Varsity College Set to Join THRASS Absa TalkTogether Literacy Project

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The THRASS Absa TalkTogether Literacy Project has gathered significant momentum since its launch just over a year ago and now Varsity College, which is a licensed tuition provider of the University of South Africa (UNISA), is set to join the Project from January 2009. UNISA is the largest provider of student teachers in South Africa.

We are very grateful to colleagues at THRASS UK and Absa for inviting Varsity College to be a part of this exciting venture in education. Our students are thrilled to be given the opportunity to become part of the THRASS Absa literacy project and to make a major impact on language education in South Africa.

The THRASS Absa TalkTogether Literacy Project has gathered significant momentum since its launch just over a year ago and now Varsity College, which is a licensed tuition provider of the University of South Africa (UNISA), is set to join the Project from January 2009. UNISA is the largest provider of student teachers in South Africa.

Varsity College is a trading division of the Independent Institute of Education (IIE), currently the highest accredited private Higher Education Tertiary Institution in South Africa. The College has eight campuses and its involvement with the TalkTogether Project will start with students at Durban North, Pietermaritzburg and Westville in KwaZulu-Natal.

From January 2009, third year Batchelor of Education (BEd) students will be offered a two-day accredited THRASS training programme to prepare them more fully for teaching literacy in schools. This will be followed by a one-day observational visit to a TalkTogether Project School and, where possible, a placement in a school implementing the THRASS literacy programme for their compulsory UNISA teaching practice experience. THRASS training will later be extended to students at other Varsity College campuses.

Colleen Thatcher, the National Programme Manager of the BEd Degree at Varsity College, is delighted with this latest development: "We are very grateful to colleagues at THRASS UK and Absa for inviting Varsity College to be a part of this exciting venture in education. Our students are thrilled to be given the opportunity to become part of the THRASS Absa literacy project and to make a major impact on language education in South Africa."

The THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project is a unique educational partnership between THRASS UK and Absa Bank, a member of the Barclays Group, that aims to revolutionise the teaching and learning of language in South Africa through partnerships between primary schools, universities and other organizations. The Project uses the THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills) phonics programme, pioneered by British Educational Psychologist Alan Davies, to target foundation level learners and their teachers, so that learners develop sound literacy skills from an early age. THRASS is widely accepted as providing a revolutionary approach to teaching English and as having the potential to more than double the normal rate of progress for reading and spelling in English. The TalkTogether Project also aims to provide a platform to celebrate South Africa's eleven national languages through FREE interactive and printable calendar charts.

The TalkTogether Project has gathered significant momentum in the year since it was launched and there are now five TalkTogether schools and their partner universities involved: Roseneath Primary School and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Sunlands Primary School and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, Eendracht Primary School and the University of Pretoria, George Randell Primary School and the University of Fort Hare, and Clairwood Boys Preparatory School and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

In addition, the TalkTogether Project is also introducing the THRASS programme to hundreds of other government schools in 2008 through the recently launched THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Resources that use 44 songs that parents and others can sing with children to explain the 44 sounds (phonemes) and 120 main spelling choices (graphemes) of English.

THRASS is used by teachers, parents, educational psychologists and speech and language therapists in thousands of schools in Africa, the UK, Europe and the Caribbean. To date, over 5,000 teachers and student teachers in South Africa have earned the THRASS Accredited Certificate, with over 700 having been sponsored by the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project.

The THRASS Accredited Certificate is already a compulsory module for Foundation Phase student teachers at five South African universities, namely, Witwatersrand, Pretoria, Cape Peninsular University of Technology, Fort Hare and KwaZulu-Natal. THRASS UK is also looking to work with teacher training colleges in Namibia, where the Government is rolling out its programme to introduce THRASS in all schools.

In South Africa, THRASS has been implemented at a significant number of government schools, including farm schools in the Kwena Basin, Mpumalanga and township schools in Orange Farm, Johannesburg, as well as at private independent schools in several provinces, including the largest private schools chain, Crawford Schools, which is also part of IIE and hosts many Varsity College students during their teaching practice experience year.

THRASS and Absa are hopeful that a member of staff from UNISA will be a key speaker at the 2009 TalkTogether Conference to be held at the University of Pretoria at the end of January 2009.

The THRASS extensive picture-based training website for schools and parents with access to a wide range of resources and support materials, and extensive evidence of the widespread success of THRASS and details of THRASS Professional Development Courses is at http://www.thrass.co.uk/teaching.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 Varsity College and its Batchelor of Education Degree, visit http://www.varsitycollege.co.za

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

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

For more information about the TalkTogether 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: THRASS UK News Media Centre http://www.thrass.co.uk/nm.htm

Mike Meade, Media Director, +44 1829 741413 Mob: +44 7970 151 738

Chris Griffiths, International Development, +30 266 203 1207

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THRASS
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