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1953: Spelling bill passes second reading
A proposal to simplify English spelling has cleared its second hurdle in parliament.

After a second debate MPs in the House of Commons voted by 65 votes to 53 to approve the Simplified Spelling Bill for consideration by parliamentary committees.

The private member's bill was introduced by Labour MP Mont Follick earlier this month.

It proposes setting up an investigation into the feasibility of introducing a simpler version of English to make reading easier for younger children.

The children would switch to standard English as they got older.

English is half-way between the alphabetic system of Spanish and the picture-writing of Chinese
James Pitman MP
The new system would be tested in school experiments in England and Scotland paid for by the government.

It is Mr Follick's second attempt to get parliamentary support for a new spelling system.

A bill he introduced in 1949 was eventually defeated by just three votes in spite of opposition by the Labour government of Clement Attlee.

The new bill has also attracted cross-party support - it was seconded by a Conservative MP, James Pitman, whose grandfather devised the Pitman shorthand system.

During a debate lasting four-and-a-half hours Mr Pitman said that around 150,000 of the 400,000 children who started school each year would leave without being able to read properly.


Mr Pitman - a member of the Simplified Spelling Society - used large printed cards with words such as "out" and "ought" to display what he said were inconsistencies in the spelling and pronunciation of some English words.

"English is halfway between the alphabetic system of Spanish and picture-writing of Chinese, " he told MPs.

However, Labour's MP for South Shields James Ede said the bill would only confuse the less intelligent by making them learn two ways of spelling.

But Mont Follick said they had no intention of forcing children to learn two different systems.

Spelling reform was also one of the passions of the writer George Bernard Shaw who died two years ago.

His will set aside money for a national competition to devise a simplified version of English.

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Teacher at blackboard
The bill's backers say English spelling is often illogical

In Context
Mont Follick withdrew his bill after reaching a compromise with the government.

The Ministry of Education backed a small-scale research project conducted under the aegis of the University of London.

However, the idea was put on the back burner until James Pitman devised the Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA) - a phonetics-based system made up of 44 characters.

ITA was tested in a handful of schools in England during the early 1960s with mixed success for the children involved.

It largely fell into disuse although James Pitman had some success in persuading schools in the USA and Australia to try out the system.

ITA is among numerous alternatives to standard English spelling - others include Spanglish and Cut Spelling.

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