Sarah Barker

Assistant Headteacher

Speaking at


Developing Automaticity in Handwriting at Secondary

The traditional view of the importance of cursive handwriting is still very much embedded within our education system. Some argue that cursive (‘joined up’) should be taught first, even in the Early Years. Data from America indicates that 15% of students using a cursive script in their SATS achieved higher grades than those using manuscript (i.e. printing) (Carpenter, 2007). The correlation made here is entirely without context, but more recent research gives us more in the way of evidence for the importance of confidence with handwriting. This evidence would be presented as part of the session. Over the past two years, I have been researching and developing strategies for the improvement of teenagers’ handwriting, with ever increasing success. The initial application of my research started within my own classroom. I have built this up across my faculty and we’re now ready to move to a whole-school approach.

While handwriting may seem like a trivial element of school life, it’s often the sticking point for many students when it comes to academic success and outcomes. The session will include practical advice on both identifying needs and ways to embed strategies across a school community.


Sarah has been teaching and leading in Bristol schools for the past 14 years. She has just completed ten years as a Head of English and is now in her first post as an Assistant Headteacher. Sarah takes a research-led approach to her subject-knowledge, her classroom practice and her leadership. She has recently completed an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Management at the IoE. She is interested in whole-school literacy, teacher wellbeing and educational research. She lives in Bristol with her husband and daughter.