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Is it time to draw a line under pen licences?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Should we scrap or keep pen licences? Do they really help or hinder children’s handwriting? One teacher looks at the controversial practice of rewarding pupils’ penmanship:

    ‘The theory is clear: we inspire children to improve their handwriting by promising the reward of a certificate and being able to write with a pen if they hit the correct level of skill required.

    But does it work? I am dubious. I think we need a whole rethink of the seemingly innocent pen licence.

    …In the mind of a child, the pen licence can often take on a disproportionate significance; a glaring signifier of those who are deemed good enough, and those who aren’t.

    Moreover, it is clearly problematic for dyspraxic and less able-bodied children – some children may never receive a pen licence at all.

    In no other area of the curriculum do we restrict access to all but the most able.’

    Sally Kawagoe is a primary school teacher in the East Midlands.


    What are your views about pen licences?
  2. 50sman

    50sman Lead commenter

    I would never have been given a pen licence
    I was dyspraxia before the term was invented

    my chalk board work As a teacher was interesting- my students eventually cracked the code

    I am now 60 and retired so it doesn’t matter now but it would have done then
  3. catmother

    catmother Star commenter

    A pen licence? Never heard of this.
    Jamvic likes this.
  4. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    I remember this. Wasn’t allowed to use a pen in school until you could write neatly with pencil. You still used pen at home, but not at school.

    Nowadays really they should teach them to touch type. It’s the biggest disservice we do for pupils not teaching them to touch type.
    Stiltskin, hgallagher, Jamvic and 3 others like this.
  5. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    We've taught touch typing for years in the primary school I work in. It makes editing stories etc so much easier for the pupils. They're also taught how to use thick marker pens to write in neat, print script so that their posters look good and how to produce neat, joined handwriting in pencil and in pen. They're given three types of pen and asked to use them to find out which type of pen they find most comfortable to write with and easiest to produce the neatest handwriting with. We've never used pen licences.
    Jamvic, peter12171, MrMedia and 2 others like this.
  6. maggie m

    maggie m Lead commenter

    We get year 7's writing in pencil, our rules are blue or black pen. They whine about not having a pen licence. In my experience it doesn't matter what they write with, they have no idea how to hold a writing implement, and can not spell.
    peter12171 and agathamorse like this.
  7. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    Starting secondary school for me in the 1980s it was a bit like the opposite of a pen licence where everyone was obliged to write in fountain pen whether they were ready to master the skill or not. Biros were banned. I really struggled with hand-writing but finally worked it out and was eventually proud of my beautiful italic writing. I expect I would have been annoyed by the concept of a pen licence as I would have been one of the last to obtain it.
  8. Lalex123

    Lalex123 Established commenter

    We had this rule when I was young. I wrote in pencil until secondary school. I am left handed and was never allowed to use a fountain pen in primary school because of this.

    I think it’s just one more thing that is used with good intentions but it hindered my confidence and enjoyment of school and I always felt the odd one out. Kids can be cruel and it was something that others would use to bully with. Not nice, considering it was a school rule that caused the issues.
    hgallagher likes this.
  9. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    Chatting with a neighbour yesterday - he's older than me (70s) and he could write neatly before he started to school (age 5), but was then made to go back to using a pencil and writing in block capitals! Said it ruined his penmanship for years.

    Which makes me think teachers have never really got it right!
  10. Stevek

    Stevek New commenter

    My daughter earned her pen licence, then had it taken away from her because using a fountain pen caused all sorts of problems as a left hander. So a big presentation in assembly and the presentation of a pen, then humiliation!
  11. irs1054

    irs1054 Star commenter

    Pen licence = licence to quill.;)

    Sorry couldn't help that one. Like a lot of ideas this sounds OK but several of the posts show the problems. I think you need to be hard nosed about all these ideas, if they work then fine but if not be prepared to ditch.
    ScienceGuy likes this.
  12. HarryAngel

