Handwriting - how important is it at GCSE level and above?

(27 Posts)
bunjies Tue 19-Nov-13 08:06:05

Ds's (year 10) handwriting is pretty crap. Really tiny and messy but legible if you concentrate. His teachers don't comment on it when marking homework, assignments etc but I think it must be very difficult to read, especially when they've got loads of other pieces of work to get through. We've told ds that he needs to make more effort to make it more easily legible as examiners might not be as understanding as his teachers when it comes to marking his work. How much of an issue is this? Should we be more insistent? Should we raise it with his teachers?

Tuhlulah Tue 19-Nov-13 11:41:05

FWIW, my 12 year old DS in year 7 has appalling handwriting, which has been a problem since Year 2. At parents' evening recently his English teacher made it quite clear that it is an issue and will cause problems in exams. But I suppose you know this already? If I was marking papers and one was illegible I'd be inclined to make less of an effort to read it.

In yr6 his teacher made a real effort to improve it (for the SATS, I guess!) and that seemed to work for a while. She made him write clearly even if slowly, in the hope that it would speed up as he became more used to writing like that. Anyway, it's back to where it was.

At home we set him handwriting homework, where he has to copy a few paragraphs out of interesting books/newspapers. But we need to be more consistent. DS has hyper mobility which may be contributing.

He has those Stylo pens (the new gel pen) but prefers to use his fountain pen.

So in short, I am anticipating that handwriting is an issue because, as DS's teacher said, he could be extremely clever and do extremely well -but who would ever know, because they can't read his writing.

In an ideal world I think it is something the teachers should address, but in reality how much time do they have?

Why is your DS's handwriting so bad? If you can identify what the issue is -writing too fast so not forming letters, or certain letters being joined up badly, or pressing too hard so ink splatters, or just too small, or getting smaller as he gets tired, etc -then maybe you can start to help him improve it.

Schools never seem to comment on handwriting. DS1 did neaten up in year 11 thankfully.
My feeling was that if you were marking exams and the 97th paper was illegible you might not feel well disposed to the candidate.

complexnumber Tue 19-Nov-13 17:02:02

Does your DS type well? Might he be allowed to use a computer to type stuff rather than hand write?

However, this won't help for subjects like maths.

I pull my hair out in frustration with pupils who cannot follow the lines on a page (maths is my subject), or who think it's ok to draw straight line graphs freehand.

I think that when pupils enter secondary school, it is hard to know where the responsibility for improving handwriting lies.

MirandaWest Tue 19-Nov-13 17:08:04

I'm an exam marker and do my best to decipher everything that's submitted to me. But it has to be said that if two scripts were submitted one with legible handwriting and set out neatly, with lots of space between the sections and one had barely legible writing squashed into a small space then even if they had the same points to make, the legible one would probably score more marks as there's only so long you can keep looking at a script trying to read it.

My DS is only in year 5 but I worry about his writing which is often barely legible. Not sure what to do really (have told his teachers they can feel free to nag him too grin)

OldRoan Tue 19-Nov-13 17:12:09

When I was doing A Levels we were shown examples of good and bad papers (photocopied mocks with the names taken off). I had never appreciated until then how impossible it can be to read someone's work. I have good, legible handwriting but struggled to read parts of my own paper (not knowing it was mine).

Could you photocopy a timed piece of writing he does at school and present it to him a few weeks later, when he has forgotten what he wrote? It might help him see it from the other person's point of view.

complexnumber Tue 19-Nov-13 18:32:44

I had never appreciated until then how impossible it can be to read someone's work. Oldroan

That is probably true for many people. It is with this thought in mind (rather than the fact that it means less marking for me wink ) that I will regularly get students to peer mark, especially the older kids.

I will get all sorts of questions 'he wrote the correct answer then crossed it our', 'she got the correct answer but made a mistake in the working', 'she wrote 1.9278348 instead of 1.93'.

It gives them a glimpse of the issues external markers will have to address.

OldRoan Tue 19-Nov-13 18:42:12

Complex I'm now a key stage 1 teacher, so karma is having a good laugh with some of the words I have to try and decipher!!

It is such a valuable skill though, well done you for promoting it.

Whathaveiforgottentoday Tue 19-Nov-13 19:24:17

They don't take marks off but as an examiner may affect your marks subjectively (i.e. if i'm irritated but spending so long having to decipher the writing) it may influence the marks if you were on the border of a mark but you wouldn't intentionally be marked down.
However, I would say its not always the untidy handwriting that is worst. Sometimes writing can look lovely but is a total bugger to read particularly tiny writing which I detest marking.

steeking Tue 19-Nov-13 19:32:59

When i sat my finals at uni we were warned that the examiners were so fed up with bad handwriting that they would refuse to mark badly written work.
Better to get it sorted at a young age .

Talkinpeace Tue 19-Nov-13 19:55:46

I used to marked Chartered Accountancy exams.
These were 22 year olds who all has 2:1 from good unis.
Some of the writing and grammar and spelling was shocking.
They are trying to produce a report about a scenario and its just POOR.
We could not help but mark them down when we could not understand what they meant to say.

Apparently they all used Word Processors now : which helps the handwriting but not the contextual spelling or the grammar.

Get it right as early as you can.

