What our principal’s have to say…

Leona Krishna, principal of the foundation school:  Sparrow Schools

Leona Krishna is the principal of Sparrow Schools´ foundation school, which caters for learners between Grade one and Grade three.   In her current role, Leona is responsible for aligning the school’s curriculum with the national CAPS curriculum, managing the daily activities of the school and maintaining critical relationships between the school, its supporters and stakeholders (both in terms of the Department of Education, the parents; learners and sponsors).

Having qualified as a teacher in 1993, Leona has dedicated most of her career to teaching vocational skills – mostly in the hospitality industry.  She has also worked in the private sector, as the owner of two Milky Lane franchises – both of which were recognised as national training stores.

She believes that Sparrow Schools chose her – rather than her choosing the school.  Leona was drawn to the partnership approach that exists between the school and the business world, in an effort to uplift skills development in our country.

Leona believes that everything about Sparrow School is driven by passion.  The passion to see growth, to make a tangible difference, and to see how learners’ lives can be changed.

“Each teacher at Sparrow Schools is called here to do this.  I am honoured to be part of this truly learner centric institution.”



Bio: Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Academic manager at Sparrow Schools

Jacques Janse van Rensburg joined the Sparrow Schools team in October 2012 primarily as the academic manager, although he does have some operational responsibilities for the High School.

A qualified teacher by trade, Jacques has more than 13 years experience in the education sector.  As the academic manager at Sparrow Schools, he focuses his time and energy on critically evaluating and developing the academic programmes and assessment practices for the institution, ensuring alignment between the requirements of the Department of Education, and those of the learners that attend the school.

He believes that his experience as a national trainer and co-ordinator for a large business-to-business solutions provider, and his time at a tertiary institution, developing content, and ensuring high quality delivery thereof, has more than equipped him to bring best of breed practices to Sparrow Schools.  He combines this experience with a strength in planning, and more critically, an ability to build high performing teams committed to getting the job done.

Jacques and his team share a vision of making Sparrow Schools the foremost institution  of choice for children with barriers to learning.  We want to be renowned for world class curricula, facilities, educators and therapists.

¨I love the limitlessness of what I do – I believe we are only bound by our passion, our education, imagination and initiative.


Educational activities for the holidays

Holidays are coming up and your children are excited to have a break, relax, sleep late, watch TV, and see their friends. It is important however that your child is still doing some educational activities during these holiday weeks.

Here are some ideas:

  • Reading, reading and more reading! If you don’t have books at home then you could go to the local library. Your child should be encouraged to read stories they enjoy and that are at a level that is suitable for them. As a family you could read books together.


  • Playing board games. There are some really great board games out there that you can play together. Games like Scrabble, 30 seconds, and Pictionary are great for spelling and increasing vocabulary. Games like monopoly are good for entrepreneurship and maths. Even simple games like cards or snakes and ladders are good for counting and learning to take turns.
  • Have a family quiz night.
  • Creating scrapbooks and collages.
  • Writing stories, creating comics, or journaling about the holiday.
  • Going on educational outings such as to the zoo or a museum.
  • Building different structures and objects using recyclable material or building blocks.
  • Practice measuring at home by letting your children help you with cooking and baking.
  • If you have a tablet or phone, you can download educational games for your child to play.
  • If your child loves TV, try encourage them to also watch some educational programs such as nature documentaries.
Father and son with laundry basket

Father and son with laundry basket

It is fine to let your kids have some TV, phone and tablet time but make sure they are balancing this out with outside play, social activities, educational activities, and helping with chores around the house.

Happy Holidays.

Words by the Sparrow School’s Educational Trust Speech Therapist, Samantha Bolton.

Bolton’s educational background:

Advanced Diploma in Remedial Education (UJ) In Progress; Post Graduate Certificate in Education – Intermediate and Senior Phase (UNISA) ; BA Psychology Honours degree; (University of Johannesburg) CUM LAUDE; BA degree Psychological Counseling (UNISA) CUM LAUDE.


Self-esteem is the way people see themselves. Children develop self-esteem very early in life and are shaped by their own expectations as well as the expectations of significant people in their life, such as parents, caregivers or peers.

Self-esteem is an important factor in a child’s motivations and achievements and can have an effect on their performance in school, sports, social relationships and the ability to recover from disappointment. A child’s self-esteem can change from day to day, however, their overall self-esteem plays a major role in their emotional development. A child with low self-esteem will tend to settle for modest accomplishments and may feel shame or inadequacy and are more likely to conform to their peer group and adopt their behaviours and values. Children with low-self esteem are often not able to deal with stress and failures.

