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Hilltop First School and Foundation Stage

Handwriting & Spelling


We use a joined cursive script without ‘lead-ins’ at Hilltop:


Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee F< Gü Hh Ii Jý K„ Ll Mm

Nn O‹ Pp Qq Rr Sã Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yþ Zÿ

T«e •u[i]c[„ b[›own @ox Ïu[m[³e]d o¹Ö[r t[«e l]a]|þ d]šü.


All Reception children work through the Pegs2Paper pre-writing skills programme alongside any more formal handwriting lessons which start later in the year.  Children learn the Letterland handwriting songs to reinforce correct starting points and direction.  Busy Things printed handwriting practise sheets are used for formal handwriting instruction in small group situations.  Reception children are taught to form separate letters (with exit flicks) without joining. 


Some Year 1 and 2 children will continue to work through the Pegs2Paper programme as needed.  Joins are introduced from Year 1 through formal whole class handwriting lessons.  Initially pupils continue to use unjointed writing in general but as their confidence and accuracy in linking letters during a formal handwriting lesson grows, they are encouraged to begin to use joined up writing in other contexts.  By the start of Year 2 most children should be beginning to join most of their writing across all subjects.


Year 1 children have exercise books with 10mm spaced lines.

From Year 2, all children have exercise books with 8mm spaced lines.


From Year 3 onwards, handwriting lessons should be used to reinforce correct joins in common letter patterns, accurate and proportional spacing and size of letters and address any bad habits that have developed.


Pupils in Year 4 who can demonstrate consistently accurate joined handwriting may be awarded a Pen Licence by the team leader.  These will be awarded at the end of each half term.


Why do we teach it like this?

"At first, children should not be taught to join letters or to start every letter ‘on the line’ with a ‘lead-in’, because these practices cause unnecessary difficulty for beginners. Children may be taught to join the letters in digraphs, but this is optional."

Validation of systematic synthetic phonics programmes: supporting documentation DfE: Updated 1 April 2021


“Learning to form letters and spell words requires considerable effort and attention. Schools, therefore, should consider the advantages to children of delaying the teaching of joined handwriting. Nearly all the headteachers in the schools Ofsted visited for its ‘Bold beginnings’ survey did not teach a cursive or pre-cursive script in Reception.

They told inspectors that they believed: … it slowed down children’s writing, at a point when they already found manual dexterity tricky and the muscles in their shoulders, arms and hands were still developing.”

The reading framework - Teaching the foundations of literacy DfE: July 2021


  • Where children are not explicitly taught to form letters accurately from the correct starting point they will usually just visually replicate the letter and often develop bad habits which are difficult to later break.
  • Using correct starting points and direction results in a better flowing fluent movement for writing words.
  • Once children are able to form letters confidently then joining letters can be faster for writing.  Learning common spelling patterns as joined sets of letters can aid motor memory for spelling.



Every child in Year 1-4 has a spelling wall.  Each wall is a double sided page of nine rows of six or seven boxes.  Most boxes have a word but some are blank.  Although they are made up of words relevant to National Curriculum expectations for that year group, pupils can be given the most appropriate wall linked to their current spelling levels.


A spelling baseline assessment is carried out at the start of the year – starting from the bottom row on the first page and moving through the words until most of the class are not experiencing success.  All children are encouraged to have a go, even if it means just writing the first sound of the word.  This assessment is marked by the classroom adults.  All words that a child spells correctly are identified on individual pupil walls to be coloured in.  The words that have been coloured do not need to be ‘learnt’ as the child is already able to spell them correctly.  Blank boxes will be filled as necessary from a bank of pre-agreed topic based words which will help the children in other subjects.  


Each child chooses 3 words (Yr 1) or 5 words (Yrs2-4) to practise and learn each week.  These words are underlined or circled.  The wall is kept in their bookbag so that it can be used both at home and school to celebrate current success and identify new target words.  Pupils are welcome to practise more than the target words if they choose to.  Opportunities are be made during the school day for target words to be practised.


At some point during each week, children will be tested on their target words for that week. Correctly spelt words are coloured in on the wall.  Words spelt incorrectly are carried over as target words for the following week along with any new words selected by the child.  A complete row must be coloured before the child can move onto the next row.


At the start of the next term, another baseline assessment is done for all pupils.  New words spelt correctly can be coloured in.  This is an incentive for pupils who want to be practising more than their 5 target words each term.  It also allows for recognition of spellings learnt through general use or reading exposure.


Why do we teach it like this?

  • Individualised target words allows for individual success linked to learning.
  • Pupils learn the link between practice and success.
  • Pupils learning a set of generic words may already know many of the words on the list.
  • Words spelt incorrectly in the test should be practised until they are memorised.
  • These words are generally tricky with irregular spelling patterns rather than sets of words following a similar phonics pattern.
  • These words should be the sort of words being used in the child’s general written work.
  • If the ‘spelling test day’ is the same every week, children are encouraged to cram in the car on the way to school for short term memory for the test rather than long term memory for general application in writing.
  • Providing time in school for practising spellings supports pupils who might be less supported at home to also make progress.