When I was growing up, typing lessons were on the curriculum at school but only for those pupils who were deemed ‘non-academic’.
I would pass the typing classroom on my way to history every Wednesday afternoon and glance through the window where rows and rows of (mainly) girls would be taking instruction from a particularly fierce teacher with horn-rimmed specs.
As I settled down to listen to tales of William’s triumph at Hastings or Wellington’s victory over Napoleon, I always felt a sense of relief I wasn’t having to bash out how the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog repeatedly for an hour.
But times have changed. Not a day will pass for the digital natives that we are teaching at Brighton College when they will not find themselves typing – on a Mac, a PC, a laptop, their phones or their tablets, which they bring to school each day.
Yet until now we had done nothing to help them develop this quotidian task. Studies show that you gain an extra three months’ worth of time every year if you can touch type and it makes sense that an employer at any level would want to hire someone who can not only type much faster than your standard two-finger ‘hunt and pecker,’ but also concentrate fully on the actual content of the task because typing has become second nature.
Our Year 9s are now being taught how to type at speed without looking down at the keyboard. We have engaged New Zealand expert June Perry, who has patented her own method of teaching that promises that children and adults can learn within a few hours, banishing time-consuming hunting for keys forever.
These children are the generation which have mastered all number of computer software programmes yet they have not been taught the most basic skill of all – how to type. Isn’t that like teaching them to write without showing them how to hold a pen?
When we looked into this, we quickly realised that teaching methods have moved on a long way since my schooldays and it is something that can be neatly slotted into our life skills classes which also include presentational skills, how to get a mortgage and learning to budget. Even if a pupil didn’t need touch typing in their day job – they still will find it incredibly valuable in everyday life.
People who type with two fingers manage between 27 and 37 words a minute, according to Pitman Training, while someone trained to touch type can reach between 50 and 70 words a minute. Within a corporate setting, if a whole team is trained in touch typing, the time saved is hugely beneficial.
This is something that Finland has already grasped. From 2016, all Finnish schools have been required by law to teach pupils how to touch type and speed write text messages.
A handful of other top British schools including Eton are now also introducing the skill into their timetables as more and more parents recognise that touch typing has moved on from its non-academic image and can now improve their child’s employability. The feedback I have had from parents so far is that they are thrilled their children are learning such a practical skill.
The ultimate aim of touch typing classes is that you will be able to type at the speed of thought – an incredibly useful ability that very few adults in Britain have. I sometimes think back to those typing classes I whisked past at school and wonder how much time I might have saved if I’d tried them. I may just make time to pop in and listen.