English teachers have been told to be tougher on spelling mistakes, after one school's marking policy came in for criticism yesterday.
Andrew Selous, Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire, told the Commons that it is important for people in teaching jobs to point out all mistakes if children are to acquire a proper command of English.
He was speaking after one concerned mother in his constituency wrote to him about the policy at her child's school, where teachers have been mandated not to point out any more than three mistakes, for fear of harming students' self-esteem.
The mother is reported to have written in the letter: "My children are hard-working but they need to be given the basic building blocks of English.
Calling for a debate on the issue, Mr Selous said that the policy may be a "hangover" from previous guidelines rather than something that the current government is enforcing.
But according to the Daily Mirror, he believes this practice of "false kindness" is likely widespread, with such policies probably in place across thousands of English schools.
"Staff are not to highlight more than three incorrect spellings. This is so children's self-confidence isn't damaged," he is reported to have said. "Children need the basics of English. You need good spelling for many jobs. The idea spell-checker does it all doesn't wash."
Responding to the MP's calls, a spokesman from the Department for Education said that there is no government guidance in place on the topic of correcting spelling mistakes, as this is a matter for schools.
"However, we strongly agree that it is vital that children learn correct spelling and grammar, and we are making a range of changes to emphasise its importance, including a new test at Key Stage 2 which includes spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, and enhanced importance given to spelling at GCSE," he said.
"Being able to write correctly is essential for adult life. Schools that do not ensure that their pupils can spell and write correctly will be failing them."
Posted by Tim Colman