Why are children still being forced to write with an entry/lead-in stroke?

Entry / Lead-in strokeEntry / Lead-in stroke

With the new handwriting curriculum updates now fully incorporated into school life, I would have expected to have seen the last of the entry/lead-in stroke and a lengthy delay in the teaching of joined-up handwriting. Sadly, in some schools this is not the case.

Are schools still teaching the entry/lead-in stroke?

Some schools may not have heard about the new updates to the handwriting curriculum which The Department for Education announced in the new Reading Framework for Teaching Literacy.

Last month, I visited an independent primary school to deliver a handwriting training session. Y1 and Y2 were being taught to join up their handwriting as the school expected students to be able to join up their handwriting before Y3. The teaching staff were staggered when I made them aware that many of the children would be physically unable to join up their handwriting at this age as they were not fully developed.

Not only that, pupils in independent schools don’t sit SATs, therefore there is no requirement to be able to join.

I am shocked to both discover this severe lack of awareness from schools and that there is still an emphasis on rushing children to join up their handwriting.

Why schools should not teach the entry/lead-in stroke?

The science

Charlotte Davies, Tomatis Consultant and Director of Fit 2 Learn is an experienced senior teacher and an active researcher on all areas of human development and how they inter-relate.

Charlotte states, “Motor-sensory integration is vital for learning efficiently and a key stage in childhood development.

“In the years from birth to 8 years of age, humans develop motor-sensory integration. That is the foundation for all higher level skill development. The key objective of early years’ education and physical activities must be to encourage children to achieve good multisensory integration (MSI) in order to move on to the next stage in their development – this is a critical point in human development.

“These are the foundation skills for numeracy and literacy; if they are not in place they will restrict a person’s access to equal opportunities for life.

Angela Webb, former chair of the National Handwriting Association wrote in Current Issues, Handwriting Today, “Teachers need to feel confident that research supports the handwriting scheme they are using as there are number of organisations, many of which are moneymaking concerns, which advocate their own cursive handwriting programmes with reference to perceived benefits in neurological programming. Some even claim that learning continuous cursive from the outset changes the functional architecture of the brain (and one only has to read the research studies they quote to discover that the conclusions they draw are not what the studies are actually about).”

Angela continued, “Some claim also that a continuous cursive script better supports reading development. There is no evidence to date to substantiate any of these claims. A comprehensive review of brain-scanning studies highlights that it comes from the learning of the individual letterforms and not joined script – quite the opposite of what we are sometimes led to believe.”

Good postural control and effective mid-line crossing are essential for writing in a joined-up or cursive script, especially when writing with an entry/lead-in stroke. Likewise, a child requires good bi-lateral integration and binocular vision with both eyes working together to send messages to the brain. If they do not work together, then the brain will struggle to process visual images. These developmental skills are not fully established until a child is 8 years old.

Teaching a child to join up their handwriting in an overly cursive script, with or without the entry/lead-in stroke in EYFS and Key Stage 1 is simply wrong and why the government made significant changes to the handwriting curriculum in July 2022.

Every child needs to be able to see and copy letter formation patterns and have them fully embedded before being asked to join up their handwriting. This is why it is important to focus on letter formation until Year 3, teaching each letter in their correct handwriting family.

Rushing a child into joining up their handwriting earlier or using the entry/lead- in stroke can block good childhood development of both visual and sound processing.

Children need the opportunity to use all motor skills and senses every day and reach a point where they are properly integrated before they are taught the complex skill of handwriting. A child who has been rushed to join up their handwriting without these developmental skills in place will develop coping strategies and always struggle with their handwriting regardless of the handwriting intervention.

The Morrells Handwriting training and resources are so successful because we address the root cause of handwriting problems.

If you would like to know more, then please contact us

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