I once planned some CPD with a colleague who was a very knowledgeable literacy consultant and who knows more about literacy than I could ever hope to. On this particular occasion she had her left arm in a cast following a fracture. She was left handed and therefore had to try to make notes about the training we were going to deliver with her right hand. She wasn't trying to write any more than brief, simple notes but she found it incredibly difficult to spell even very simple words. She was extremely frustrated and we were both shocked at how much of an impact a handwriting struggle could have on somebody who is very good at spelling. Children who are not confident with spelling in the first place are presumably held back even more when handwriting is a physical (and cognitive) struggle. Helping handwriting to become a smooth, comfortable, automatic process can only help to free up lots of brainpower and make writing easier and more enjoyable.

Handwriting and spelling are clearly inextricably linked. On most occasions when children spell words, they will be writing them by hand. It clearly makes sense for children to be given opportunities to rehearse the formation of words that they have learned in spelling sessions. However, trying to squeeze handwriting into spelling sessions isn't a realistic option. There is enough to fit into spelling sessions without trying to squeeze in accurate letter formation demonstrations as well. Children need spelling sessions AND handwriting sessions. The new curriculum refers to children having frequent, discrete and direct teaching of handwriting.

The new statutory requirements for Y1 include: sitting and holding a pencil comfortably, forming capital letters, forming digits 0-9, beginning to form lower-case letters correctly and understanding which letters belong to different handwriting 'families'. By Y2 the emphasis is on ensuring that letters are the right size in proportion to one another, that spaces are left between words and that letters are formed correctly (including beginning to use joining strokes. The non-statutory guidance for Y2 encourages frequent rehearsal of letter formation and stresses that children should be taught to join letters as soon as they are confident in forming them.

In my personal experience, I have found that once a week handwriting sessions simply aren't effective. As the curriculum suggests, short, frequent, regular handwriting sessions - I would suggest daily if at all possible - should be the aim. Alongside the explicit teaching of handwriting objectives, sessions will benefit from lots of rehearsal of the handwriting objective and (when it fits in with the handwriting objective) rehearsal of spelling words. Including lots of self-assessment in handwriting sessions can make a real difference. Often children want to write neatly but don't know how to go about it. Success criteria, give them something specific to aim for and measure themselves against, whether the criteria are related to posture, pencil pressure, letter sizes, keeping letters on the line, keeping upright lines parallel or are more related to particular letters or joins. Children can easily check in just a few seconds for letters/words/lines where they have best achieved the success criteria and those where they haven't done so well. They can then easily tell how they are doing and see what they need to do to improve.