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Definitely ‘News’ 😉 Handwriting in exams is too ‘tiring’ for students, headmaster warns“

(103 Posts)
Urmstongran Mon 13-Dec-21 19:03:49

A-level and GCSE exams should be typed because long periods of handwriting can be “tiring” for youngsters, the headteacher of a top boarding school has said.

Keith Metcalfe, headmaster at Malvern College, in Worcestershire, has called on exam boards to drop compulsory handwritten exams for GCSEs and A-levels in favour of typed papers, in order “to improve fairness and accessibility for all”.

At first I thought ‘what?’ Then remembered writing all the Christmas cards last week.

What are your thoughts on this? Are they just mollycoddled youngsters or has technology rendered swathes of handwritten pages a thing of the past?

MiniMoon Mon 13-Dec-21 19:11:21

It's been done in Finland. Its probably a sign of the times. These days keyboard skills are more important than handwriting. I read this article when it was first published and thought that it wouldn't be long before other countries followed suit.
www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/31/finnish-schools-phase-out-handwriting-classes-keyboard-skills-finland

Lincslass Mon 13-Dec-21 19:12:46

Poor little babies, how on earth are they going to cope in the big wide world. They’ll have a shock that’s for sure. This is absolutely ridiculous. Would rather schools concentrated on getting correct spellings, still I suppose spellcheck will be used, or is that why he is suggesting it. That’s cheating in my book.

EllanVannin Mon 13-Dec-21 19:23:58

How sad. I've done a lot of writing in my time and loved writing letters. In fact before the hospital went computerized in 1990 everything was handwritten and spelling mattered a lot when prescribing medication for patients.

I still write the odd 6 page letter with one or two cards, as an annual treat grin----to keep the hands from seizing up with the constant use of the laptop.

Chardy Mon 13-Dec-21 19:25:55

How much handwriting does anyone do anymore? And we have 50 years of writing to draw on. My Christmas card address labels have been on the computer for nearly 20 years, so all I do is write their name and my name, and a scribbled note maybe.
The idea of a Science exam, for example, is to see how much science they know. If doing the exam on a computer allows the best science students to get the best grade, then fine.

H1954 Mon 13-Dec-21 19:28:37

This reminded me of my final year in junior school. We had an internal handwriting exam, any pupil who excelled and produced beautiful handwriting using a fountain pen was entered into an inter-school handwriting competition. No pressure in those days eh??

Grandpanow Mon 13-Dec-21 19:28:50

The world is moving away from handwriting, makes sense for exams to as well.

CanadianGran Mon 13-Dec-21 19:30:10

In reality, students aren't using handwriting much, nor do most people in daily life. But I don't know how they could allow students to do exams on line, without having any access to internet (for cheating). I think it would be difficult to implement.

Urmstongran Mon 13-Dec-21 19:35:22

Such different times eh H1954? I take it you didn’t win the fountain pen?
😊

P.s. everyone: Nice isn’t it to have a. ‘News’ story? I don’t think anyone could shoehorn politics into this topic. But you never know .... 3,2,1

Cold Mon 13-Dec-21 19:39:40

Lincslass

Poor little babies, how on earth are they going to cope in the big wide world. They’ll have a shock that’s for sure. This is absolutely ridiculous. Would rather schools concentrated on getting correct spellings, still I suppose spellcheck will be used, or is that why he is suggesting it. That’s cheating in my book.

Which "real world" jobs require you to write a lot by hand?

In these Covid times many exams have been set online - especially at University level. My dd has done this in Sweden.

I would think that for "multiple choice" type exams it would make much more sense as they could be uploaded and marked at once. So much easier than having to collect in papers and send them off (where often they have to be scanned in anyway). Don't they already use this for driving theory tests?

It would be straight forward to set up exam computers with no access to functions such as spellcheck and no internet access. The main issue is cost

M0nica Mon 13-Dec-21 19:42:27

How much writing to most of us do? Very little I suspect,The simple fact is that, although everyone learns to write,
few of us ever do. We text, we email, we go on twitter and the resst - and how ro we import information - we type it.

This applies even more to school children who do all their work online. Unlike us, when they come to exams they do not have 10 years of writing longhand essays behind them. So it is hardly surprising they find writing exam papers hard work. As I remember one exam paper, 3 essays could require 15-20 sides of A4 written in three hours.

It is like asking someone who swims 40 lengths a day in the local pool to go our and swim the channel without extra training.

As someone with almost unreadable writing I have a lot of sympathy with this. Even in the Sixth Form, teachers were trying to improve my writing. I now know that I am dyspraxic, but in my day even dyslexia was unheard of.

DS also has dyspraxia, so for us two being able to type our exam papers would have been bliss.

GagaJo Mon 13-Dec-21 19:45:54

Everything is done online these days. It is the way of the world. I've thought for 6 or 7 years that the International Bacalaureate would go to online exams for their Diploma (17 & 18, A Level equivalent). The exams for the IB Middle Years Programme (ages 11 - 16) are online. I think they're waiting for A Levels to go online and then the IB will transfer over.

