The THRASS Synthetic Phonics Programme – A Truly Inspirational Resource

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Alan Davies, the British Educational Psychologist who pioneered the THRASS synthetic phonics method of teaching English, has recently completed a tour of South Africa and the UK, taking UK educators to schools across South Africa and South African student teachers to schools across the UK. The schools visited could not have been more diverse but the conclusions of all involved in the tour have been unanimous: THRASS is a truly inspirational resource that is simple to use for both learners and educators and of which the appeal is universal.

Alan Davies, the British Educational Psychologist who pioneered the THRASS synthetic phonics method of teaching English, has recently completed a tour of South Africa and the UK, taking UK educators to schools across South Africa and South African student teachers to schools across the UK. The schools visited could not have been more diverse but the conclusions of all involved in the tour have been unanimous: THRASS is a truly inspirational resource that is simple to use for both learners and educators and of which the appeal is universal.

In May, a group of Third Year Foundation Phase student teachers from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg visited Farm Schools in the Kwena Basin in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa on school experience. Then, in June, a group of educators from the UK, South Africa and Ghana also visited the Farm Schools before going on to visit schools in Johannesburg and Orange Farm Township, where the THRASS SMART project, which involves using the groundbreaking THRASS Phoneme Machine on a SMART Board, was launched. The tour ended with the South African student teachers visiting primary schools across the UK and an Open Day at Oxley Park Primary School in Milton Keynes.

This exciting joint venture in the teaching of English was organized by THRASS UK in conjunction with the University of the Witwatersrand. The THRASS synthetic phonics programme is already being welcomed in the world of education as heralding the start of a new era in the teaching of English in Africa and the main purpose of the tour was to show how simple THRASS is to teach and to extend and improve teaching across the continent.

The schools visited were in very different locations and the children attending were from very diverse backgrounds but everywhere they were really enjoying using THRASS, which was making learning so easy for them and enabling them to make amazing progress. The Kwena Basin Farm Schools have very basic facilities and limited resources and the children knew little or no English at the outset but they all loved using THRASS and the student teachers were amazed at their ability to learn and the speed at which they were doing so. The Headteacher at Umthombopholile School gave an immediate commitment, “The children have learnt so much in the last few days that we will definitely continue with THRASS.” At St Peter’s Preparatory School in Johannesburg, where THRASS has been implemented specifically to improve the reading and spelling ages of the boys, significant increases in both have been delivered in just one year.

And the story was the same in the schools across the UK. The student teachers visited schools in Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Conwy and Cardiff and were really impressed by the speed at which the children are learning and that children using THRASS are so much more advanced than children of a similar age in South Africa who are not.

But THRASS isn’t just making learning easier for children, it is also making teaching easier for educators, for whom it is providing a much-needed structured programme and increasing their confidence. The student teachers were amazed at their own ability and by how much they were able to achieve in the Farm Schools after only 30 minutes THRASS training, and after the two-day THRASS Certificate Course one said, “I was not confident enough to teach phonics in teaching experience but now everything has changed. I am now confident to conquer the world!” At the launch of the THRASS SMART project, it was the children themselves, whose first language is either Zulu or Sotho, who were using the Phoneme Machine on the SMART Board to teach English to the 100+ visitors from all over Africa and the UK.

In addition to its success with children of normal learning ability, THRASS is also enabling dyslexics, the deaf and children with other special educational needs to make better than average progress, and several visitors to the Milton Keynes Open Day spoke about the suitability of THRASS, with its interactive and multi-sensory approach, for teaching these children.

THRASS also has wider benefits. Dr Jean Place, Principal Tutor at the University of the Witwatersrand describes THRASS as “a revolutionary approach to teaching English that also provides children with valuable life skills training”. And, because it involves such an interactive approach, it very quickly helps to build up strong relationships between children and educators.

So what impressed those taking part in the tour most? The educators will never forget the desire for learning amidst such difficult circumstances and the amazing progress of the children at the Farm Schools. They were also really impressed by the professional approach of the student teachers and the way they had risen to the challenge of the responsibility they had been given. For the student teachers, it was seeing just how much children get out of THRASS, with its flexibility and potential for integration across the curriculum, and the real friendship that it enables to develop between the children and the educators. They had also learnt much from the classroom management skills of the educators they had seen in action.

But for Kopano Makenna, one of the student teachers, the most outstanding highlight was seeing children using the THRASS Phoneme Machine, which she described as “the greatest thing there could ever be for teaching children for whom English is a second language.”

You can read about the tour in detail and watch videostreams shot on location across South Africa and the UK at http://www.thrass.co.uk/thrassgoeslive.htm

Full details of the THRASS Phoneme Machine can be found at http://www.phonememachine.com

A collection of press releases, articles and videostreams about the success of THRASS across Africa can be found at http://www.thrass.co.uk/africanchild.htm

Details of THRASS Professional Development Courses which are held regularly in the UK, Europe, West and Southern Africa can be found at http://www.thrass.co.uk/courses.htm

‘THRASS - 15 Minutes a Day’, a four-year scheme of work for schools, will be launched in South Africa and the UK in September.

A wide range of THRASS resources for parents and schools can be found at http://www.thrass.co.uk/resources.htm

Issued by: THRASS UK News Media Centre http://www.thrass.co.uk/nm.htm

Mike Meade, Media Director, +44 1829 741413 Mob: 07970 151 738

Chris Griffiths, International Development, +30 266 203 1207

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