South Africa's Absa Bank Intends to Introduce THRASS British Synthetic Phonics Programme to 1,000 Government Schools

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In July 2007, South Africa's Absa Bank, a member of the Barclays Group, announced its corporate sponsorship of the THRASS British synthetic phonics programme though the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project. Now Absa Bank has just announced that the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project intends to introduce the THRASS programme to 1,000 government schools this year, using the newly launched THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Resources.

The moon fell out of the sky

In July 2007, South Africa's Absa Bank, a member of the Barclays Group, announced its corporate sponsorship of the THRASS British synthetic phonics programme though the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project. Now Absa Bank has just announced that the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project intends to introduce the THRASS programme to 1,000 government schools this year, using the newly launched THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Resources.

Absa Bank made the announcement earlier this week at the inaugural THRASS Absa TalkTogether Conference hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Announcing the sponsorship, Nicholas Young, Chief Operating Officer of Absa's New Business Cluster said, "The transfer of knowledge through sharing the TalkTogether Project's implementation and research experience and distilling it as best practice will be of invaluable help in addressing South Africa's literacy challenge and improving teachers' subject matter knowledge. To this end, the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project is intending to introduce THRASS, through the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Resources, to 1,000 schools during 2008."

The announcement was immediately welcomed by Dr. Jean Place, Principal Tutor at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Education, "The THRASS programme, enhanced with the new and innovative THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Resources, will enable teachers to integrate their approach with all aspects of the new National Literacy Strategy outlined in the document now available on the Department of Education website. These resources and the THRASS approach to early reading will, I believe, impact significantly on literacy levels within South Africa."

This latest development is a major achievement for British Educational Psychologist Alan Davies, who has pioneered the THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills) synthetic phonics programme, welcomed as heralding the start of a new era in the teaching of English in Africa, and has recently developed the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Resources with the help of an international team.

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.

The THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project is a unique educational partnership that is aiming to revolutionise 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.

To date, over 4,000 teachers and student teachers in South Africa have earned the THRASS Accredited Certificate, with approximately 500 having been sponsored by the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project. 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.

Through the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project, Absa Bank is also co-principal sponsor of the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project that was launched on 31 January at Holy Rosary School in Johannesburg. The Project revolves around 44 songs that teachers and parents can sing with children to explain and help them understand the 44 sounds and 120 main spelling choices of English, with each song focusing on one of the 44 sounds and its main spelling choices.

The songs have been written so that they will be real fun for both children and adults to sing. They all have wonderful imaginative titles such as "The moon fell out of the sky", "A great big gorilla" and "You don't get pandas in Africa", and they also have really memorable tunes, as they are all written in different musical styles and dance rhythms from around the world such as African Round, blues, Charleston, Hawaiian, Irish Dance, jazz, ragtime, reggae, twist and waltz.

The songs are featured throughout all the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Resources, which currently comprise a 96-page hard-back book, an interactive book and audio CD, each with vocal and instrumental tracks, and a colouring book; a sheet music book will be available later in the year.

Absa Bank firmly believe that increased collaboration between the private and public sectors is key to creating sustainable programmes that increase literacy in South Africa and would welcome new partners seeking to adopt and include THRASS into their corporate social investment plans or participate in the TalkTogether Project.

The THRASS extensive picture-based training website for schools and parents with easy access to a wide range of resources and support materials and extensive evidence of the widespread success of THRASS is at http://www.thrass.co.uk/teaching.htm

For a summary of the main features of THRASS and the benefits of using THRASS (including comments from teachers and parents), visit http://www.thrass.co.uk/keyfacts.htm

For information about the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project, visit http://www.thrass.co.uk/sing-a-long.htm

For information about the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Resources, visit http://www.thrass.co.uk/list2008.htm

For more information about the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project, visit http://www.talktogether.co.za and http://www.thrass.co.uk/talktogether.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.

For details of THRASS Professional Development Courses that are held regularly in the UK, Europe, West and Southern Africa and elsewhere, visit http://www.thrass.co.uk/courses.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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CHRIS GRIFFITHS
THRASS
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