Headmaster’s Notes: Language leaves us Spellbound

26th November 21

There is no point in pretending that English spelling is easy. But then neither is algebra, nor playing the trumpet, nor mastering tactics on the sports field. But the rewards are curiously similar: precision, communication and aesthetic satisfaction; all of which were encouraged in our Prince’s Mead annual ‘Spelling Bee’ final this week.

Through healthy inter-house rivalry, the event encouraged children of all ages to practise and celebrate their ability and provide further proof, if ever needed, that English words and their pronunciation are not dull products of an isolated and narrow monoculture but reflect a kaleidoscope of history having evolved over the centuries in a bewildering variety of ways. Quite simply, the English language is beautiful, eccentric, wayward and playful.

But our celebrations this week run contrary to opposition to the English language. A proposed new system of spelling, called Traditional Spelling Revised (TSR) argues for changes to up to 18 per cent of words to make spelling more ‘consistent’ and ‘predictable’. For example, among many other changes, the word wash becomes ‘wosh’, love would be spelt ‘luv’, and educate would be ‘edducate’.

Whilst perfect spelling is not always a prerequisite for literary success, at Prince’s Mead we want to continue to champion high standards in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Accuracy, precision and the clear articulation of ideas in the medium in which knowledge is taught have for centuries been the hallmark of a good education. Rigour and standards matter at all stages of education, and the fundamentals of good spelling, punctuation and grammar are as important today as they ever were. Our children deserve the basics.


Mr Peter Thacker