Biggest turn out for first round of The Big Spell

A bumper crowd of primary school pupils turned up at Raffles City Convention Centre on Saturday morning, to pit against each other at this year's RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship.

The boys and girls from more than 120 schools packed the centre's Fairmont ballroom, transforming it into a giant test hall as they anxiously scribbled on answer scripts, hoping to make it into the next round of what has become Singapore's biggest spelling contest.

The event, better known as The Big Spell, is organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

More than 1,400 pupils registered for this year's edition, up from the 1,200 or so who took part in the inaugural event last year.

It is also the largest number of participants for a nationwide spelling competition here - eclipsing previous events the Education Ministry organised on its own from 2007 to 2011.

Almost as though they were sitting a national exam, the pupils turned up for registration as early as 7.10am - even though the round started at 9.30am - armed with word lists, notes and dictionaries for a last burst of preparation.

Their aim: to bag a place in the next zonal round of The Big Spell, which will be held simultaneously in four zones on April 13, and the final, during which the top spellers will vie for the championship title, on April 27.

Only 108 of last year's 1,200 hopefuls made it to the next round; a similar number this year is expected to advance.