Eastern Cape pioneers UK fun literacy programme

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The Eastern Cape has become the province to pioneer a UK English literacy programme that will see thousands of Grade 1 teachers undergo training to improve their teaching skills.

A first for the country, the Jolly Phonics programme teaches pupils to read and write using fun-filled teaching methods such as multi-sensory activities, stories and songs.

A pilot programme in 2018 saw the reading levels of participating pupils leap eight months ahead of their non-participating peers.

A total of 6,571 Grade 1 teachers from more than 4,000 schools in the department of education’s 12 districts have been selected to undergo the training over three weeks during the winter holidays.

The initiative comes after a number of studies painted a grim picture of the literacy levels of pupils in the foundation phase, including a 19% Grade 1 failure rate, which was attributed to the pupils’ inability to read.

In 2017, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) revealed that 80% of the country’s Grade 4 pupils could not read at the appropriate level.

This while the province scored between 55% and 59% in language and maths in the department of basic education’s 2018 annual national assessments (ANA).

The department’s director of general education training, Unathi Nqandela, said the department had adopted and implemented a number of programmes and strategies, including Jolly Phonics, to help improve foundation phase education.

“Instead of dwelling on why learners were unable to read in Grade 4, we decided to do something about it to ensure that when the next assessments come, the situation would have been improved,” said Nqandela.

Project coordinator for Jolly Phonics in the province, Dr Daisy Reddy, attributed the spectacular success of the pilot programme in 2018 in three districts, which saw pupils’ reading skills drastically improve, to the fun methods used.

“Children love learning using exciting activities in a fun environment and we have seen this working through the pilot programme,” said Reddy.

Earlier in June, basic education minister Angie Motshekga proposed a “no failure” policy in the foundation phase.

One of the Grade 1 teachers who took part in the first training session, Buyiswa Nombombo, said hopefully the new teaching method would turn things around.

“If it works then it means no child would be failed in this grade,” said Nombombo.

The first training session was held on Friday at Walmer West primary school in Nelson Mandela Bay.

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