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“We want every child to have the best possible start in life.”

This is a sentiment I entirely agree with; it goes without saying doesn’t it? This came  via an email which linked to the Conservatives  web site “Building a Britain fit for the future,” which states

“Schools & Skills

We want every child to have the best possible start in life.”

Now what would your understanding of the word “every” be? Does it mean  a few, some, a lot or all? My understanding is that “every” means “all“.

But if the Dept of Education has no figures on a specific group of children, whether the specific needs of those children within that group has any impact on their academic achievement, where teachers are not trained  in those specific needs as part of their initial teacher training, where their particular handwriting needs are NON -statutory (for everyone else it is a Statutory requirement!), you might reasonably come to the conclusion that the word “every” has a different meaning! Maybe it should read “the majority”?

In case you are wondering, it is the group of left-handed children in our Education system I am talking about.

The attached letter from Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP Secretary of State states that “The Teachers Standards require teachers to adapt their teaching to address the needs of all their pupils, whatever those needs might be”. Again a fine sentiment but, in my opinion, it makes a huge and completely unfounded assumption; that is that teachers have been trained to help left-handed children, that they are aware of what to look out for and trained to act appropriately.

If that were the case, why were we encouraged by Nick Gibb MP to have input into the new Teacher Training Curriculum and why do schools ask me to run training courses for their staff? If all was fine and dandy in the classrooms for left-handed children, I wouldn’t need to be writing this!

 

 

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A few techniques later and she has improved immensely!

“I visited this amazing shop with 2 of my children today. My daughter is left handed and has always struggled with her handwriting. 10 minutes in the store with the amazing owner and a few techniques later and she has improved immensely! I am over the moon and completely gob smacked by the kindness and generosity of the gent in this store! We bought a few left handed bits and pieces and she has been writing since we got home this afternoon! Plus the lovely lady in the shop played with my 2 year old so I could spend some time with Phoebe!!
Absolutely amazing service and incredible toys and left handed stock!!!
Thank you so much to all that helped us today! I hope you know how much confidence you gave my daughter!”

Such kind words but it shows how a small amount of appropriate help can make such a positive difference! This is why helping left-handed children should be part of Initial Teacher Training and CPD in all our Primary Schools.

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Would you be happy with this?

This is a hypothetical question: “Would you be happy with this?”

I would like to think that no one who has any understanding of handwriting, be they parent, Early Years practitioner, teacher, SENCO,  Head teacher, School Governor, education advisor, Teacher trainer, Education Minister and even Secretary of State for Education, would consider such a grip to be “good”!

It is blatantly obvious that such a grip would mean that the child’s hand would cover their writing as they go along and would smudge, making messy writing, messy hands, difficulty reading what they have written as well as lower marks than the content would necessarily merit.

If the child was trying to get their pen license, what are the chances of getting it?

I could go on! What I find frustrating is that it appears that no one in authority has the inclination to say “Let’s do something about this”. It’s not rocket science, time consuming or expensive to sort, and yet left-handed children are NOT being given appropriate help.

When the new Initial Teacher Training curriculum was being put together, we had some input into that. However, when published, there was not a word on left-handed children. Potentially over, 1,000,000 children and their needs are not being adequately met. If they were, children wouldn’t be coming into our shop for handwriting help!

Appropriate teacher training and guidance for the children will improve the educational outcomes. Win/Win all round; I reckon so.

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This child is left handed and last year during school nursery the keyperson tried to get them to switch hands for writing.

Text taken from a Facebook conversation 6th July 2108

Looking for advice for a friend. My son had his friend over for dinner last night. After dinner between 5-5:30 we do homework. Both reception aged children. This kid excelled in the maths part of homework however when it came to writing I literally watched their confidence and body language deplete. Mum popped over this morning to say thank you for having them for tea yesterday. Happen to mention my observation. So we had a chat about it. Points of concern and I would just like your view points on as childcare practitioners:

  1. we always see this child in the morning they are very distressed that mum is leaving. They have to lock the class room door to stop them from running out and away because mum has gone
  2. this child is left handed and last year during school nursery the keyperson tried to get them to switch hands for writing.
  3. school have not provided child with left handed scissors so struggled to cut “straight lines” when request and gets upset when pulled up on it.
  4. child holds pencil as standard left handed child however when writes will start from the bottom of the letter for example “g” and “e” they will start with the tail moving towards the centre. School have rhymes and encourage they “take off the lid and scoop it out” however they find it hurts their hands to stretch that way starting from the middle.
  5. child has a speech impedimant and has failed their reception hearing test. Referral to GP has been made but often feels like people are not listening to them when they raise their own points of concern. When it could be a mixture of a) not understanding in the first place because of their speech impediment and b) seem to be fed up with trying to teach them the “proper” way to write and just ignore them when they say “but it hurts to do it that way”
  6. when mum has spoken to the lead eyfs leader they have said “there is a curriculum in place with the writing and rhymes and they have to learn to do it that way” – but their way clearly isn’t working for this one child. My own son is also left handed and has no issues with this programme but when they tried to get him to write right handed last year I jumped on them for it. To sum up he seems unhappy at school drop off I imagine because his needs are not being supported by the school.

