Schools told to drop the ‘i before e except after c’ spelling rule

June 20th, 2009 - 5:22 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Jun 20 (ANI): British schools have been told by the Government that they should no longer teach children the “i before e except after c” spelling rule, as it is irrelevant and confusing.

The new guidance has been issued by the National Strategies and its document ‘Support for Spelling’ has been sent to primary schools.

“The i before e rule is not worth teaching. It applies only to words in which the ie or ei stands for a clear ee sound. Unless this is known, words such as sufficient and veil look like exceptions,” Times Online quoted it as stating.

“There are so few words where the ei spelling for the ee sounds follows the letter c that it is easier to learn the specific words,” it said.

Words that had come under the rule include receive, ceiling, perceive, and deceit.

The guidance contains 124 pages of ideas for teachers on how to draw up interesting and engaging lessons on spelling.

These include analysing television listings for compound words, changing the tense of a poem to practise irregular verbs and learning about homophones through jokes such as “How many socks in a pair? None - because you eat a pear.”

While other spelling conventions are useful, it says, “i before e except after c” should be ditched.

Greg Brooks, a literacy expert, formerly of the University of Sheffield, told the Times Educational Supplement that the rule was thoroughly misleading.

He said there were too many exceptions, including eight, feisty, foreign, heinous, protein and seize.

Masha Bell, who has campaigned for English spelling to be simplified, was against the rule.

“I before e is not a good rule. There are other sayings that are more useful, like ‘one collar, two socks’ for ‘necessary’,” Bell said.

“But children are having to fill their heads with this rubbish - because spelling is rubbish. I think the spelling system should be reformed. We could get rid of the silliest anomalies,” Bell added.

But Judy Parkinson, author of the book I Before E (Except After C), which sold 450,000 copies in Britain, said that teachers should be able to make up their own minds about how useful it is.

“It’s an extremely well-known phrase, easy to remember, and it obviously struck a chord,” she said.

“There are words that it doesn’t fit, but I think teachers could always get a discussion going about the ‘i before e’ rule, and the peculiarities of the English language, and have fun with it. That’s the best way to learn,” she added. (ANI)

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