More British madness: Schools are deliberately failing to correct spelling mistakes to avoid 'damaging pupils' self esteem'

Teachers are being told not to correct more than three spelling errors at a time to avoid damaging pupils’ self-confidence, an MP revealed yesterday. Andrew Selous highlighted the practice at a secondary school in his South West Bedfordshire constituency but fears it is widespread across the country.

The Tory MP condemned not correcting all errors in a piece of work as a ‘false kindness’ which denies pupils ‘fundamental’ skills needed in the job market. Mr Selous said he had been alerted by a worried mother but had decided not to name the school behind the policy.

In a letter, she told him: ‘I have spent hours of frustration letter-writing but no one is able to help or offer support. ‘My children are hard-working but they need to be given the basic building blocks of English.’

The school’s marking policy states: ‘Teaching staff are not to highlight any more than three incorrect spellings on any piece of work. This is in order that the children’s self-confidence is not damaged.’

Mr Selous said: ‘We are not kind to children if we do not correct their use of language because it is one of the most fundamental blocks of any civilised society. ‘There are probably thousands of schools that have got this policy but it’s a false kindness and we are letting our children down.’

Earlier in the Commons, Mr Selous called for a debate on the issue. He told MPs that the Coalition would ‘not be keen’ to continue the leniency. Commons Leader Sir George Young replied: ‘It does sound like political correctness taken to excess. I am sure it is in the child’s interests for any spelling mistake to be put right at an early stage.’ He said he hoped the policy of giving more autonomy to head teachers would stop problems with spelling ‘festering’.

Mr Selous was backed by comments on the Mumsnet website. One mother told how her children’s primary school limits corrections because ‘too much red pen is discouraging’. She said: ‘Surely it would be better to focus on encouraging them to spell correctly and making them feel proud of their work. Copying out a spelling mistake three times was how I improved.’

Coalition reforms will mean stricter marking on spelling and grammar in GCSEs and a new test for 11-year-olds.


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