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Teachers spell it out – no more tests!


  • Poll reveals 76 per cent of Primary School teachers think tests are an ineffective way to teach spelling

  • Spelling is the second least popular subject to teach, behind PE only

  • 82 per cent claim spelling has suffered as a result of lockdowns; 69 per cent have witnessed a widening of the attainment gap

A staggering 76 per cent of Primary School teachers consider spelling tests to be an ineffective way to teach spelling, a new survey carried out by Jane Considine at the launch of her new book, The Spelling Book: Transforming the Teaching of Spelling, has found.

The survey, which gauged the attitudes of 1,362 UK-based Primary School teachers towards spelling, also discovered that it is an incredibly unpopular subject to teach - second only to PE - with just 34 per cent of teachers featuring it among their favourite disciplines.

Worryingly, 82 per cent of teachers feel that children’s spelling abilities have suffered dramatically due to the pandemic, with 69 per cent observing a widening in the attainment gap in spelling between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged children. A further 81 per cent of teachers reported to be very concerned about how to support vulnerable children who have fallen especially far behind with spelling during lockdown.

The biggest challenge for teachers when it comes to spelling is its application across subjects and into independent writing (46 per cent). Lack of time to allocate to spelling was also a major concern (20 per cent), with 37 per cent of teachers reportedly spending just 20 minutes or less on teaching spelling each week.

Education consultant and former Primary School teacher, Jane Considine, has launched a campaign to transform how spelling is taught in schools and to support teachers in applying more productive, effective and enjoyable ways to get children engaged with words.

She commented: “The results of this poll are very concerning. The dread of stressful and counterproductive spelling tests only serve to further damage the broken confidence of children who have struggled with literacy during lockdown. Spelling tests have always been unpopular but combined with the widening attainment gap produced by home learning, we are now at risk of seeing a significant number of children who grow up fearing and hating written English.

“I often get asked what are the alternatives? Well no spelling tests equals no parent pressures and no mindless data collection. And, as a replacement, low-stakes fortnightly progress checks can be implemented alongside a systematic culture that fosters pupils as ‘word detectives’ and ‘pattern finders’ so they make slicker connections between words and splice these effortlessly into independent writing,” she concluded.

Sophie Bartlett, Year 5/6 teacher and English lead at Great Rollright C of E Primary School, added: “Stick 10 words on a fridge each week, panic when it gets to the night before the spelling test, frantically try to persuade a child to look, cover, write and check the words over dinner – parents, does that sound familiar?

“Not only can this cause unnecessary stress but putting the onus on parents to practise spellings with their children also creates an uneven playing field. Effective and regular teaching of spelling in school removes the need to send words home and ensures equal opportunity for all.”

The survey, which polled 1,362 Primary School teachers from The Training Space’s Teacher Squad support network, was carried out in May 2021 by Jane Considine and The Training Space. It coincides with the launch of The Spelling Book: Transforming the Teaching of Spelling, available for years 2-6 in paperback, £19.99. This timely book applies the latest findings of the science of learning and reveals the powerful impact that can be witnessed when teachers make structured time for spelling throughout the school year.

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