Holly Swinton: dyslexia speaker, trainer, author and assessor » News » What Every Parent Should Know About the National Curriculum Spellings

What Every Parent Should Know About the National Curriculum Spellings

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In 2013 the UK Government introduced the Spelling Appendix. Someone clearly worked really hard to produce it and it’s pretty good. But I can only think that they are weeping at how it has been used and abused!

It takes all the knowledge that used to be taught throughout primary school when I was a child, and has shoved it all into Year One and Two. This means that by the age of seven children the National Curriculum thinks that all children are supposed to have completely nailed spelling!

By the end of infants, children have supposedly mastered:
 42 common letter strings (e.g. ew, ear, aw, silent w);
 13 spelling rules (e.g. soft c, magic e, ch/tch);
 17 suffixes and suffixing rules (e.g. –le, -tion);
 All the homophones (e.g. there, their, they’re);
 All the contractions (e.g. couldn’t, hasn’t);
 All the common exception words (e.g. pretty, beautiful)!

Surely the scheme recaps?
Nope! No-one gets to recap these vital lessons, unless your school is enlightened enough to have an intervention group and your child is lucky enough to get a place. With cuts to school budgets meaning fewer teaching assistants, that is harder and harder.

The spelling curriculum just ploughs on. Regardless of whether children were developmentally ready at ages 5, 6 and 7 to absorb the vital spelling knowledge shown above.

What about additional needs?
The scheme makes the crazy (and developmentally inappropriate) assumption that all 7-year-olds can spell almost all our words brilliantly. This is regardless of whether they are dyslexic, have had ear infections or glue ear, have speech and language difficulties, auditory processing difficulties or other hearing difficulties.

Why can’t schools just teach them what they need?
Because someone in Whitehall decided to force KS2 children to focus on the genuinely tricky spellings that we struggle with as adults. They made these crazy difficult words statutory (i.e. you have to learn them). So every 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 year old is forced to learn to spell the words we most commonly misspell as adults! For example, possession, reign, mischievous, committee, privilege.

Well, why shouldn’t all children focus just on the trickiest words?
In theory, it’s fine, unless that child didn’t master the entirety of spelling when they were in the Infants. If a child can’t spell ‘because’ and ‘care’, do we really want them spending their time learning to spell ‘naughty’ ‘criticise’ and ‘embarrass’?

All our children are growing up with massive gaps in their spelling knowledge and our children with additional needs are growing sadder, losing hope and getting further behind. Perhaps the assumption is that some may just absorb the spellings patterns they missed through extensive reading (a few do, but many actually need teaching).

Is there any wiggle room?
Speaking to a colleague (who is a legal beagle) her opinion is that these words can stop being statutory. But only if you can ensure that your child has a personalised spelling target on their Individual Educational Plan.

Click here to work out your child’s rough spelling age?

Alright, we’ve probably got 5 months of emergency home-schooling, so what spellings should my child be learning instead? Try testing your child on the Year One and two spellings and fill any holes.  Plus, click here for the 4 crucial pieces to help your child become a super speller.    

Need a plan to pinpoint exactly how to help?