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Use of Laptops/Illegible handwriting

(30 Posts)
Uninformed Sun 16-Sep-12 18:04:02

d/s has been allowed to use a laptop for longer writing tasks in Y10 (State secondary school with a good reputation) as his cursive handwriting is rubbish/illegible and his typing speed is fantastic. So far so good.
At KS3 (taken Summer 2012) He achieved an 8B in Maths,7A in Science (where he was placed 2nd in the year out of 210 pupils) and is in the top group for both subjects going into GCSE. (He prints rather than use cursive writing in these subjects, at least it's readable)

Also, a 7C each for both History and Geography. His English score at KS3 was 7C for reading/comprehension, 6B for writing, 6C for speaking and listening, overall a 6B was awarded.
We have found to our horror that now starting Year 10 he's been placed in an English class with the Special Educational Needs students, pupils who have a SEN assistant with them, many who barely scored a level 4 at KS3 going at a snails pace, kids with genuine learning difficulties. This class will never cover the curriculum in time.

We were never informed that he would be placed in this group, He's quite capable of getting a reasonable GCSE pass at Level C or above in English, he just can't write longer passages legibly. the school is completely mad!
Has anyone ever heard of this being done before? Do other schools do this?

We're having an angst ridden weekend before trying to tackle the Head of English on Monday.

TheMonster Sun 16-Sep-12 18:09:10

I am an English teacher. If your son got a level six at the end of year nine, he will be targeted a gcse grade B. to be aspirational, and considering the level seven for the reading, I would be pushing him for an A. In that case, the sen group is not the place to be.

CondoleezzaRiceKrispies Sun 16-Sep-12 18:12:20

Why can't he print the longer answers? Or by 'print' do you mean he is writing in capitals?

I'm not a secondary school teacher, but it does sound mad. Surely if your son has no SEN, improving his writing is just practise and perseverance?

Uninformed Sun 16-Sep-12 18:23:31

Many thanks for your answers By print I mean he doesn't join up any of the letters, rather like typewritten text is not joined up, they're lower case.

slambang Sun 16-Sep-12 18:23:42

Uninformed- freaky parallel lives shock. D
Ds2 same same same same in all aspects. The only difference is that in our school the English set also determines the set you are in for all the humanities subjects so ds2 (who is bright -taking maths early, top set science etc) is in the RS, geography, history sets with the 'children who find it difficult to concentrate' or with challenging behaviour. Ds2 is very quiet and doesn't fit these categories.

I approached the school on Friday and have been told by the Head of year that she will 'look into it and get back to me.' We'll see hmm.

Uninformed Sun 16-Sep-12 18:25:14

Also, printing the long English answers e.g. an essay would take too long, he probably wouldn't finish.

notnowImreading Sun 16-Sep-12 18:36:27

Make a fuss. Heads of English are generally big old saps and people pleasers (well, I am) so will try to make you/your son happy.

It may be a clerical error, anyway. Admin assistants have literally tens of thousands of pupil names to put on class lists and there are almost always mistakes that get ironed out quickly at the beginning of term.

Your son certainly shouldn't be in the set you describe and should probably be in a second-to-top set. Laptops are no problem at all for English, although your ds will have to be very reliable about ensuring it is always fully charged for lessons and printing out his work every day.

I expect the HoE will be very understanding, if not mortified at the misplacement. I'd be embarrassed if I had written that class list. It's not as if she wouldn't have had the data on his previous attainment. I'm sure you won't have any trouble getting it sorted, but do it now because it may well be that a bottom set is studying a different syllabus from the upper sets so you mustn't let it get any farther down the road.

BertieBotts Sun 16-Sep-12 18:40:56

Is this for real? I never wrote in joined-up handwriting at secondary school and nobody blinked an eye. I didn't know it was faster, though, that might explain why I always struggled with long essay exams. However, I'm doing a university degree at the moment and don't have an issue with the exams here so it might be less relevant, I don't know.

