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Saturday, 2 February, 2002, 00:18 GMT
Children's spelling worsening
girl writing
Writing standards in general lag behind reading
Children's spelling in England is getting worse, if the national tests for 11 year olds are anything to go by.

An analysis of last year's national curriculum tests by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), has just been published.

It found that most of the children who reached the writing standard expected for their age had trouble with half of the 20 words in the spelling test.

Problem words were: Serious, surprise, nastiest, designed, regardless, attempts and individual - and especially, technique.

Click here for the list.

Children's spelling in their writing was also analysed and, on average, they made between seven and eight spelling errors in 100 words.

At the level expected of 11 year olds, spelling accuracy was 91%. Last year it was 95%.

"In their own writing of course children are likely to choose words with which they are more confident," the authors note.

Typical errors were: proberly (probably), stoped (stopped), determind (determined), cuirious (curious), franticly (frantically), puting (putting), travaling (travelling), statchue (statue), relised (realised).

Endings in general, including common ones such as -ed, still caused problems.

And in general, achievement in writing still lags behind reading, the report says, highlighting two issues:

  • Insecure use of full stops and capital letters.

    "As children learn to write more complex sentences they should be taught to consider explicitly where sense and sentences end," the experts say.

  • In narrative writing, children relied too much on a simple chronological organisation - with paragraphs starting "Then...", "The next day..." or "After...".

    Often, endings were not very effective, suggesting a lack of structure. It is suggested children are taught to spend more time thinking about where their stories are going to end up.

    The table below shows the 20 words in the spelling test, in order of increasing difficulty, with the most common mis-spellings.

    Word Most common erroneous spelling
    change chang
    swimming swiming
    ready reddy
    vanishing vaneshing
    known nown
    stripes strips
    perfectly perfectley
    future fucher
    produce produse
    themselves themselvs
    advertise advetise
    injured injered
    serious serour
    surprise suprise
    nastiest nastyest
    designed desined
    regardless regardles
    attempts attemptes
    individual indevidual
    technique techneck/tecnique

    Back to main text

  • See also:

    01 Feb 02 | Education
    'Hands-on' teachers 'less able'
    23 Nov 01 | UK Politics
    Blair admits spelling gaffe
    04 Sep 01 | Glasgow 2001
    Children 'slow' at learning English
    17 Jan 01 | Education
    Children's spelling difficulties
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