Byline: GRAHAM GRANT
CHILDREN will no longer be required to spell properly at school, in a move labelled 'complete madness' by critics.
Instead, pupils are being allowed to use computers with an electronic 'voice' that reads out text for them.
School bosses say the technology, designed originally for blind people, allows pupils to 'bypass' literacy problems so they can keep up with their classmates.
But last night education chiefs in Edinburgh - who described the scheme as 'moving with the times' - were accused of 'running up the white flag' and giving up on attempts to improve pupils' literacy standards.
Forty per cent of 13-year-olds in Scottish schools are falling short of literacy and numeracy guidelines, according to Scottish Executive figures.
Now it is feared the reliance on computers will undermine pupils' reading and writing skills in the same way as children's mental arithmetic ability has been eroded by widespread use of classroom calculators.
Last night Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'This is absolutely ridiculous and will be seen as complete madness by concerned parents.
'Why are we running up the white flag and going backwards like this in the 21st century? This approach will be extremely damaging for children.'
Education bosses at the City of Edinburgh Council said promoting literacy was important, particularly in primary schools, but said teachers should not 'drop everything to achieve that'.
Alison Waugh, at the council's children and families department, said many children were struggling by the end of primary school to spell and read properly.
She said: 'One thing we can do to help, as well as finding other ways of improving literacy, is to bypass these difficulties so pupils can access the curriculum in an equal way to other children.
'We have programs that can help children to learn independently.' Mrs Waugh said these included 'screen readers' - software allowing computers to read out texts such as Internet material needed for schoolwork - so the child does not have to read.
Pupils can also use 'predictive' software, which means that if they enter a wrong spelling, the …