    I thought that making left-handed children write right-handed was a thing of the past but maybe not!!!

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One Million, Forty Three Thousand, Four Hundred and Twenty Five children!

Here’s a thought!

In 2017, according to published statistics from the Department of Education , there were 8,026,347 children in State-funded Primary and Secondary schools, State-funded Special schools and non-maintained Special schools.

Let’s consider if there was a group of children within that total which equated to 13 % of the total. By the way the Department of Education doesn’t actually have any numbers of those in that group (Admitted in a Parliamentary Question/Answer) but it is generally thought that 13% is a good guesstimate. That would be 1,043, 425 children in the minority! Not a small number I suggest.

In case you haven’t gathered, I am talking about “Left-handed children”.

Consider a life skill like handwriting which the Department of Education states : “Handwriting is the most fundamental building block of being educated”.

Now for the majority of the children (6,982, 922), there is a statutory requirement within the National Curriculum that schools help them with their handwriting. However, for the 1,043,425 children of the different group, it is NON statutory!

My questions are:

  1. Would you be happy either being one of the minority children or their parent/s in that situation?
  2. How might such inequality affect the child’s educational achievement/outcomes?
  3. Why are the specific teaching needs of that group not a requirement as part of Initial Teacher Training?
  4. Why has the Department of Education not collected such figures on that minority group?
  5. How can the Department of Education talk with any authority about the needs or otherwise on that minority when they have no idea children they are dealing with?

Isn’t it about time some action was taken to improve the situation for the 1,043,425 children?

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Is our Education system failing left-handed children?

Above are a couple of grips of children who visited my shop last Saturday. Age 10 and 11 years old and having real problems with their handwriting. They can’t see what they have just written and, when using a pen, smudge their writing. Neither had received any help at their respective schools.

This is NOT the fault of the teachers, it is the fault of the system which doesn’t appreciate the importance of left-handed children being shown how to get a good handwriting technique. This situation is not helped by the fact that, in the current National Curriculum, handwriting for left-handed children “should receive appropriate guidance”, not “Must” (statutory requirement) as stipulated for right-handed children.Whilst “should” does imply some degree of requirement, it is NOT the same as must and I would argue that left-handed children need more help with their handwriting than right-handed children. It is not difficult, time-consuming or expensive but can make such a difference to the academic achievement of the child. If teachers are not aware and able to respond to such needs, surely something needs to be done.

Yet Nick Gibb,MP Minister for Education, is not prepared to change the wording to make it a statutory requirement.

To compound the failure of the system, the Department of Education freely admits that its “Does not collect information of the numbers of pupils who are left-handed and therefore has not made an assessment of their levels of academic achievement”. An astonishing admittance of ignorance on what is probably the largest minority of the whole school population.

How can the Department of Education speak with any authority when they admit to such ignorance?!

To improve the handwriting of left-handed children will not only help the child achieve, it will improve the schools standards/results and by implication will benefit the country – simple!

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Handwriting statutory but NON statutory for left-handers!

From the National Curriculum

Handwriting (this is statutory)

Pupils should be taught to:

  • sit correctly at a table, holding a pencil comfortably and correctly
  • begin to form lower-case letters in the correct direction, starting and finishing in the right place
  • form capital letters
  • form digits 0-9
  • understand which letters belong to which handwriting ‘families’ (ie letters that are formed in similar ways) and to practise these

Notes and guidance (non-statutory )

Left-handed pupils should receive specific teaching to meet their needs.

Why does the Curriculum discriminate against left-handers? I would argue that Parents / Teachers tend to look at “what is written, not How it is written” . The “How” is critical for the left-hander. Getting good habits, such as the grip and alignment of paper/wrist, sorted at an early age can minimize potential problems later on. The Left Hand Writing Skills books and Writewell mats were specifically designed to produce a good technique.

Simple training and advice can make such a positive difference!