BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 11:17 GMT
Pupils 'struggling' with spelling
The word 'thoroughly' flummoxed pupils
More than half of the 11 year olds who passed tests in English last year could not spell the words "effortless" and "participate", a report suggests.

Some 75% of the children who took spelling, reading and writing tests reached the required standard.

Of these, just 12% spelt "thoroughly" correctly, while "rehearsed" was beyond 67.5%, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority found.

The QCA analysed a sample of 215 successful candidates' test papers.

Back to basics?

It found more than 80% had spelled words such as "together", "important" and "involved" correctly.

But "qualified" proved too hard for four out of 10 pupils.


Only 43% spelled "effortless" correctly, while just 40% had "knowledge" right, with the silent "k" and the "dg" catching out many pupils.

The analysis showed 61% spelled "participate" wrongly, with the "c" causing problems.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "I think that parents and employers will be absolutely horrified that more than half of 11 year olds haven't learned to spell a fairly regular word like 'effortless'.

"I would have thought that these are the very things that primary schools should be doing, although they say they are concentrating on the basics."

The government had set a target that by 2002 80% of 11 year olds should have reached "Level 4", regarded as a pass mark.

However, the proportion that did so in 2003 remained at 75%, not having changed since 2000.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "I think that, rather than concentrating on whether schools are actually slavishly following the literacy strategy, we want to make sure that teachers are doing what they were traditionally doing before the literacy strategy was ever invented - namely, making sure their children can spell properly before they leave primary school.

"If children can't spell those words, despite the fact they are achieving the level expected at age 11, then something needs to be done in the way of urgent awareness-raising and training."

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "There is no doubt that standards have risen in primary school, although we clearly have more work to do."

A QCA spokesman said: "We continue to work with teachers to develop ways in which the outcomes from the tests can be used to improve pupil performance."

These are some of the words 11 year olds most commonly got wrong. Do you think you could do any better?

Which of these is spelled correctly?
A: Efortless
B: Effortless
C: Efourtless
More than half of 11 year olds were bamboozled by this one. Which is correct?
A: Partissipate
B: Partisipate
C: Participate
It's what we go to school for, but how is the word itself written?
A: Noledge
B: Knowledge
C: Knowlege
More and more of us are getting degrees, but what do they make us?
A: Quaulified
B: Qualiffied
C: Qualified
Only 12% of 11 year olds spelled this everyday word correctly. Which is right?
A: Thoroughly
B: Thouroghly
C: Thurolly
This proved a wolf in sheep's clothing for two-thirds of children. Which is not an imposter?
A: Discise
B: Descuise
C: Disguise
It sounds easy, but which is spelled correctly?
A: Rehersed
B: Rehearsed
C: Reheursed
Which of these best describes this quiz? Be polite.
A: Chalendging
B: Chalenging
C: Challenging

 Press the button and see how you have done

Fight to save English spelling
05 Jun 03  |  Essex
Teacher applicants 'can't spell'
11 Mar 03  |  Education
Spellbound creates big buzz
13 Oct 03  |  Reviews

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific