British mumpreneur tackling the UK’s illiteracy one letter at a time.
In the UK one child in three is leaving primary school unable to read or write well enough, according to Government statistics. That statistic is being challenged by a British ‘mumpreneur’, one letter at a time, with a proven method for teaching handwriting that’s already transforming children’s lives. The handwriting system takes absolute beginners to Ofsted standard in joined up writing in just seven weeks.
In 2011, Melanie Harwood, Start-Bee’s founder, was devastated when her then four-year-old daughter, Hannah-Jane, was refused entry into a local primary school because she couldn’t write her name. In response, Harwood developed her very own writing method to fast track her daughter’s handwriting. After a few weeks, completing the handwriting exercises Harwood had created for her, Hannah-Jane could write her name, securing her a place at the school that had initially rejected her. Once in school, Hannah-Jane then proceeded to overtake the entire first year of her primary school group. In response, the school asked Harwood if they could use her method to help pupils struggling with handwriting and Start-Bee was born.
i-genius is hugely excited to be supporting Start-Bee. It is rare to get an opportunity to support an initiative that can transform the lives of so many children in the UK and with enormous growth potential, worldwide.
Melanie Harwood says, “As a rule of thumb, if by the age of five, a child is unable to write their own name or at aged seven they are unable to join up their letters or write more than a paragraph after five minutes then Start Bee can help. By the age of seven a child’s handwriting must be legible if they are to succeed at school in general; illegible handwriting prevents them and their teachers from reading their work and they will be losing valuable ground in exams where examiners are also unable to read their papers. Currently, one in three children are leaving primary school unable to read and write properly which is simply unacceptable.”
The Letchworth-based company specialises in helping those one in three children who are struggling to master the basics, who then have become “stuck” and lost confidence in their ability to learn not just writing but other subjects too.
“In teaching children to write, Start-Bee Creative Clubs stripped away any fears and frustrations that may have built up so individual pupils can realise their potential across the curriculum.” Harwood continues, “Alongside reading and maths, writing is one of the three key skills every individual needs to master if they are to cope in the adult world. To have a career, to take charge of financial affairs and to live independently depend largely on a person’s ability to read, write and add-up. There is clear scientific evidence that children who can write are able to access the entire education curriculum more efficiently than children who cannot write. Start-Bee clubs have a track record of helping Pupil Premium students improve across the whole curriculum after we have helped rebuild their confidence and their ability to master these basic skills.”
The full Start-Bee Handwriting Club Programme consists of an hour’s lesson each week for 7 weeks. In that time complete novices are taken from the basics of making marks through to creating joined up writing. In Harwood’s experience, the majority of writing problems stem from an inability to hold the pencil correctly which is why a large proportion of the weekly session is spent teaching children how to hold a pencil as well as giving them exercises to strengthen their motor skills, muscles and grip.
The Start-Bee system works and the results are astonishing. In just seven hours, every Start-Bee student is able to achieve the Ofsted standard of writing his or her name in a legible, neat, joined up script. The confidence boost this gives the pupil aside, a legible script has a practical, knock-on effect across other subjects. Take secondary school student, Adam for example. Adam came to Start Bee struggling to read his own handwriting. Within only three, one-hour Start-Bee Writing Club sessions, his spidery scrawl was transformed into a clear and fluent, but most importantly, legible script that he was so proud of. Watching Adam develop his handwriting skills over the three weeks was wonderful for Harwood to see but, even more powerful to witness was Adam’s growing confidence in himself. He reported back that he was getting ten out of ten for his Maths tests as his teacher could now clearly see that a nine was, indeed, a nine and that all his numbers were written clearly too.
Today, the company runs Start-Bee handwriting clubs out of schools and libraries across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex counties in the UK. With the company mission set on helping every child join-up their letters before they turn seven, Harwood has plans to expand both here in the UK and overseas. It has transformed children’s lives like Ayomikun and Adam whose stories are here on the Start-Bee website.
As part of Harwood’s expansion plans, Start-Bee is seeking crowd-funding support to take the lessons out of the classroom by making Start-Bee handwriting kits available to use at home. For this Harwood is aiming to raise investment, by pre-selling her handwriting kits (which include options for dyslexic and SEN learners), to deliver the accompanying lessons via an e-learning Programme. Start-Bee’s crowdfunding campaign is now live, anyone interested in purchasing the handwriting kits should get in touch with Melanie Harwood via the Start-Bee website www.start-bee.com or by purchasing at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-children-learn-handwriting