Primary school children are better at spelling today than their counterparts were in 1975, according to new research.

Despite claims every summer that school standards have been dumbed down, children in 2005 were 12 to 18 months ahead of pupils taking the same type of tests 30 years ago.

Testing expert Dr Colin McCarty, who analysed the results, claimed pupils may have benefited from starting school at an earlier age.

"Children are now starting school in the reception year as the norm and this is likely to have increased the exposure to spelling and reading," he said.

The research suggested the pressures of national curriculum testing may also have led schools to focus more on accurate spelling in recent years.

And the Government's national literacy strategy will have helped give pupils the tools to understand and spell words properly, the study said.

The research involved 4,000 pupils taking the test last year and comparing results from pupils in 1975.