    HarryAngel New commenter

    This must be one of the commonest myths ever introduced into teaching of IT - I first encountered it 30 years ago and here it is again! So, for the benefit of the short-of-thinking, allow me to explain:

    TOUCH TYPING was invented (developed?) during the era of typing pools and paper communication. The originator of a communication (letter, report, thesis, book, etc) would dictate (or in some cases hand-write) the text then pass it to another person (who was called a TYPIST) to type it out. The work of composition of the communication was done before the typing (to the great frustration of many audio typists who would have to re-start a document because of a change of mind by the author later in the dictated version), so the typist's skill was to reproduce it as quickly as possible. The way to do this was TOUCH TYPING, whereby the typist kept their eyes (or ears) on the original and typed without having to look down at the keyboard.

    In schools now, students compose their work straight-to-screen (if they don't, they simply have a lazy teacher who wants to keep them busy for longer with less supervisory effort!), so they accrue no benefit from touch-typing, quite the contrary. Their initial, unformed thoughts go straight into their work, they fail to review or even proof-read what they've written and the result is considerably worse than what they might otherwise have produced if typing had introduced a tiny delay between conception and committal to screen. This argument also applies to coding and similar activities: despite what you might have seen on TV, coders do have to plan their code, they don't just type a whirlwind of code off the top of their heads. (Well, they do sometimes, and that's when you get programs and apps that don't work properly, hand or crash, and get hacked.)

    THAT;s why we shouldn't teach touch typing!
    ChrisMac13 likes this.
  13. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

  14. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    An interesting viewpoint on touch typing. I have no more than personal experience to contribute here but touch typing is one of the most useful skills I learned at school. It means, for example that I can type this sentence while only looking at the screen (to check for errors as I type) and I can type as quickly as I can write by hand. It is exasperating for me to watch any one who doesn't touch type slowly finding their way around the keyboard at the pace of a snail.

    If my husband has to type a letter or report then he dictates it to me because I can type as quickly as he can compose the sentences. If he were to type them himself, the whole exercise would take 5 times as long. I cannot see any advantage that I would gain from losing my ability to touch-type.
    ChrisMac13 and bonxie like this.
  15. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Thank you for the extra info. That’s quite fascinating. You know, of course, I refer to the concept of teaching typing through the ability to discern the two bumps on the home keys and to be able to foray out the correct fingers to the correct keys whilst not looking down at the keyboard. That’s it. Maybe 5 hours of leaning is all that is needed to stop that awful sight of someone bent with their nose almost to the keyboard, rat-a-tatting their keyboard with two index fingers so hard the keyboard jumps and dances around the desk.
    At work, I compose at an effortless 50wpm and my productivity is very high, I watch colleagues spend several times longer on similar documents and the only difference is the quality of our typing.
    Still, the history of what used to be known as touch typing is quite fascinating. I quite fancy having a go on an old electric typewriter. I rather think it could be good for reducing the number of typing mistakes I make which the computer helpfully tidies up for me as I type.
    bonxie likes this.
  16. bonxie

    bonxie Lead commenter

    I'd agree, that's what most people mean when they refer to touch typing nowadays.

    This might apply to the schools you're familiar with but it doesn't apply to all schools. Our pupils are taught how to make notes and quickly plan their texts so that they know the structure their story or non-fiction work is going to take before they start typing it. Being able to touch type enables the pupils to get their ideas down quickly. They then revise and edit as necessary and use the spellchecker. Being able to make changes to their work quickly, without rewriting the whole thing, saves a lot of time.
  17. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    We were gradually given our 'pen licenses' in what would now be Year 6, as each pupil's handwriting was considered good enough. I still remember the shame of being one of the last in the class to get mine. The embarrassment of watching my classmates using their 7/6d 'Platignums', from Smiths, while I was still scribbling with my HB. :(
  18. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    I have never heard of pen licenses. Must be an English thing.
  19. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Bring back dip pens and inkwells!

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