writing, what they want for birthdays and special events.

 

2. At the same time, let them see you writing a lot – making to-do lists, writing thank you cards and letters, adding a personal note to birthday cards rather than just ‘best wishes’, writing your own diary perhaps, writing shopping lists. And the worse thing adults can say to children? ‘My handwriting’s awful’ because the message of that is that you have got to where you are as an adult with rubbish writing, and so good handwriting doesn’t matter.

pens and pencils3. Get hold of a selection a pens and pencils and let them try them out to see what suits. Some prefer big chunky pens and pencils, others slim light ones. Insistance on using a fountain pen by carers or schools is, in my opinion, not fair. There are some children, often young boys, who manage to get themselves and their paper covered in ink just by taking the tops of their pens. For these never to achieve a nice piece of writing because wet ink and posh nibs are de rigeur isn’t going to help them feel good about writing.

photo copy 64. Ensure they have somewhere suitable to write. Adult-sized tables and chairs for young children can cause pain if they have to reach up, and they won’t want to write if that’s a consequence. So a chair of the height whereby they can sit comfortably with their feet firmly flat on the floor, and a table which isn’t so low that they have to crouch over, or too high so they have to stretch would be ideal.

 

 

 

5. Arrange an appropriate light. Much of the ‘mood lighting’ in houses nowadays means that children can find it difficult to write simply because they can’t see!

photo copy 5For right-handers, the light source should come from the left-hand side,

photo copy 3

 

 

 

and for left-handers, the light source should be on the right-hand side (the lamp would normally be a bit further away than shown on the right, but the picture looked a bit strange when I did that!).

In daylight, simply turn the table and chair around by the window so this happens. During the evening, a cheap table lamp will do the business.
photo copy 5

 

6. And on the subject of right- and left-handers, to avoid left-handers having an ‘over-the-top’ grip, simply ensure that for them the left-hand corner of the top of the paper is highest. This is so easy, not at all rocket science, and it makes all the difference! Left-handers often adopt the ‘over-the-top’ grip because when paper is placed in front of them with the top edge straight, they can’t see what they’re writing, and also smudge what they’ve written if using wet ink. Changing the paper angle by having the left-hand corner at the top resolves this.

photo copy 4

For right-handers the right-hand corner of the top of the paper should be highest.

 

 

 

 

photo copy

 

7. Although I don’t like to be didactic about this, a conventional grip does avoid pain. So the pad of the thumb and the part of the middle finger between the tip and first knuckle hold the pen,

 

 

 

 

photo copy 2and then the control is given by the forefinger, which should be relaxed and not tense.
photo copy 3

 

 

 

Left-handers might like to try to hold their pen or pencil a little further away from the tip, and rotate the hand slightly more to the left to help with seeing what they’ve written and to avoid smudging.

 

 

 

photo copy 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$T2eC16hHJF0E9nmFTL6RBP8tTs1VCw~~60_35There are triangular grips which slide on to the pen or pencil, or even pencils that are themselves triangular, which help in maintaining this grip. I wouldn’t like to condemn grips which are like a claw, or where the wrist is high, but they can cause tension in the hand, arm, shoulder and back when writing and that can lead to pain. Once handwriting is associated with pain, then why continue writing?

 

8. Encourage, encourage and encourage. Find one or two good letters well written and praise to the heavens on these, then suggest that if they can write those letters as well as that, then they can try to write others in the same letter families well, using the same or very similar strokes.

photo copy 8Letter families are: Letters that start with a straight stroke and usually have a joining stroke or curve at the base – i,l,t,u,y,j. Letters that start with a downstroke and then arch (and beyond) – r,n,m,h,b,p,k (if using a looped, closed bowl style). Letters (most of – e is the exception) which start with a curve to the left –  c,e,a,d,g,q,o. Diagonal letters (although depending on the lettering style, some of these may be more curved and fit in with the first letter family) – v,w,x,z. And then odds of f and s, and the letter k if the bowl isn’t closed as a loop.

photo copy 99. People don’t expect to play a musical instrument well, or be able to do ballet without practising. It may be a chore but it gets results. Some good exercises, on lined paper, once children have started to join up are repetitions of letters are i l and t, to get the heights right, then the letters r n and u to help with arches and joins; o c and e to help again with joins. And while encouraging children to do this, why not sit down and do it yourself at the same time to show that it’s important, as this will improve your writing too!

10. And the last isn’t a tip as such but a fact. Of course we all know that learning to write helps hand-eye co-ordination and encourages concentration and the ability to sit still for a period of time. In addition to this, research at Washington University concluded that children who are taught to write at a young age are better at composition and reading and also have better memories. They also found that children ‘wrote’ more quickly when hand-writing their compositions than when ‘writing’ them on a computer, even for those who had learned to touch type. Many authors, too, find that handwriting allows ideas to flow more easily as the brain keeps up with the speed of the handwriter. What better proof then to emphasise the importance of everyone learning to handwrite and how much it helps children’s learning in so many other ways.

So write letters to children (many children have never received a letter, let alone a hand-written one) and handwrite to thank people – everyone, not just children, likes to receive a letter and do e-mail thanks or phone calls really cut the mustard? Write every time you can – especially when children are around – and why not encourage your local school to enter the National Schools’ Handwriting Competition which is completely free and every child and adult (yes including caretakers, cooks, auxiliaries, TAs, helpers etc) in the school can enter? What better way to encourage everyone to value the importance and significance of handwriting?

Many thanks to my hand model; she knows who she is!