Left-handed chil­dren ‘still pe­nalised’

Daily Mail - - News - By Sarah Har­ris

TEACH­ERS used to go to ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths to force left-handed chil­dren to use their right, from ty­ing their pre­ferred arm down to as­sign­ing fel­low pupils to sit with them and make sure they did not do what came nat­u­rally.

While such ex­treme mea­sures are no longer seen in schools, chil­dren are still be­ing ‘pe­nalised’ for be­ing left-handed be­cause many teach­ers are un­able to spot the signs that they are strug­gling with their writ­ing and do not know how to help them ef­fec­tively, ac­cord­ing to cam­paign­ers.

They are de­mand­ing that the na­tional cur­ricu­lum in­clude a le­gal duty for left­handed pupils to re­ceive spe­cific teach­ing to meet their needs.

Mark Stewart, who runs the Worces­ter­based group Left ’n’ Write with his wife Heather, said the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion does not record how many chil­dren are left-handed in schools be­cause it is not con­sid­ered a dis­abil­ity. With around 10 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion said to be left-handed, Mr Stewart, who spe­cialises in help­ing left­handed chil­dren, has also writ­ten to the Gov­ern­ment ask­ing it to con­sider the im­pact on ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment.

He claimed a high per­cent­age of the prison pop­u­la­tion is left-handed, and sug­gested prob­lems with hand­writ­ing dur­ing early ed­u­ca­tion could re­sult in ‘low marks, low self-es­teem [and] a down­ward spi­ral’.

For­mer Tory min­is­ter Sir Peter Luff, who is left-handed and was MP for Mid Worces­ter­shire un­til 2015, said: ‘It’s bizarre that kids in our schools are pe­nalised be­cause they hap­pen to be left-handed.’

He added it was easy to im­prove con­di­tions for them by help­ing them to hold their pens more ef­fec­tively, for ex­am­ple.

In a let­ter re­spond­ing to con­cerns about the is­sue, ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Nick Gibb said teach­ers need to en­sure all pupils – in­clud­ing left-han­ders – re­ceive ‘what­ever spe­cific sup­port they re­quire’.

He added: ‘The ex­act way in which chil­dren are taught to write, how­ever, is a mat­ter for schools to de­cide.’

A Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion spokesman said yes­ter­day: ‘We trust teach­ers to pro­vide sup­port to chil­dren who are strug­gling for any rea­son.’

The Min­istry of Jus­tice does not record how many prison­ers are left-handed.

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