Helping Handwriting Shine

Ben Styles

23 September 2022

Research report on the EEF website

Helping Handwriting Shine, an eight-week intervention using occupational therapy approaches to support pupils’ handwriting, was developed by a team at the University of Leeds and the Bradford Institute of Health Research. It involved three 30-minute sessions per week, with each session consisting of three activities: preparing for handwriting, a warm-up pencil control activity, and an explicit handwriting activity.

The project aimed to train primary teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) to deliver the intervention and evaluate its impact on the overall quality of children’s writing (primary outcome), writing composition and speed (secondary outcomes). Through two randomised controlled efficacy trials, two intervention approaches were tested – a universal or whole class approach in Year 2 and a targeted approach in Year 5 that focused on children who were slow and effortful writers or unable to read their own handwriting.

Key Findings

  • The Year 2 experiment found that children who experienced the universal intervention made no additional progress in their overall writing ability compared to children in control schools.
  • Children in Year 5 who experienced the targeted intervention made the equivalent of two months’ additional progress in their overall writing ability compared to the control group; although there was a lot of uncertainty around this result.
  • Children in Years 2 and 5 who received the intervention did not make any progress in writing composition; exploratory analyses suggested no impact of the intervention on handwriting speed.
  • The Implementation and Process Evaluation found that staff and pupils viewed the intervention positively. Staff also felt that their ability to teach handwriting had improved and the programme was easy to implement.