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Saturday, 18 August, 2001, 00:10 GMT 01:10 UK
Youngsters fail spelling test
Girls reading
Girls outshine boys when it comes to spelling
Youngsters are unjustifiably over-confident about their spelling abilities, a study has suggested.

They are likely to call themselves "excellent spellers" - not realising they get things wrong.

Young men are the worst offenders, but even the young women think they spell better than they actually do.

More than one thousand people aged over 15 were asked to spot spelling mistakes in a piece of writing.

Common mistakes
accomodation
realy
recieve
littrature
catigory
[click for corrections]
Of those aged between 15 and 21, not one managed to spot all the errors - which were in commonly mis-spelt words such as accommodation and receive.

Yet seven out of 10 of the group had described themselves as being good at spelling.

Girls spotted about 67% of the mistakes, while boys managed to spot only 54%.

The study was carried out for the publishers Bloomsbury by Professor Loreto Todd of Ulster University.

She told the Times Educational Supplement: "We used everyday words that schools focused on.

spelling mistake
The literacy hour is being spread to secondary schools
"It wasn't as if we were asking the youngsters to spell 'idiosyncrasy' - we all ought to be able to get 'receive' right."

She said the survey suggested that as many as 15% of young people aged 15 to 21 were "functionally illiterate".

"Being able to spell and recognise words is perhaps more important now than at any time in the past," she said.

In the survey, the younger generation were put to shame by older people.

In one test, people were shown the same word spelt three different ways.

Of those aged between 41 and 50, 90% picked the correct versions, compared with just 65% of those aged between 15 and 30.

From September, the government is extending its literacy strategy to England's secondary schools in an attempt to improve the performance of children aged between 11 and 14.

Correct versions
accommodation
really
receive
literature
category
[back]
The literacy hour in primary schools is credited with having improved reading and writing standards among younger children.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "High levels of literacy are crucial to the economic and social well being of this nation - that's why we have focused on improving reading and writing standards in our schools.

"Last year 99% of all 15-year-olds in schools who took GCSE English passed it and have the equivalent of functional literacy or above.

"We are also working to raise skills among adults. The new family literacy and numeracy strategy is backed by 10m and is working to help parents and their children improve their literacy and numeracy skills."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Christine Stewart
"Girls did slightly better"
See also:

07 May 01 | Education
Anger over literacy 'hour'
17 Jan 01 | Education
Children's spelling difficulties
27 Aug 00 | Education
Secondary school spells trouble
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