Anyway, I'd speak to the head of department as others have said.

slambang Sun 16-Sep-12 18:47:04

My ds's handwriting is basically illegible whether printed or cursive. sad

TheMonster Sun 16-Sep-12 18:50:12

Handwriting doesn't need to be joined up anymore, so don't worry about that. His school could apply for extra time for him.

Uninformed Sun 16-Sep-12 18:50:15

We've decided, no matter what the Head of English says, we're still going to the Governors. This isn't the first time we've had nonsense from this school.
They tried to discourage him from taking Triple Science last term, saying he might find the new extended AQA Science questions difficult. Absolute nonsense! He needs triple Science to continue on to A Level. As I said to the Headteacher at the time "What else is he going to do at A Level? Art? He got a level 5 in that!"
All because he has the right to use a laptop (which he doesn't use for Science anyway)
The answers aren't that long, I've seen the example questions and answers on the AQA site.
The schools organisation is completely bonkers.
I'll keep you posted on how it all pans out.

Uninformed Sun 16-Sep-12 19:07:21

Also, last term,(Year 9), he was in the second from top set for English, along with another boy who also has "laptop rights" This boy is also in the SEN group with him! Should I try and alert his parents?

Irecognisethat Sun 16-Sep-12 20:30:04

There are lots of different reasons why a student may struggle with handwriting from dysgraphia to low muscle tone in their hands. Our DS had terrible problems with handwriting. One of the more troubling parts of what happened with us was the snap judgement of teachers that the content must be rubbish because the handwriting was. When my son switched to typing all his work - including his GCSEs (and eventually his IB exams) both his confidence and his results soared. It improved his speed, his spelling and grammar along with his content. He was able to correct as he worked and redraft and amend his homework. He was dismissed as a "no hoper" at 11/12 and is starting at Oxford in two weeks. The school has an obligation to your DS and to you to help him achieve his best. Do not allow them to deny this assistance to your son. Fight tooth and nail. Accept nothing less. See an Ed Psych - have the school's SEN teacher step up for you - they should recognise the problem. Don't back down.

Dominodonkey Mon 17-Sep-12 00:43:02

I am head of KS 4 English at my school. I agree with notnow, definitely sounds like a 2nd set to me. Bottom sets are normally 5c attainment at KS 3 at the most.

You say he 'can't' write longer passages legibly. Do you mean this or do you mean he 'won't' - I have had examples of both in top sets.

I think it is a mistake to go the Governors if you have a satisfactory response from the Head of English.

sashh Mon 17-Sep-12 04:24:24

But can he use the laptop for GCSE? If not then he might be in the right set as he needs to be able to write long answers.

CondoleezzaRiceKrispies Mon 17-Sep-12 11:45:28

Has the reason for your son's difficulty with handwriting ever been established? What is his 'right' to a laptop based on?

Uninformed Mon 17-Sep-12 21:22:40

I'll try to answer your questions.
You're probably right, it's overreacting going to the governors just yet, we'll wait and see what the Head of English says, ^if she ever replies to our voice mail messages and emails^(which she hasn't done so far)

The background to his being allowed to use a laptop is: The teachers kept complaining in his exercise books that they couldn't read his writing. We discussed this one parents evening and it was suggested that we apply for laptop use. It was as uncomplicated as that.

We didn't realize that he would be stigmatized for it. He did try to tidy up his writing, he practiced over the years, but always said he couldn't write at an acceptable speed neatly.

As I said he prints shorter writing tasks, so they are legible. There's never been any formal testing as far as I know. He's never mentioned it.

We are probably a little naive, we believed that he should be able to type his longer essays in English and the Humanities during the GCSE exams, but I will get all this clarified with the H of E, if we ever receive a reply to our messages, and let everyone know what she said.

Mutteroo Tue 18-Sep-12 03:55:26

Shout as loud as you can!

DD went from the second top set in English (yr7) to the second bottom set (yr9). Even the teacher couldn't work out why DD was in the class bu would the school move her? Would they heck! In the end we found way too many battles with said school & moved DD. We then found out she had Dyslexia, but the damage was done. Her confidence had been crucified & her standards in English dropped.

Fight the good fight. If head of English won't budge, speak to governors. You have nothing to lose! Good luck OP

Niceweather Tue 18-Sep-12 07:38:43

You could also try the SENCO. My son in Yr 8 uses a laptop. He's in top group Science and second group English and Maths. Handwriting and spelling is horrific but knowledge, content and ideas are very good. He was previously on bottom table at Junior School which I won't forgive them for. I think it's outrageous and I'd be down there like a shot but not all guns blazing as you don't want to rub them up the wrong way.

Hopeforever Tue 18-Sep-12 07:53:15

Perhaps the school your DS goes to has more able students and set 3 is the right place for him to get the he he needs?

My DS has the same results as yours, uses a lap top in school, has a TA with him 20 hours a week and is in set 3. He has ASD. The school is second in the tables for exam results for the county.

He is also in the top 4 in his year for science (they didn't give placings, we only know as he was invited to a science trip to Oxford Uni for the top 4 students)

He is doing triple sciences but the school were concerned about him doing both History and Geography due to the amount he needed to write.

You have every right to question your sons placing in this group, but go in with a questioning attitude not anger

CondoleezzaRiceKrispies Tue 18-Sep-12 08:00:26

Oh dear, OP, it sounds exactly as you say, that him having a laptop has defined him in the school's eyes as being lower set. If his spelling, punctuation, grammar and comprehension are all good could you spell it out for them that in your opinion it's purely the mechanics of holding a pen that is a problem?
Is his printing speed so painfully slow that it's no use? I write in a mixture of joined and printed letters, as do lots of people. Is it practical to work on the speed of his printing, might some letters end up 'sliding together' and joining anyway doing that?

SofiaAmes Tue 18-Sep-12 08:12:35

Ds has same problem with handwriting. Neurologist thinks it's a type of dyspraxia. He very clearly had a problem by Kindergarten (we are in USA), so I started teaching him at home to type very early. By 2nd grade he was typing all his assignments, but using a computer in school was not possible/encouraged (except for his lovely 4th grade teacher) and he would do poorly on anything that involved timed writing (luckily there wasn't too much of this). The assumption was always that he wasn't good at writing, simply because he wasn't quick or comfortable at the mechanics of it. I finally switched him to private school for 6th grade where he is allowed to take all his notes on his laptop and do all in class writing on it too. In fact his math teacher has just asked if he can figure out how to do his math scratch work on his computer because his handwriting is so illegible.
I have done a little research on this and it seems that typing uses the other half of the brain than handwriting (I can never remember which side is which). It's not uncommon in bright children to have trouble with the physical act of handwriting....good luck and don't let anyone convince you that he just needs to try harder...we live in the computer age luckily and it's really not a hindrance at all these days.

zamantha Tue 18-Sep-12 08:46:04

You must tackle this. My DS has a crop of v.good GCSE grades this summer except English - where class had 5 teachers and pupils had poor behaviour. I made a bit of a fuss but not enough. It did impact his grade.

My son used a laptop - invaluable - History A*. Maths and Science he hand wrote and did get great grades - we told him to write slowly and he had extra time . Have you pushed for that?

zamantha Tue 18-Sep-12 08:48:12

P.S My DS has SEN and he was still in top and one below top for sets. The school have got it wrong.

SofiaAmes Tue 18-Sep-12 14:57:48

Yes. Your child can have learning differences and still be very smart and capable. My ds is a genius, but has extremely poor active working memory and processing speed. In other words he's super smart, but takes forever to get to the answer/conclusion. So far we have found that he needs his computer for typing and extra time on tests (and to get dressed in the morning smile ).

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