To determine if a child has low self-esteem, look for the following signals:

  • A child who avoids a task or challenge without even trying or quitting at the first sign of frustration
  • Cheating or lying when the child thinks they are going to lose
  • Drop in school grades
  • Social withdrawal or little contact with friends
  • Makes self-critical comments like “nobody likes me”
  • Overly sensitive about other people’s opinion of them

How can you help a child with low self-esteem? In order for a child to develop a healthier self-esteem, they will need the following:

  1. Sense of security: Children must feel secure about themselves and their future.
  2. Sense of belonging: Children need to feel accepted and loved by others. This begins in the family and extends to friends, schoolmates and other groups.
  3. Sense of purpose: Children should have goals that give them purpose and direction.
  4. Personal competence and pride: Children should feel confident in their ability to meet the challenges in their lives. This comes from having success in solving problems, being creative and seeing results from their efforts.
  5. Trust: Children need to feel like they are trusted by their parents, caregivers and other children. To help children feel trusted, you need to be sure to keep promises you make to them and give them chances to be trustworthy.
  6. Self-discipline and control: As children are gaining independence, they need to sense that they can make it on their own. Give them opportunities and guidelines for them to test themselves.
  7. Accepting mistakes and failure: Children need to know that when they make a mistake they are not defeated. When a child makes a mistakes or fails, explain that hurdles and setbacks are a normal part of life and the important thing is to always try their hardest and to ask for help when they need it. Support them with constructive criticism that is designed to help them improve, not to make them feel discouraged or humiliated.

Words by Marichen Klaver, a registered Counsellor / student Educational Psychologist at Sparrow Schools Educational Trust.

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A Love for Reading Starts at Home

It is an exciting time for a child when they start learning to read, and this excitement needs to be nurtured at home. In school reading is involved in all subject areas, helping your child to read with fluency and comprehension is a vital skill that your child will need to cope well in the higher grades. Our Remedial Therapist, Samantha Bolton shares some tips to do at home:

1) Expose children to books and the wonder of stories from as young as possible.

2) Read daily with your child, reading should not only be confined to set school books they bring home but reading should also be for pleasure, reading can be a special bonding time between parents and their children.

3) Go to the library, this is a wonderful free activity and many libraries offer storytime and holiday programs.

4) Have books with you all the time, useful for keeping the little ones busy during while waiting for appointments, shopping,  eating a restaurant, and for those long drives.

5) Let your child read books to you at their level but also read books to them that are a bit more advanced so they can enjoy listening and using their imagination.

6) For older readers encourage them to get hooked on a book series so that they keep reading more.

7) Talk to your children about what they are reading, ask them questions, and at the end get them to summarise the book in a few sentences in their own words.

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What are gross motor skills and why are they important?

Gross Motor Skills is a term often used by teachers, therapists as well as other health care professionals. You may have heard it in passing, referring to another child, or maybe your child is attending therapy to improve their gross motor skills.

In whichever way you may have been exposed, there is often confusion about which specific skills relate to this term. Generally as occupational therapists, we define gross motor skills as those skills in which the whole body (or the majority of the body) is used. The specific core muscle groups are involved, and specific movements are generated.

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These movements, together incorporate activities such as running, jumping, hopping, skipping, as well as playground specific skills including climbing and navigating through a jungle gym.

Why are these skills important? This is a frequently asked question specifically from parents who have children who are currently seeing an OT. These essential gross motor skills form the basis for engagement within, believe it or not, all our daily tasks. Consider this, you wake up in the morning, and prepare to start your day. You move into the shower from your bed. Thereafter, you walk back to your room where you prepare to get dressed. Here it is essential you remain standing on one leg, to put on each leg of your pants. You continue about your day as normal, using the foundation skills you developed as a child.


From the age of 7, and even 6 within certain environments, you are expected to remain within a classroom routine for an extended period of time within a day. Here, a child is expected to sit upright at a desk, make use of a pen, or other stationary and engage in other tasks such as listening attentively to the teacher, and answering questions he or she poses. In order for a child to keep this position and use their dominant hand, as well as use the cognitive skills necessary for paying attention, a good development of core muscles is essential, all of which develops through our gross motor skills.

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How can you bring gross motor skills into your child’s daily routine? Spend a short period each day encouraging your child to engage in activities in which they should run, jump or climb! Encourage them to catch and throw a ball to each other, or play a game of soccer! Set up a short obstacle course where the child can perform different movements in different positions. By encouraging and stimulating this type of engagement, your child will want to participate in gross motor tasks on their own, stimulating furthermore independent engagement.

Words by Kate Delmont, Occupational Therapist at the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust. Kate holds a BSc from the Witswatersrand University.

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Opening of multi-purpose court

It is with great pleasure that we announce the opening of the much anticipated Multi-purpose Sports court at the Sparrow Combined School. This would not have been possible without the generous contribution of Haberdasher’s Aske Boys School in the United Kingdom.


Previously, netball was played on the soccer field with portable netball poles or on the basketball court which was not conducive in developing the skills of this sport. There has been high interest in netball and tennis at the school, so we hope to develop teams for both sports and enter competitions.


The Combined School’s netball team facing off against the staff.

We will now be able to host home games and tournaments at the school, which will promote team unity and pride within the sporting codes. The improved facilities will also assist with improving the level of participation and the introduction of tennis at the school will promote our long-term goal of increasing exposure of different sporting domains to Sparrow learners.

