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Steephill Independent School and Pre-School

‘Pupils are at the heart of everything we do’

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Steephill Independent School and Pre-School

‘Pupils are at the heart of everything we do’

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Handwriting and reading

Handwriting Levels - Steephill School 


Handwriting Levels 2016



  1. Assessment can be made with or without a pencil grip at the teachers’ discretion
  2. Assessment should be over an extended period to ensure the level is made consistently and the child is secure at that level
  3. A certificate for the pen badge (spectrum) is attached and will need to be given out upon completion of spectrum level. 


Key parts of handwriting:

  • Correct formation of letters - whether it be cursive or not, children need to be able to form the letters correctly, and recognise when the letters are correctly formed
  • Orientation of letters - Children need to be able to write the letters the correct way around and know when the letter is the incorrect way around. 
  • Size of letters - Once children can form the letters, they need to be able to create handwriting that is size appropriate (not too small/ big) and is consistent. 
  • Starting point for letters - Once again, whether it is cursive or not, children need to recognise that each letter has a starting point. They need to consistently write starting at the correct place. 
  • Letter proportion - Children need to understand that some letters are tall and some hang below the line. They need to develop handwriting that allows for tall and for some to fall below the line (not too big), and consistently show this in their writing. 
  • Spacing - Children need to be able to recognise spacings both in words and between words, and use spaces appropriately in their writing. 
  • Grammar - Children need to be able to recognise grammar and marks in writing and form them correctly (appropriately sized and appropriately placed, high on the line, on the line, under the line etc)
  • Style - Children need to develop their own style of handwriting that is unique to them. Whether it be smaller, bigger, or slightly slanted, it must still follow the rules above.


The term “Standard” refers to writing without joining up.

“Cursive” refers to joining the writing up.

Levels - each level requires the previous level to still be true before the next level can be achieved.

For example, a child cannot achieve blue level if they have achieved all of blue level criteria, but their writing does not leave appropriate gaps between letters (orange level criteria).  

Pencil grip is present in these levels. However, it only states that the pencil grip must be comfortable for the child, they can write for extended periods of time without tiring, and they do not use a tool to assist them with holding the pencil.  

The pen badge (Spectrum) can be earned in any year group, provided they have met the criteria for it, although every child will receive a pen at year 3. There are 9 levels.


Rainbow -  

Recognises that the pencil is a mark making tool.

Can form some letters with a pencil.

Can form most letters in any format (paint, foam, in the air).

Can hold a pencil in order to write with it.



Uses a pencil to form most standard letters of the alphabet. 

Can form simple CVC words with appropriate and consistent gaps between letters. 

Children recognise whether a letter is formed correctly or not. 

Recognises that they need to write on the line.


Blue -  

Uses a pencil to form all standard letters of the alphabet. 

Can form simple sentences that are legible.

Leaves appropriate spaces between words.

Recognises that there is a start point for letters and attempts to use that start point.

Most letters are formed the correct way around.

Mostly writes on the line.


Purple -  

Forms simple sentences using standard letters, with both capital letters and full stops and leaving spaces between words. 

Letters are approximately equal sized and an attempt it made to use the correct proportion (capital letters).

Correct start point is used for all letters (capital and lower case).

All letters are consistently formed the correct way around.

Consistently writes on the line.

Children have a developed a pencil grip that they find comfortable and can write with consistently. 



Attempt is made to write the letters cursively (by joining up or writing with lead ons and offs) 

Full stops and capital letters are used consistently.

Capital letters contain no lead ons or offs.

Size is mostly consistent.

Spacing is consistent. 

Children can form exclamation marks.

Children make an attempt to write high and hanging letters correctly.


Spectrum - Pen badge 

Words are mostly written cursively and attempts are made to join all work up. Letters are sized appropriately.

Start point is consistently on the line for lower case, and at the top of the letter for capital letters.

Cursive letters can all be formed correctly, either in work books, handwriting books, or in practical situations. 

Children mostly take in to account high and hanging letters.

Children can write for extended periods of time without their hand tiring.



Bronze -

Handwriting is consistently joined up, neat, and appropriately sized.

All cursive letters are formed correctly.

Commas, apostrophes, and question marks are all appropriately placed and sized.

Children do not smudge their work.

Children write taking in to account high and hanging letters consistently.


Silver -  

Children write all work cursively.

They can write and place most marks of punctuation (including commas, exclamation and question marks, apostrophes, brackets, speech marks and hyphens).

They can incorporate mathematical signs appropriately into their handwriting. 


Gold -

Children can alter their handwriting to suit the situation (writing a letter to a friend, posters, writing for a teacher, and writing for someone who can’t read very well).

Children are beginning to develop a unique style of handwriting that they do consistently (handwriting slant for example should be consistent).

Children are confident in their handwriting ability.