Teacher fears pupils are too concerned with having perfect handwriting

Teacher fears pupils are so concerned with having perfect handwriting that it’s distracting them from their work

  • Teacher at private school warns pupils are too obsessed with neat handwriting
  • Sarah Tidy of Ratcliffe College said some use penmanship as ‘shortcut to praise’ 
  • She said they live in an ‘Instagram-filtered society’ where ‘presentation is all’ 
  • But she stressed neat exercise book mustn’t be mistaken for effective learning 

The art of good penmanship may seem almost redundant in our age of typing, tapping and swiping.

But it appears the pupils of today are as devoted as ever to perfecting their handwriting – so much so, that it’s distracting them from their work.

This is the warning from one English teacher at a leading private school, who has urged children to stop obsessing over neat writing and concentrate on the content instead.

Sarah Tidy, who teaches at Ratcliffe College, near Leicester, warned some pupils are using immaculate penmanship as a ‘shortcut to praise’.

The art of good penmanship may seem almost redundant in our age of typing, tapping and swiping (stock image) 

She said they live in an ‘Instagram-filtered society’ where ‘presentation is all’, but warned a neat exercise book must not be mistaken for effective learning, and teachers should make an effort to ‘praise content not form’. 

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Miss Tidy, who is also head of public speaking at the school, which charges £16,614-a-year for day pupils and £26,736-a-year for full boarding, said: ‘Almost every class has one. An artist. A student whose book is perfectly highlighted, their handwriting beautifully rounded, not a crossing-out, scribble or doodle in sight. Their attention to detail is boundless… but when they are creating their masterpieces, can they also write a truly perceptive essay on A Christmas Carol?’

Miss Tidy admitted she herself had praised pupils ‘for the beauty of their books’ because teachers have an ‘unconscious bias towards the piece of work that looks neat and uniform’. But staff should look out for pupils who make their books ‘unnecessarily decorative’ in an attempt to score points. She said: ‘We cannot simply order all teachers, students and parents not to appreciate a well-presented piece of work. Nor should we. We spend weeks setting expectations, including the way they present their work.

‘However, we need to be aware of when we, or our students, have taken this expectation too far.’

In 2014, the Coalition government introduced a new curriculum for state primary schools which placed greater importance on pupils practising joined-up, clear handwriting.

Miss Tidy’s message comes as a study of more than three million test papers reveals today that girls outperform boys in reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling throughout primary school.

They achieve higher average scores than their male counterparts in Year 1, at age five or six, and maintain this advantage until they leave for secondary school.

By the age of six or seven, boys overtake girls in maths and stay ahead in the subject until the end of primary school.

Data analytics firm School Dash looked at four years of results from standardised tests by RS Assessment from Hodder Education. They are used by more than 6,000 primary schools across England.


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