Is enough being done for left-handers? - The Droitwich Standard
Online Editions

12th Aug, 2022

Is enough being done for left-handers?

Droitwich Editorial 19th Mar, 2015 Updated: 17th Oct, 2016

LEFT-handers are understood to make up ten per cent of the UK’s population. But are teachers doing enough to make sure they receive the right level of support in schools? Mark Stewart, owner of Worceshireshire-based Left N’ Write, does not think so, so The Standard’s left-handed reporter Geoff Berkeley met him to discuss his campaign and try out his techniques to improve handwriting.

AS SOON as I picked up a pen, it felt right – or should I say left? I was a left-hander and as the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bill Gates and John McEnroe have proved it was not a barrier to stop you from succeeding in life.

But it was the way I was holding that pen which had put me into an even more select category.

With the pen clamped into position with my thumb wrapped around my index and middle finger to hold it in place, I felt comfortable and it worked for me.

Even the smudging which used to occur when I pushed my pen across the paper failed to stop me from persisting with my style of writing.

It was what I was familiar with and as I looked across the classroom I could see that I was not the only student to use different hand postures to get words out onto the paper.

And this was where the problem stemmed from according to Mark Stewart, who set up his company, Left N’ Write after he noticed that his son, Robert, was not receiving enough help with his left-handedness.

The Battenhall resident has since been working tirelessly – with the support of Mid Worcestershire MP Sir Peter Luff – to get education bosses to recognise the problems of being left handed.

“What we tend to find in schools is that when children’s letter formation is OK, teachers tend to look at what is written when they should be looking at ‘the how’.” he said. “And it is ‘the how’ which is critical for the left-hander.”

His passion for hand-writing has also seen him set up sessions for youngsters at Wise Owl Toys store on Charles Street, which he runs with his wife, Heather.

Although mainly teaching people between the ages of eight and 13, I was also able to benefit from his techniques which included altering the angle of the paper and changing my style to a tripod grip where your thumb, index and middle finger act as a ‘pincer’.

He added: “We have had children who have travelled 100 miles to learn how to write properly. It is crazy as I am not a teacher. I am just a right-handed parent. All I am doing is what I have done from experience and it takes me between five and ten minutes for children to leave with a good hand-writing technique. And once they are sorted, they are sorted for the rest of their life.

“Unfortunately the repercussions of poor handwriting can go far beyond the classroom. We have heard of stories where a child has refused to go to school because it is ‘handwriting day’ and because they are struggling their self-esteem goes down.”

Sir Peter told The Standard he found handwriting difficult due to his “awkward” style of holding a pen. This led him to become a big supporter of Mr Stewart’s efforts as he believes left-handedness was treated as a “joke” in society.

“Unless you are taught at school you can pick up a very awkward writing style.” he said. “It has been a real problem for me and my writing has deteriorated.

“The average three-form entry primary school has 90 kids, so seven or eight of them are going to be left-handed. That is a significant number and those young people could have a more enjoyable experience and succeed better academically if they are given more help with their handwriting.”

The new curriculum which was launched last year has offered Mr Stewart and Sir Peter some hope as it requires teachers to help youngsters with their hand-writing. It also said left-handers should be offered ‘appropriate guidance’, but as this was non-statutory Mr Stewart felt they were still treated as an “optional extra”.

However, they have now received assurances from Nick Gibb, education minister, that he would look at giving teachers the skills necessary to support left-handed children.

Although this seems like positive news for the future, Mr Steward, who has been campaigning for more than 20 years. insisted his work with Sir Peter certainly had not stopped there.

“It is great that we are getting somewhere, but I am a little bit resistant about being too enthusiastic because words are all very well and good, but you need action.” he added.

“If we can get it prescribed in initial teacher training then I think that will move things forward. But I would like to see much more than is happening now.”

Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff (centre) in London with Mark and Heather Stewart ahead of their meeting with Education Minister Nick Gibb. (s)

Worcester-based Left N’ Write provides youngsters with a number of techniques to improve their handwriting.

Public Notices

View and download all of the public notices in the Droitwich Standard.

Reader Travel

Check out all of the latest reader travel offers to get your hands on some free gifts.

Buy Photos

Buy photos online from the Droitwich Standard newspaper.

Recruitment

Find a career you'll love with our free career finder website.