Doubt cast on spelling `failure'

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The Independent Online

Exam officials have cast doubt on a survey which suggests that teenagers' spelling and punctuation is worse in GCSE exams than it was in the old O-level.

A small survey by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations syndicate found that English GCSE students in 1994 were up to three times worse at spelling than O-level pupils in 1980 and had a narrower range of vocabulary.

There was a six-fold increase in the use of non-standard English.

The survey involving scripts from 30 boys and 30 girls awarded each grade from A to E at O-level and from A to G at GCSE found that pupils who failed O-level would have received a C or better at GCSE.

A spokesman for the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority which advises the Government on exams said: "This survey is based on two years. It would be instructive if it were a full sequence over a number of years."

The authority is conducting a full-scale comparison into exam standards over time but decided that there was not enough evidence to go back further than a decade.

The study, which is also examining whether there have been changes in A-level standards, will be published later this year.