4 things to consider when using pen licences

In the early years of primary school, children are usually encouraged to write in pencil, and will move onto using a pen when their handwriting has reached a certain standard. In many schools, children will receive a pen licence to acknowledge their transition from pencil to ink. 


Pen licences are used to motivate children to develop their handwriting to a required level. However, there is a need to balance this approach for those children who may not yet, or ever, develop particularly neat or accurate script.

At Thrive we always recommend that practitioners follow the policy of the school, and in this case the awarding of pen licences would be no different. However, if you are debating the merits and issues surrounding pen licences, you may want to consider the following points:

  1. At Skills and Structure we are seeking to develop intrinsic motivation to refine skills – handwriting fits nicely in here as a skill to refine.
  2. If a pen licence is awarded once a child has demonstrated neat writing, then this can be an example of extrinsic motivation and therefore it is the reward of the licence that is driving the child rather than wanting to improve their handwriting.
  3. If a pen is used to help a child improve their writing and the process and effort of the writing is praised, then this can lead to intrinsic motivation as the focus is on the writing process rather than the result or outcome.
  4. At Power and Identity we receive feedback from all aspects of our lives and this can lead us to develop how we identify ourselves, for example, ‘I am good at art or I am not good at art’. The feedback we receive on our writing can stimulate us to see ourselves as writers and inspire us to want to write. How can pens be used to encourage children to write, rather making some children think they are not good at writing?

The Thrive Approach focusses on the relationship between the adult and child, and we are therefore interested in how practitioners implement the policies of their settings. We hope our Approach supports you with how policies can be used to benefit the social and emotional development of the children they may affect.

Find out more about the Thrive Approach here.