Start-Bee has launched a unique Handwriting Match Fit Assessment and Handwriting Scheme in a response to a recent statistic where by it is said that 1 in 3 children are failing Department for Education (DfE) standards in writing, requiring all children to master fluid and legible writing by the time they leave primary school.
The Scheme launched by Start-Bee is an affordable way to evaluate writing standards and teach children to write to approved standards, which is already having dramatic impacts on school performances for handwriting in Reception through to Year 6.
“Our innovative programme has helped Down Hall Primary School, to exceed expectations with their Early Years – Reception pupils who are now well on their way to ending Year 1 writing in a legible and fluent, joined-up script, not only meeting DFE standards but exceeding them,” says founder Melanie Harwood. After one year of Start-Bee in the Reception Year, 93% of pupils assessed are Achieving Expected Outcomes for KS1 and even more exciting is that 32% are Achieving Working at Greater Depth for KS1 . Their recent Handwriting Match Fit Assessment also flagged up a small group of children that have worked through the handwriting lessons in their Reception Year that need more help with handwriting and Ms Bec Wakefield, Literacy Lead at Down Hall Primary School, has set up a Handwriting Breakaway Group which will be delivered in Year 1 to further support those pupils with their handwriting.
Mrs Lou Nelson, Headteacher of Down Hall Primary School, says, “Being able to now use the resulting data from the Handwriting Match Fit Assessment, our team is better equipped to plan each child’s Personal Handwriting Strategy, a Year Group Handwriting Strategy and even a School Wide Handwriting Strategy! This ensures that children who are struggling with pencil grip, poor handwriting posture and the fine and gross motor skills that are so important for being able to write legibly and fluently are fully supported.We are so pleased with the results our pupils are achieving and the raising of attainment that handwriting delivers is key to their future academic and personal success.”
The Handwriting Assessment created by Melanie Harwood, in collaboration with Ms Bec Wakefield and Mrs Lou Nelson of Down Hall Primary School, overcomes confusion in DfE standards and their interpretation by performing a review of standards achieved in under an hour for each class of up to 30 pupils, under supervision of a teacher that has worked through the Handwriting Assessment eLearning Training Course, which is now available exclusively via renowned educational suppliers YPO.
Using DfE marking outlines, the assessment leads to a customised teaching programme for each individual pupil according to their needs. “The Start-Bee system is flexible enough to provide teaching schemes for total beginners through to breakaway handwriting groups for writers who are behind in standards. No child should now fall through the net because teachers will be trained to ascertain which pupils need more help with handwriting at the end of Early Years. Those children will continue to work alongside their peers on handwriting in Year 1, but they will be given an extra boost by working in handwriting breakaway groups too and their teachers will be trained to know how to assess and overcome any potential barriers those children may have to learning to write legibly, fluently and confidently,” says Melanie.
The tools of the trade are as important as the methods they use. Says Melanie, “Learning to write should never be associated with pain in hands, fingers, wrists, arms or shoulders. Using handwriting implements which have not been developed specifically for those who are learning to write can cause pain and actually do more harm in the long run.” After rolling out the handwriting assessment throughout the UK, with thousands of children from schools rated as: Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and even Inadequate, it flagged up that the majority of schools are using the wrong handwriting implements as our data reveals that 98% of children have Hypermobility in their fingers. Ofsted recently warned that children should be taught how to hold a pencil correctly in Reception but how will a teacher not trained to assess Handwriting and Pencil Grip know which writing implements to use with those pupils that find holding a “normal” pencil painful?
Melanie Harwood explains further that she developed the Handwriting Match Fit Assessment eLearning Training to ensure that every Literacy Lead and Primary Teacher throughout the UK will now be trained to the standard of a Handwriting Specialist. Teachers need to know how to assess the potential barriers to learning to write that many children face from the very beginning of their learning journey in primary school, even though they have worked through a proven handwriting scheme alongside their peers in their Reception Year, and how to direct those children to the correct handwriting implements or ensure they work in handwriting breakaway groups in Year 1 so that all their pupils write with confidence and achieve the STA’s Expected Outcomes of writing legibly and fluently. Melanie adds, “Children should enjoy being able to write, it is a life skill and a marker for success, as children who write well can access all of the school curriculum with ease!”
Start-Bee’s Scheme is being rolled out across schools in the UK, and with excellent results so far, it is likely to spread nationally as a breakthrough in handwriting education for young pupils.
Melanie Harwood’s Handwriting Match Fit Assessment eLearning Training for Teachers will be available on pre-order exclusively via YPO