THRASS Absa TalkTogether Literacy Project Moves Forward with Launch of Second TalkTogether School

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At the end of July, South Africa's Absa Bank, a member of the Barclays Group, announced its corporate sponsorship of the THRASS (Teaching Handwriting, Reading And Spelling Skills) phonics program through the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Literacy Project. Reactions to the Project have been extremely favorable and now a second TalkTogether School, Sunlands Primary School in Cape Town, has been launched.

At the end of July, South Africa's Absa Bank, a member of the Barclays Group, announced its corporate sponsorship of the THRASS (Teaching Handwriting, Reading And Spelling Skills) phonics program through the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Literacy Project. Reactions to the Project have been extremely favorable and now a second TalkTogether School, Sunlands Primary School in Cape Town, has been launched.

The THRASS Absa TalkTogether Literacy Project is a unique educational partnership between THRASS UK and Absa, and is aiming to revolutionize the teaching and learning of language in South Africa through partnerships between primary schools, universities and other organizations. The project is also aiming to provide a platform to celebrate South Africa's eleven national languages, through free interactive software and printable calendar charts.

All TalkTogether Schools will be linked to a university and will benefit from THRASS training events for staff, in partnership with teacher organizations such as the National Professional Teachers Organization of South Africa (NAPTOSA) and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU). The schools will also benefit from the provision of resources for the Foundation Phase classes, including the installation of a large interactive whiteboard. At the same time, the schools will provide an opportunity for the training of Foundation Phase student teachers and for the promotion of research in education.

The TalkTogether Project was launched at Roseneath Primary School in Parktown, Johannesburg on 23 July 2007. The school is being supported by the University of the Witwatersrand and eighty Foundation Phase student teachers from the university are helping with the daily teaching of THRASS and the other home languages. The University will be conducting studies to measure the effectiveness and impact of THRASS on literacy training and learning.

Initial reactions to the TalkTogether Project have been extremely favorable and on 6 September 2007 it was formally announced, at the South African Principals' Association (SAPA) conference in Cape Town, that Sunlands Primary School, Cape Town, supported by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), would be the second TalkTogether School. There are about 1000 children at the school and the Principal, Alta van Heerden, who is also President of SAPA (Western Cape), attended the first THRASS certificate course to be held in Cape Town back in 2006. A SMART Board has already been installed at the school by Edit Microsystems (PTY) Ltd and THRASS training for 120 people, including the staff from Sunlands and Foundation Phase student teachers and lecturers from other key departments at CPUT, will take place on 8-9 October.

At the center of the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project is the THRASS phonics program, pioneered by British Educational Psychologist Alan Davies. THRASS is widely accepted as providing a revolutionary approach to teaching English and is used by teachers, parents, educational psychologists and speech and language therapists in thousands of schools in Africa, the UK, Europe and the Caribbean. In addition to teaching handwriting, reading and spelling to learners of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, it also teaches lifelong word solving skills for their own and other languages. THRASS is widely acknowledged as having the potential to more than double the normal rate of progress for reading and spelling in English.

To date, over 3,500 teachers in South Africa have been awarded the THRASS Accredited Certificate and THRASS has been implemented in a significant number of government schools, including farm schools in the Kwena Basin, Mpumalanga and township schools in Orange Farm, Johannesburg and also in prestigious independent schools in several provinces, including the largest private schools chain, Crawford Schools.

An important part of the THRASS program is the THRASS Phoneme Machine software, a groundbreaking interactive computer program that uses moving human lips and the International Phonetic Alphabet to teach children, and indeed learners of all ages and abilities, to read and spell in an entertaining and fun way. It has been found to be very helpful to those for whom English is not their first language, and those with learning difficulties. Users can download interactive calendar charts in many African (including all eleven South African national languages and Swahili) and European languages. The charts feature children's voices saying the days, dates, months, numbers one to twenty, main colors and names of the twenty-six lower-case letters (and their associated capitals). Dr Melodie de Jager, a South African expert on learning and a keen advocate of the THRASS methodology, believes that these charts are 'Maps for Time' and help children to understand about the sequential order of the days, dates and months. The software is currently being showcased at the Microsoft Africa School Technology Innovation Centre (ASTIC) in Johannesburg.

The third TalkTogether School will be Eendracht Primary, Pretoria, which will be supported by the University of Pretoria. The fourth TalkTogether School will be George Randell Primary, East London, which will be supported by Fort Hare University, one of the oldest universities in Southern Africa.

The THRASS multi-lingual calendar charts and Phoneme Machine software can be downloaded free-of-charge from links on both the Absa TalkTogether Project and THRASS UK websites:

http://www.talktogether.co.za and http://www.thrass.co.uk/talktogether.htm

The video of the initial reactions of those who attended the launch of the TalkTogether Project: senior representatives from Absa, the University of the Witwatersrand, the South African Government, the British Council, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and other national and international agencies, including SMART Technologies Inc. from Canada can be viewed as a videostream or downloaded from the THRASS UK website:

http://www.thrass.co.uk/absa_reactions.htm

For more information about the project, the free materials and the TalkTogether Schools, South Africans can SMS their names to 32828 (R1.00 per sms) or write to the Absa Foundation, P.O. Box 7735, Johannesburg 2000.

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

For more information please contact:
Absa:
Jacqueline de Winnaar
Tel:+27 11 350 6085

Nicholas Young
Tel: +27 11 350 3450

LeRoy Munetsi
Tel: (011) 350 5023

THRASS:
Mike Meade
Media Director
+44 1829 741413
Mobile: 07970 151 738

Chris Griffiths
International Development
Mobile: +30 266 203 1207

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CHRIS GRIFFITHS
THRASS UK
00441829741413
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