Ridiculous spellings – what can I do?

Spellings have always been a key issue for dyslexic children and their parents. Too hard and they destroy self-confidence.  Too random and they are just baffling.

But there is a new problem plaguing parents – statutory national curriculum spellings.  Now, children who can’t spell ‘said’ are being sent home to learn:conscience, controversy, interfere, language, mischievous, nuisance, pronunciation and rhythm.

Complaining parents (who can see their children’s self-esteem crumbling) are met with sad cries from their child’s teacher of “Mrs Jones, there’s nothing we can do as a school, they’re statutory now”

How did this happen? 

The Government has brought in a list of spellings that follow a nice, well-structured (dyslexia-friendly) phonic program, followed by prefixes and suffixes (e.g. un-, inter-) and ending with commonly misspelt words.

A big but…

The problem is that they specified the age children should be taught these things.  Learning to spell ‘conscious’ is fine when you’ve mastered everything else, but not if you’re struggling to spell everyday words like ‘with’, ‘who’ or ‘friend’.  Just because you are ten doesn’t mean you can read the word ‘foreign’, let alone spell it.

Schools say there’s nothing they can do, these spellings are statutory – is that true?

Well, yes and no, according to a legal adviser friend.  Apparently, these very hard spellings are no longer statutory if three criteria are met:

  • your child is working well below the National Curriculum level for spelling,
  • your child is on the SEN list
  • your child has targeted spellings as one of his/her targets.

In this case the school will be able to argue to Ofsted (if needed) that s/he has spellings which are more appropriate.

Hopefully this will be enough to enable you to reassure your child’s class teacher that they can continue to follow best practice and make sure the spellings:

  • are just the right level of difficulty,
  • follow a structure,
  • are useful
  • are different for different groups within the class (or ideally different for each child).

It may be that your child can still follow the new curriculum spelling list, but having found the right entry point (click here for my spelling test to check this).