Sending home lists of words to learn with stressed-out parents does not help children, says literacy guru Jane Considine.
Jane Considine is an educationist with a cause: she wants a total ban on the time-honoured, traditional weekly spelling tests still carried out in many primary schools – the kind that involve a list of words sent home in pupils’ book bags to be taped to the fridge door, with parents expected to weigh in with “look-say-cover-write-check” opportunities in those elusive moments of empty time in the family day. “I’m not anti tests generally,” Considine says. “But school spelling tests have an essential design flaw, which is that involving parents hugely amplifies the opportunity to pile on stress and pressure.”
Parents, says Considine, are A* students when it comes to modelling anxiety– especially anxiety about spelling. And while she couldn’t agree more with parents who say that spelling really matters, she also understands (as a mother of four herself) why passion gets caught up with worries about performance – with the net result that children are disadvantaged, rather than advantaged, by taking home a list of words each week to be fretted over en famille.
Considine has canvassed primary school teachers to find out what they think – and 76% of the 1,362 she surveyed agree with her and think tests are an ineffective way to teach spelling. Only PE is less popular as a subject for primary staff to teach, apparently. The pandemic has not made matters any better: 82% of teachers believe spelling has suffered as a result of the restrictions to teaching over the past 18 months.