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Meet The Prime Minister's Spelling Bee Winners

NEWS 5 July 2021

Would you know how to spell obstreperous, connoisseur, or chihuahua? Australia’s best young spelling whizzes do.

The inaugural Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee attracted almost 21,000 students from 490 schools around Australia who competed against each other to spell a long list of challenging words.

Among the three national winners was Haileybury College student Theekshitha Karthik (Year 6) who took first place in the Years 5 to 6 category.

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Three other students from Haileybury Edrington also placed in the competition: Sanjar Asad (Year 5) Seth Oliver (Year 5) and Clarence Antonmeryl (Year 8). Sanjar and Seth were fifth and eighth respectively in the Years 5 to 6 category and Clarence was third in the Years 7–8 section.

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(L-R) Seth Oliver, Clarence Antonmeryl, Sanjar Asad and Theekshitha Karthik (winner)

Students who take part in the Spelling Bee are given 30 random words from their reading level word list and have 25 seconds to spell each. The competition gives students a chance to learn new words and their definitions and helps enhance literacy skills. Students compete against children from across the country and, depending on their results, move from an initial School Round to State/Territory Finals and then to the National Final.

Theekshitha says she was so happy with her win that if she’d had a rocket, she would have ‘blasted over the moon!’

“The whole feeling was just surreal. I was jumping about like crazy for a couple of minutes straight. Spelling was more like a passion to me than anything else. Of course, I practised hard, but the whole thing was quite like revision. I loved taking part in the competition and it was fun to try and beat my timing for every word,” she said.

Theekshitha enjoys reading and writing and preparing for the competition she revised previous Spelling Bee winning words and some words that adults often struggle with.

“Some words that I found quite challenging were dromedary and astigmatism—I only knew astigmatism because I have it myself,” she said.

“These might sound like easy words but I learned that the Bee wasn’t about super-long complicated words that your brain hurts when you think of—it was more about shorter words with complex sounds.”

As a national winner, Theekshitha will travel to Canberra to meet the Prime Minister.

Clarence Antonmeryl, who achieved third place in his age category, says he was nervous about competing in the National Final and he has some tips for children interested in competing next year.

“To prepare, I just looked through a couple of spelling word lists and I looked through some really hard words. Some words that I found difficult were chrysalis and clairvoyant,” he said.

“The Australian accent in the recordings can make it quite hard to spell out some vowels in a word, so I had to ponder over the word a couple of times to see if it looks correct. Don’t rush things, even though there is a 25-second timer, and always check a word once or twice to have good accuracy.”

The Curious Minds Program

“Many leading schools including Haileybury invest in STEM education, however, we equally value the exposure to literature, enterprise, arts and politics - which we refer to as ‘LEAP’ which is part of our Curious Minds program. This is where the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee comes in.” says Jacqueline Gough, Head of Curious Minds.

“We anticipated that our students, through their love of learning and strong engagement with the core English curriculum at Haileybury, would lean in to this opportunity and seek to truly excel. This allows them to showcase their skills through unique experiential learning opportunities such as the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee.” Says Ms Gough.

Across all four of our Melbourne campuses, we had 58 students advancing to the State and Territory Finals and we are very proud of all students who participated.

The Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee website has some great resources and spelling games to play with children. Go to

The Word Chain game involves giving your child a word which they write down. Then give your child two to five minutes to build a word chain by adding words that begin with the last letter of the previous word.

Or children can choose a book that they can read on their own and pick 10 words from that book. They then have to think of as many rhyming words as they can for each of the 10 words and make sure they are spelt correctly.