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Category archive: Spelling

Monday June 30 2008


Pupils are being rewarded for writing obscenities in their GCSE English examinations even when it has nothing to do with the question.

One pupil who wrote “f*** off” was given marks for accurate spelling and conveying a meaning successfully.

Key question: how much have they been rewarded.  Well, I would say that 11 percent just for “Fuck off!”, with 3.5 percent extra for the exclamation mark is somewhat excessive.  On the other hand, “off” is a word that frequently gets spelled wrongly, as “of”.  But, on the whole, I don’t favour swearing.

Other examining bodies said that their marking schemes would not reward such language. Edexel said: “If the question was ‘Use a piece of Anglo-Saxon English’, they may get a mark, but if they had just written ‘f*** off’, they may get sanctioned. If it was graphic or violent they may get no mark for that paper.”

Opposition spokesman Nick Gibb said:

“This is fucking ridiculous.”

No.  What he really said was:

“It’s taking the desire for uniformity and consistency to absurd lengths.”

Says Coffee House: You couldn’t make it up, and in order to demonstrate that things ain’t what, correction: are not as, they used to be, also links to this.  Charles Pooter gets all post-modern about it.

Friday May 30 2008


Dear Brian,

I have been having a look at your blog and though you might like to hear about our new site www.tutpup.com which has free maths and English games for students.

Our site is completely free, has no ads, does not require players to disclose any personally identifiable information and allows students to play competitive head-to-head games with their friends/classmates or students from around the world.

We also provide tools for teachers where they can set up and manage their classes as well as seeing how their students are performing at school and at home.

I thought that this may be of interest as our aim is to help as many kids (wherever they are) to improve their basic maths and English skills and this seemed to fit with the libertarian leaning of your blog.

Richard Taylor

Yes, Richard Taylor, this is just the kind of thing that does interest me, a lot.  Feel entirely free to keep me and my readers informed of progress with this. It’s obviously a world away from this kind of thing, but some of the simplest and most basic games are among the most successful and addictive, yes?

As I keep saying here, sooner or later someone is going to make something like this work in a very big way.

Tuesday May 20 2008
Monday May 12 2008


If you are going to make classical references, best you spell ‘em correctly.


Which supplies some party political balance for this.

Although, this particular gaff is not really about someone being unable to spell.  I mean, Jason Whatsisname can spell Argonaut.  He just didn’t.  I often make such mistakes here, and then either correct them if I spot them, or if someone else does.  Or not.  So this may really be about the tendency of internet stuff not to be “proof-” read (note the printing origins of that phrase) properly.

On the other hand, I suspect that the Labour person who miss-spelled (which is another whole spelling argument - see the comments in my earlier post) excellence as excellance really did semi-think that that’s how excellence is generally spelt.

So, maybe not balanced after all.  Which might be either because Guido is a sneaky person, or because Labour people actually are worse at spelling than the Conservatives.

Thursday April 24 2008

The other day there was a small flap about a spelling mistake on the Labour Party’s website.  It was soon corrected, but not before fun was had by bloggers:


I think this nicely illustrates that spelling can still be very important, if only because if you can’t do it, some people are liable to think you stupid.  The convention seems to have arisen that if you miss-spell blog comments, that’s okay.  But it will be a while before spelling excellence as excellance on something like a party political website fails to raise any sort of titter.

However, while checking out the Labour site for the purposes of the above posting, I noted something I consider far sillier, in the form of a prominently advertised piece by Ed Balls entitled Fighting for youth facilities in Camden.  That seems to me a piece of thoughtless English far worse than a mere spelling mistake, which was, as I say, quickly corrected.  There are, I assume, no plans to change that into something that reeks a bit less of the very adolescent belligerence that these youth facilities are presumably intended to curb.

