So what’s the problem with the pen licence?
Pen licences are an obvious reminder of who is succeeding in class with writing and who is not. Although this is not the intention, children notice who is writing in pen and who is still stuck writing in pencil. Pencil writers know that they are behind their peers. This can impact their confidence, participation, and self-esteem.
Most of the children I work with receive their pen licence as consolidation prize at the end of the year, as teachers know that they will be writing in pen when they move up to the next class. These children watch, disappointed, as their classmates can switch from pencil to pen. They try their best, but as pen licences are handed out, they are continually reminded that their writing is just not good enough.
These children, especially if they are dyspraxic, need more practice to learn new skills. Receiving their pen licence late, or not at all, means they have less time to practice using a pen before they are required to write in it full time! So, they enter their new school year with less experience writing in pen, even though they need more opportunities to practice than their peers.
Pen licences – an example from X
It is not just me who shares this thinking. There was also an interesting thread on X which explored this exact topic. A mother posted:
“Sophie (Yr 3) has just told me she is one of 4 students in her class who isn’t allowed a pen. This upsets her. She does need to improve handwriting but I’m not sure I like her being refused a pen. #edutwitter #primaryteachers – What are thoughts on pen licenses?”
Most responses spoke about how pen licences are discriminatory towards children with additional needs, particularly those with dyslexia and dyspraxia. There were a lot of comments that spoke about a lack of inclusivity and equality.
Responders frequently used the terms ‘loathe’, ‘awful’, ‘hate them’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘detest’. Many spoke about personal examples of how their children were disappointed not to receive theirs. They also questioned the validity of them, given that all children would be able to write in pen the following year.