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Last Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006, 14:52 GMT
Fountain pens boost 'self-esteem'
Pupil writing
Exam markers require neat handwriting in exam papers.
The headmaster of an Edinburgh school where pupils have gone back to using fountain pens said they helped to raise academic performance.

The writing policy at Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School in Edinburgh means children a young as seven are using the pens.

Bryan Lewis, the school's head teacher, said the practice helped boost youngsters' self-esteem.

It is thought the pens make pupils write neatly, which helps exam markers.

We believe if you write in fountain pen you must write neatly, but if you use pencil or ballpoint pen you can mask bad handwriting.
Bryan Lewis
Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School

Fountain pens have been used for many years by older pupils.

The move comes after the Scottish Qualifications Agency said markers had difficulties with poor handwriting on exam papers.

Mr Lewis said in the past four to five years the use of fountain pens has been extended, with seven and eight-year-olds using them 80-90% of the time.

He said: "We believe if you write in fountain pen you must write neatly, but if you use pencil or ballpoint pen you can mask bad handwriting.

"We have a particular writing style and we have developed it very carefully and found a way that allows left and right handed people to write without smudging.

"We think children deserve to be able to show their work neatly. We think children need to be literate and numerate and the way society is now we have to work harder.

"The role modelling is not always there, so they need it in school."

Reaped benefits

Mr Lewis said developing neat handwriting was something pupils could then show to their family, who in turn could take it on board.

He claimed being praised for good handwriting reaped benefits later and was one of the skills that has suffered as a result of progressive teaching approaches which meant less emphasis was put on basics such as grammar.

A large number of pupils join the school aged 10, and have varying standards of handwriting.

But within a matter of months they are able to get to grips with the fountains pens and a cursive, or joined-up, handwriting style, the head teacher added.

The Headteachers' Association of Scotland believes handwriting basic skills should be taught as a "priority" as soon as children begin primary school.

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