Blissx Tue 19-Nov-13 20:32:16

AQA examining board gave an A Level paper a U grade as the handwriting was eligible and couldn't be marked. It does matter a great deal. An examiner is paid about 50p to mark scrips and will have hundreds. Most will not spend an inordinate amount of it e trying to decipher it. I am currently giving some Year 11 boys at my school handwriting lessons as they cannot even read their own writing. Nip it in the bud now. Top tricks include writing more slowly and reducing the size.

Blissx Tue 19-Nov-13 20:36:54

Sorry, re-read your post, reducing size won't work! Try drawing lines in between the existing lines and helping your son reach the top and bottom with his letters. Should help to get him to see what size is appropriate and help train his movement.

inncogneetow Tue 19-Nov-13 21:17:03

ds1 has poor handwriting, it's messy, not pleasant to look at and you need to put in some extra effort to read it.

This summer he got A* in every subject, including full UMS marks in quite a lot of modules.

Ergo, handwriting is not important, as long as it is legible.

Everhopeful Tue 19-Nov-13 21:45:05

DD11 is just the same, so I feel your pain, OP! Her writing is barely legible when she doesn't join up (and she never opts to join up as it's too hard) and hasn't moved on much since Y3. Fortunately (or perhaps not, or the school might take more interest) she still tends to get good marks.

I recommend Wilko handwriting books (in case you don't know its nickname, that's Wilkinson's) which has all the extra zone lines in that Blissx is talking about (so an f can stretch up to zone 1 and down to zone 3, etc). Although the lines look a bit busy on the page, it does actually give a reasonably nice size of writing and the books are pretty cheap, about a £ for 3 IIRC. I'd use them as rough books for all subjects and am about to reintroduce them to DD. We used them a lot in Y6 and, as you say, it worked quite well then. Good luck with your DS

bunjies Wed 20-Nov-13 06:50:05

Thank you all for your replies. It's as I thought & may have a bearing on his marks which I think is the only thing that will make him listen. I am going to show him this thread & start getting him to practice. The main problem is how tiny his writing is & it gets smaller & Moe illegible the longer he writes.

Takver Wed 20-Nov-13 08:54:32

DD is really struggling with this one, so very interested to read the replies on this thread, as she's wondering what to do next.

Her context is a bit different - struggled to write at all for years, and at primary following various interventions was given the very strong message not to worry at all about neatness, and purely to aim for quantity on the page. She's now (yr 7) getting a lot of comments about need for better presentation - so teachers obviously do worry about it at her school.

Her problem is similar to your DS, bunjes - she can start out more-or-less ok, but after a sentence or so either has to slow down to a complete crawl (ie thinking about how to form every single letter) or gets more & more untidy.

We've done 2 years of 10 minutes handwriting practice at home with books every single day in yr 3 & 4 to get to this stage, so I'm very reluctant to go back there, but not sure what to do next.

doorkeeper Thu 28-Nov-13 10:33:54

My y7 kid's handwriting is truly, truly awful, and always has been. Nagging didn't help, handwriting books didn't help, practice didn't help. He did very well at primary, but there you have one teacher who knows you, knows your writing and is invested in your success.

I thought it would be different at secondary, where you have lots of different teachers, so - long story short - I took him to a handwriting tutor.

They helped a great deal, but also suggested my kid has mild dysgraphia (something I'd never heard of before). I've looked into it, it's a real thing, and it explains a hell of a lot about him.

I'm not saying every kid with terrible handwriting has dysgraphia, but where a kid is really, really trying, has been trying hard for years (ie not being careless or sloppy) and it still is awful, it might be worth looking into.

Bunbaker Thu 28-Nov-13 10:38:42

I recently visited the school where I am a governor and observed several English lessons. In the lowest set lesson the teacher was teaching exam technique, and I was surprised to learn that 30% of the marks are for spelling and grammar. So if your son writes badly then it will affect his marks.

NoComet Thu 28-Nov-13 10:40:16

Honestly it has to be truly awful to matter.
My writing is horrible, DH was moaned at all through school. Didn't seem to bother our examiners.

My uncle marked A level history for years and reckons they only got one script that no one could mark.

gillviola Sat 30-Nov-13 16:53:54

As most exam papers are marked online, you could answer this question yourself by scanning a piece of handwritten text into a word document to see how easy it is to read - if you can't read it then the chances are your examiner won't be able to either.

jeee Sat 30-Nov-13 18:00:00

Many people actually take pride in having terrible writing. I was (past tense) one of them. My mum found my primary school handwriting books... which were completely empty because I thought it was such a waste of time.

I learnt the hard way. At university I had to dictate (at my expense) my exam scripts. And believe me, it's not fun to see your paper a second time, not least because you can see all your errors.

Handwriting doesn't have to look nice (actually at a quick glance mine looks quite pleasant), but it does have to be legible.

Donki Sat 30-Nov-13 20:23:36

Fortunately spelling and grammar are not necessarily affected by poor handwriting. So long as you can actually work out what has been written the handwriting should have no effect on the mark.

intitgrand Sun 01-Dec-13 14:18:34

AS long as it's legible it doesn't matter.No marks are awarded for handwriting, and marks schemes are very prescriptive.

LibraryBook Tue 03-Dec-13 10:44:03

So long as it's legible it doesn't matter.

Why don't they use computers for exams anyway?

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