Breaking News! The DfE announces the end of the lead-in stroke and teaching cursive handwriting from the start.
Earlier this month, a notification was slipped in silently by the Department for Education (DfE) as part of the supporting documents for the validation of the systematic synthetic phonics programmes (SSP).
Within this document, the DfE stated that early years foundation pupils should NOT be taught separate letters that start on the baseline with a lead-in stroke and should NOT be taught cursive from the start.
Furthermore, they stated ‘all resources designed for children to read should be in print’.
Definition of PRINT: to write (text) clearly without joining the letters together. Children may be taught simple exit strokes for letters that end on the line (a, d, h, i, k, l, m, n, t, u).
A time to celebrate
We have been seeing a rapid growth in the use of the lead-in stroke in handwriting and it is a trend that has been sweeping through schools in every country over recent years.
But this ‘trend’ is like marmite, you either love it or loathe it.
For years we have repeatedly and tirelessly lobbied the Government to ban this fad from our schools and to ensure the correct methods of teaching handwriting are implemented.
Therefore, we are highly delighted by this recent announcement.
The damage lasts a lifetime
This is the first time we have revealed this picture publicly.
In 2017 a new trend started to appear.
Parents were appearing at our handwriting workshops having had their child’s handwriting copied and tattooed onto their body.
This is a lovely sentiment, but it does highlight the importance of legible handwriting.
We think that this picture speaks a thousand words about the lead-in stroke; for a child not even being able to write their own name in a legible text that can be read clearly by others, there is a clear issue.
This is why we constantly lobbied the Government and urged every school to switch from the lead-in stroke immediately.
So where did it all begin?
The lead-in stroke, also known as the entry stoke, pre-cursive, continuous cursive, or ‘whoosh’ as some children call it, was never intended to be used as a handwriting model.
It was introduced by advisors in the field of dyslexia as a ‘one style suits all’ and to save time in teaching two different styles of handwriting: printing (letter formation) and then joining (cursive).
It was sold to teaching staff as: Why teach two styles of handwriting when you can teach one?
Dr Rosemary Sassoon is a well renowned typographer and expert on handwriting, particularly that of children. She said ‘the lead-in stroke was introduced to aid the flow of ink from the nib of a fountain pen’. She also said, ‘enforcing the lead-in stroke and continuous cursive as a model is vicious’.
We wholeheartedly agree with her.
This is a mis-selling scandal by special needs groups; it is not the fault of school leaders or teaching staff, but what I do see is poor practice.
If we want to raise standards in handwriting and literacy, handwriting should be part of the Initial Teacher Training (ITT); if it were, this hideous trend would never have gained traction.
How to teach and support legible handwriting
We will keep on lobbying the Government to ensure that the lead-in stroke is quickly banished from all schools and for all teaching staff to be trained on teaching handwriting confidently and correctly, based on the science behind how we write.
The lead-in stroke is totally unnecessary even for joined-up handwriting; it damages writing confidence and it prevents automaticity and fluency.
Furthermore, children must be taught to print letters in their handwriting families and not as part of a phonics reading programme.
It is invaluable to know and understand the science behind how we write from the first mark to fluency.
Legible handwriting is achieved by having the basic requirements:
- A comfortable pencil grip.
- Good postural and visual control.
- Bi-lateral integration of motor skills and learning to print first, progressing to joining at the age of 7 years old.
Our vast amount of experience and passion for teaching handwriting correctly sets us apart from any other supplier of handwriting resources and teacher training.
Drawing on our years of expertise and research from teaching thousands of children, teenagers and adults in schools and universities, our books follow scientific research to achieve beautiful speedy and fluent handwriting.
This announcement from the DfE is something to be celebrated, but it is just the first step in building towards the correct teaching of handwriting in all schools.
Ensuring schools and teaching staff have effective support and resources at their disposal is an essential step moving forward.
As a school teacher, what do you think of this announcement from the DfE and do you feel confident about teaching handwriting moving forward?
If you feel your school would benefit from some support switching from the pre-cursive and cursive with the entry/lead-in stroke, help is on hand.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss your concerns and find out how we can support your school moving forward.