Friday January 11 2008

Tomorrow I will be attending a get-together-stroke-training-course for all the teachers and teaching assistants involved in these Supplementary Schools.  Among those addressing us and improving us will be Irina Tyk, the head teacher who wrote the Butterfly Book.  Earlier this week an email went round saying: Do you have a copy of the Butterfly Book?  This was because, last month, the Daily Mail gave it a write up, and ever since then demand has been ferocious, and all copies were needed for pushy parents to buy.

I do have a copy, and will be bringing it with me tomorrow:


My copy has a blander cover that the one you get to if you follow the link above.  That version has an elaborate picture of a butterfly on the front.  But the bland cover is more appropriate, I think, because the content is similarly lacking in extraneous illustration.

I suspect that the Butterfly Book illustrates one of my Deep Educational Prejudices, which is that commentators on education are divided between those who were confused at school and those who were bored.  Tyk was definitely in the confused camp, if this prejudice is correct.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll get to ask her.

In the first version of this posting my photos made the Butterfly Book look as if it was printed on gray paper.  I have now corrected this, with some photoshopping.

Tuesday December 11 2007

As she says, fascinating:

It has long been known that dyslexics are drawn to running their own businesses, where they can get around their weaknesses in reading and writing and play on their strengths. But a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business owners than even the experts had thought.

The report, compiled by Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, found that more than a third of the entrepreneurs she had surveyed - 35 percent - identified themselves as dyslexic. The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely than nondyslexics to delegate authority, to excel in oral communication and problem solving and were twice as likely to own two or more businesses.

So,when you rescue a child from dyslexia with good teaching (as can mostly be done if the teaching really is good), do you damage the economy?  I’m not entirely joking.  The widespread equation to the effect that education equals economic development (equals as in causes) strikes me as very imperfect.

One of the most effective operators I personally know is extremely bad at spelling.

Saturday December 08 2007

Michelle Malkin writes about bad maths teaching.

Chris Heaton-Harris writes about the Europeanisation of education:

As part of the Lifelong Learning Programme there is also funding available ‘to support European associations in the field of education and training or which pursue an objective which is part of an EU policy’. The only organisations eligible to receive such funding are those which ‘exist as a body pursuing an aim of general European interest’, i.e. you have to be 100% behind European integration to receive what is ultimately propaganda money.

Mark Holland photos bad spelling.

Bruce Thornton explains the difference between political and academic freedom:

Columbia, then, was terribly mistaken in inviting Ahmadinejad onto campus, for what serious ideas did he present? That the Holocaust never happened, that a cabal of Jews runs the West, and that homosexuals don’t exist in Iran? His appearance was a stunt, not an incitement to serious discussion, let alone an inducement to intellectual discovery. Conversely, UC Davis’s rescinding its invitation to Larry Summers was a violation of academic free speech. Summers is a respected scholar who has been demonized merely for speculating on the causes of an undisputed fact - that fewer women than men work in science, mathematics, and engineering.

Book blurb for It’s Your Time You’re Wasting:

… is the blackly humorous diary of a year in his working life. Chalk confiscates porn, booze and trainers, fends off angry parents and worries about the few conscientious pupils he comes across, recording his experiences in a dry and very readable manner. He offers top tips for dealing with unruly children, muses on the shortcomings of the staff (including his own) and even spots the occasional spark of hope amid all the despair. His book will horrify (and amuse) millions of parents and will become a must-read for many of the country‘s 400,000 teachers.

Happy birthday Student Teacher.

Joanne Jacobs links to The Ledge:

When the CTA lady came to the union meeting to specifically alert new teachers to the dangers of proposed merit pay provisions, I shook my head in tight side-to-sides, because true systems of meritorious compensation are the future of the work we do. New hiring practices, the dissolution of tenure, authentic evaluations, performance based pay - this is what’s needed to get us off that ledge and quell the schizophrenia of being an ambitious and successful teacher in a public school.

Be careful what you wish for.  You want a true system of meritorious compensation.  But what if it turns out to be a false one?  (See about every second or third posting on this blog so far.)