Jonah has a spell in limelight

A Jewish spelling champion has put his achievement in winning a national schools competition down to “a lot of hard work” and the support of his family.

Twelve-year-old Jonah Surkes, of Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, was the highest points scorer in a three-pupil spelling team that won the inaugural Times Spelling Bee championship in Leicester Square on Tuesday, defeating nine other schools in the final.

Jonah, who was tested regularly by 10-year-old brother Daniel, mother Andrea and his dentist father Tony, said the secret of his success was “a lifelong interest in words, and regular practice”.

The Pinner United Synagogue member, who was representing St Martin’s School in Northwood, was presented with a trophy and a large dictionary by Times editor James Harding. He and his team-mates will also guest edit the Young Times section of The Times in September.

Despite all the hard work, Jonah still finds the time to practice for his barmitzvah, which is next February, and attend Hebrew classes.

His mother Andrea said: “Jonah put his mind to doing this and we were delighted to support him.”

    Last updated: 11:55am, June 25 2009