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No Nonsense Spelling Programme

At Hayes Primary School we follow the no nonsense spelling programme.

No nonsense spelling programme states “Teachers want their pupils to become fluent and effective writers; accurate spelling is a means to that end. Competent spellers need to spend less time and energy in thinking about spelling to enable them to channel their time and energy into the skills of composition, sentence structure and precise word choice.

The two factors that make English such a rich language also define its complexity: the alphabetic system and the history of the language.

The alphabetic system is efficient, 26 letters creating 44 phonemes in 144 combinations to form about half a million words in current use. The English alphabet includes 21 consonants; spoken English uses 24 consonant sounds, so the match between how we say a consonant and how we write it is generally predictable. The rich array of vowels poses particular problems: there are 20 spoken vowel sounds but only five vowel letters. The long a sound, for example, is represented in a range of ways: e.g. ai, a-e, ea, ay, eigh.

The other factor influencing our spelling is history. There are three main historical sources for English spelling patterns:

  • Germanic – From the Anglo Saxons. Over half our words fall into this category;
  • Romance – French and, in the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese;
  • Classical – Greek and Latin, from which we often derive the language of areas of knowledge, (e.g. physics, philosophy).

The English language has absorbed thousands of words from all over the world, through trade and commerce. These words and phrases continue to enrich the language and give us a great wealth of expression.

The implications of this, for teachers of spelling, may seem daunting but 85% of the English spelling system is predictable. The keys to supporting our pupils to become confident spellers lie in teaching the strategies, rules and conventions systematically and explicitly, and helping pupils recognise which strategies they can use to improve their own spelling.

A balanced spelling programme includes five main components:

  • understanding the principles underpinning word construction (phonemic, morphemic and etymological);
  • recognising how (and how far) these principles apply to each word, in order to learn to spell words;
  • practising and assessing spelling;
  • applying spelling strategies and proofreading;
  • building pupils’ self-images as spellers.