North and south of spelling

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Cockneys spell it mof and Lancastrians spell it moth. If you are seven, it makes sense to spell how you talk.

Reports on this year's national tests for seven-year-olds show that regional accents are one of the obstacles to improving the nation's spelling.

Sixteen per cent spelt moth as mof and 14 per cent wrote finking instead of thinking. Bath was spelt with both short and long vowels and sometimes written baf.

Children had difficulty with words where more than one letter represented the vowel. Only one in five could spell scream correctly. They also applied rules they had learned about sounds to words where they did not apply: bred for bread, nos for nose, fens for fence.

Consonants caused difficulty in words where they are not pronounced, such as knows. The reports on this year's tests say pupils know the rules of spelling but they tend to apply them wrongly and to forget exceptions.

In tests for 11-year-olds, some pupils failed to spell top and press correctly. Most mistakes were made in the spelling of the words apprehensive and occurred.