Blunkett Spelling Blitz; Tough Tests to Drive Up Standards at Primaries
Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY
PRIMARY school pupils are to be given tough spelling tests once a year in the latest Government attempt to raise standards.
Eleven-year-olds will be expected to know words such as archaeology and xenophobia while nine-year-olds will be tested on the likes of occasional and necessary.
Pupils between eight and 11 will be given set lists of words to learn while schools will be asked to develop ways of testing them.
The blitz on spelling follows the success of the literacy hour introduced in schools last year, which has contributed to a five per cent rise in the number of 11-year-olds reaching target levels for reading.
Education Secretary David Blun-kett hopes the lists will raise performance in an area where primary
pupils lag behind their attainments in reading and speaking.
'Accurate spelling is important and people who cannot spell are often at a serious disadvantage,' said a spokesman for the Education Department. 'These lists will set out the words which children should be able to spell. Regular tests will make sure they can.' Department of Education officials will draw up the lists of words and circulate them to schools, firstly to the 2,000 primaries judged to have the worst problems .
The spelling tests will not be turned into formal exams such as the National Curriculum tests now set at ages seven, 11 and 14. Instead, schools will be given the right to decide how they should be arranged.
Mr Blunkett's officials expect most to stage a series of tests on different batches of words spread throughout the year. But critics fear the leeway given to schools could give teachers who oppose such learning methods the chance to downgrade their importance.
Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'This is a very good thing, as long as they get it right, and as long as nobody is allowed to fiddle the results.
'Unfortunately there is a widespread feeling in the teaching profession that to correct children's spelling mistakes undermines their self-esteem. …