It would be a LOT easier for the exam boards. Currently, they have to scan every paper in, develop programmes to enable examiners to online mark, hand written papers. It'd all be so much easier if they were written online too.

I've been setting, administering and marking online assessments for my classes since the beginning of the pandemic. It's just as academically rigorous.

It would also mean some exam times could be reduced. In my subject, it is a lot quicker to write a typed essay than to write a hand written essay.

Examiners could also be paid a lot less. Currently, the exam boards have to factor in deciphering horrific handwriting. Approx. 1 in 10 students has writing that is bad enough to lower their grade, due to the misinterpretation of the examiner.

Calistemon Mon 13-Dec-21 19:50:00

I do think I've got out of the habit of writing, got cramp doing all the Christmas cards.

I was getting better at typing but this dib dib dibbing with a stylus is hard on the dominant arm

Calistemon Mon 13-Dec-21 19:52:58

H1954

This reminded me of my final year in junior school. We had an internal handwriting exam, any pupil who excelled and produced beautiful handwriting using a fountain pen was entered into an inter-school handwriting competition. No pressure in those days eh??

There is H1954

Any junior school pupil at DGD's primary school has to write in pencil until they can produce legible, good writing before they get their 'pen licence'.

Josianne Mon 13-Dec-21 20:14:35

I think all the posters on here make very valid points and I do agree it is a good idea.

However, at primary level, schools invest a lot of time and effort in teaching handwriting skills and it seems a bit sad if these are to be pretty much abandoned at KS3 and beyond. For many younger children handwriting is a form of self expression and I can vouch for the fact that the children take a pride in the presentation of their work. Some enjoy experimenting with styles and as their confidence grows, so does their output. Wall displays are often full of handwritten work too, otherwise they would become very impersonal and bland. Children love to recognise each other's individuality.

I do hope younger children won't be over-encouraged to use the keyboard for their work, but I do understand where the senior Headmaster is coming from.

MaizieD Mon 13-Dec-21 20:28:49

I appreciate the arguments put on here in favour of keyboards. I find that my handwriting skills are a bit rusty these days, despite having written all my exams, right through to Uni level, by hand.

BUT. Research (good old 'research' grin ) has shown that students who take lecture notes by hand, rather than on a laptop (or similar) have far better retention and recall of what they learned in the lecture. It's a bit of a dilemma...

Perhaps we should insist on note taking by hand, but allow keyboarding for exams?

Josianne Mon 13-Dec-21 20:36:29

Yes, Maizie, your comment about handwritten lecture notes is also true of revision jotting too, I believe. The more the pupil writes out the information, the better they remember it.

Calendargirl Mon 13-Dec-21 20:44:50

As someone whose writing is pretty awful, I really admire stylish handwriting.

The beautiful handwriting on my birth certificate is just such an example, nearly 70 years old.

Mollygo Mon 13-Dec-21 20:47:05

Yes MaizieD and Josianne I think it’s true about making notes and retaining.
I also agree with the idea that deciphering adds a lot of time to marking, but I’ll be watching with interest for emerging cries of unfairness or demands for extra time or scribes because some children’s wp skills aren’t sufficiently fast to complete the essays etc. in time.

Coastpath Mon 13-Dec-21 20:51:36

I think it's a great idea. Surely much easier for those doing the marking than deciphering page after page of spidery handwriting.

Urmstongran Mon 13-Dec-21 20:58:10

Yes I read an article too about the retention of information being better if it is written down first MaizieD. Commits it all to memory better apparently.

The more I think about it maybe this Head from Malvern has a good point. We must move with the times?

Devorgilla Mon 13-Dec-21 21:35:24

I do remember my hand getting pretty strained after writing for three hours at a time, eight exams in four days. Having said that, I can still write, verbatim, faster than anyone I know. As a retired teacher, I can confirm that I'd rather read a typed script than try to interpret some of the handwriting. No matter how bad, if you are marking papers, you do have to ensure marks are given for points made. If I was being really 'prissy' about it, I'd make them all use fountain pens with black ink.

Septimia Mon 13-Dec-21 21:47:00

If children don't learn to write because keyboard skills are considered more important, what will happen about signing legal documents? Will they have to provide a fingerprint - or 'make their mark' (a cross) like illiterate people did in the past?

Also, typing in exams is likely to take longer. I once invigilated an exam for a girl who had to use a computer because, for some reason I can't remember, she was unable to write. She had to have extra time in order to complete the paper.

M0nica Mon 13-Dec-21 22:56:24

Learning to touch type will need to be part of the curriculum.

People write at different speeds, so typing at different speeds should not cause problems

Mollygo Mon 13-Dec-21 23:44:05

Learning to touch type will need to be part of the curriculum. It needs daily practice and will need to be practised for homework. Oh no!
Back to the two tier society with problems, especially for those who can’t afford a computer or at least a keyboard with some indication of which line you are on.
Around £900 was quoted at my GD’s school for an official school laptop with all the apps/programs you need. Some ‘free’ ones available for the really poor, but those with no laptop, for whom £30 per month over 30 months would be a struggle weren’t catered for. So what do they do to improve their touch typing?
I’ve run a club for touch typing but only those who really wanted to get faster practised.