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Karen Martin and Beverley Ireland-Symonds promote the value of having effective communication skills for individuals, teams and organisations.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Should pupils be penalised for poor spelling?

The recent announcement that A-Levels and GCSEs are going to be 'toughened up' with pupils losing marks for poor spelling has caused a great deal of debate. Some teachers agree and others think that it doesn't really matter and it is the content that is more important.

As an examiner for one of the major examining boards in the UK, I recently had an interesting conversation about this with a fellow examiner.  We were talking about what mark should be assigned to someone who had made 8 spelling errors in an assignment of 300 words.  My colleague argued that 8 errors was a very small amount as a percentage and the majority of the work was good.

Of course he was right.  As a percentage, 8 errors represent 2.6% of the total amount written which is small and under the criteria we were marking the majority of the work was good. In the context of which we were marking I had to agree with my colleague, however, with my non-examining hat on I have a very different view. 

Whatever pupils learn at school and later at college or university they are being prepared for ultimately getting a job and being a success in the world of work. If they're applying for a job, would 8 errors on the application form be acceptable? It may depend on who's judging it, but in a competitive market place a poorly spelt form may mean that they don't even get short-listed. Eight errors would suddenly look very different if it was shown to damage someone's job prospects.

Successful companies such as Tesco have complained about the literacy levels of school leavers and graduates so it clearly matters to many employers.  No one doubts that times have changed and many people have a more relaxed view towards grammar and spelling, but surely everything should be done to ensure that schools leavers asre equipped with an acceptable standard of literacy skills and an understanding of any areas they need to improve. What do you think?