A researcher has blamed the intricacy of the English spelling system for high levels of illiteracy among teenagers.
Asha Bell, author and literacy researcher, said that children are struggling to read and write at a young age because of the sheer complexity of the spelling system.
Bell said that that sweeping reforms are needed to the spelling system to improve children's linguistic skills. English employs 185 "unreliable" spellings for just 44 speech sounds.
"It is difficult to learn any subject, or even to train for a trade nowadays, without learning to read and write first, but roughly 20 per cent of all speakers of English leave school with very poor literacy skills," the Telegraph quoted Bell as saying.
"The antique, inconsistent spelling system of English is probably the main reason why the UK has a far longer tail of educational underachievement than any other European country, why more of our young people are Neets (Not in Education Employment or Training), why many end up in jail, and why improving their chances of re-offending while in prison is much more difficult too," she added.
Bell was speaking at the annual conference of the National Association for Teachers of English in Leicestershire.