Sparrow Staff facing off against the Combined School's netball team

Sparrow Staff facing off against the Combined School’s netball team

The multi-purpose court will not only enable the school to provide netball and tennis as formalised sports to the learners, we also hope to provide the wider community with facilities to participate in sporting programmes. Netball is considered one of the most popular women’s sports in South Africa and tennis is a popular activity for both men and women in South Africa.


The Multipurpose court is invaluable to the school in achieving our goal of exposing sparrow learners to a variety of sporting activities and to ensure that they are given opportunities to develop their sporting skills.

We would like to thank the people in England from Haberdasher’s, who were responsible for raising the money so that our learner’ lives can be changed for the better.  Jackie Gallagher, Sparrow Schools Educational Trust General Manager.

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Sparrows recount UK Tour

On 20 November, the Combined School Choir jetted off on a two week-long tour of the United Kingdom (UK). The cities visited included London, Watford, Chelsea and Banbury. The school embarks on the tour every three years and it serves as a huge cultural and social experience for the children.

Lelebohile Ramotlalane - Kamohelo Lephallo - Tshepo Lebididi - Karabo Khupe - Michelle Manganyi - Nomathamsanqa Ngamlana

The choir was kept very busy while on tour, averaging two performances a day over a two-week period. “The tour went very well, it was really lovely.  It was a great experience for the children. We also met some really great people; I was very impressed by the warm embrace of the people of England. The choir also did very well, at one performance we got a standing ovation where one lady actually cried. They really stepped it up and came alive on stage,” says Choir Conductor, Badelisile Gaobepe.

The choir was hosted by different host families associated with Sparrow through the Sparrow Foundation in the UK. “My highlight was getting to spend time with the host family that I was with,” recounts choir member, Karabo Khupe. She further adds, “Getting to go on tour of London was also a very great experience.”

Choir Master and Misstress - Dominic Gaobepe and Badelisile Gaobepe

The 12 member choir spent their time mesmerizing different schools and churches around the UK with their proudly African song and dance. Kamohelo Lephallo, in grade nine also recounts his highlights, “Singing at the different schools was my greatest highlight. I was also impressed with the kind of facilities the schools had that I am not used to.”


The Sparrow Educational Trust Founder, Jackie Gallagher, thanks the National Lottery South Africa and the Edcon Group who made the trip possible and a great success. The National Lottery sponsored the funds that made it all possible while the Edcon Group sponsored clothes and toiletry.

“The whole point and theme of the choir performing was to celebrate former President Nelson Mandela’s legacy, his life and what he did for South Africa. The highlight was when the choir was invited to sing at the Royal Chelsea Hospital. They were the second choir to ever sing in the chapel for their Christmas celebration,” Jackie Gallagher says.

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Kamo represents in Children’s Parliament

On the week of 5 October 2015, the Department of Social Development hosted the fifth Annual Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Free State Provincial Legislature.  The aim was to give children an understanding of parliamentary processes and it is also an opportunity for them to tackle issues that affect them. The theme was “Claiming our Rights to Safety and Protection”.

The topics discussed in the proceedings included forced child marriages, deaths in initiation schools, child killings illegal pregnancy terminations among young people, violence, and etc. “What we are doing here is to build leadership for the future. There must be a shining star whereby our children come from,” Said Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini.


The two day commission hosted child representatives from all nine provinces. Representing the Sparrow Combined School was grade 8 learner Kamohelo Lephallo who was one of the five selected to represent Gauteng. “It was very exciting to be part of the team representing Gauteng and being inside parliament for the first time. It was a real learning experience,” Lephallo says.


The 16 year old takes pride on being appointed as the team leader for the team he was assigned to throughout the course of the commission. “The biggest lesson that I took away from the experience was leadership, learning how to manage people and what it really takes to be a good leader,” he explains.  He further adds, “The biggest issue that was addressed for me was education which I am very passionate about.”


Lephallo joined the Sparrow Combined School in January 2015 with a learning challenge. Despite him struggling to grasp certain concepts, “Kamo is actually one of our brightest learners, he really excels when he puts his mind to it. He has shown great improvement in his work over the months,” explains Lephallo’s teacher Israel Chiture.

Lephallo is also one with many talents; he was awarded the title of Sportsman of the year at his previous school in Mayfair, Johannesburg. His passion lies in drama and music and he aims to pursue a career in theater. He is also part of the Combined School Choir that will be embarking on the United Kingdom Choir Tour in November 2015.

Sparrow Combined Introducing Bridging Programme

The Sparrow Combined School offers the full prescribed CAPS curriculum at grades 8 and 9 level. The curriculum is offered according to remedial principles that allow the adjustment of content and pace of learning. The learning pace and content is specifically matched to learner ability and type of impairment.

Due to the Combined School only offering grades 8 and 9; the school realized a need to make the transition into the FET College easier and is introducing a two year bridging programme. This programme will cater for learners who have successfully completed grade 9 and will serve as an introduction to the skills of any FET College.

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In addition to the practical skills, learner literacy levels are improved through computer-assisted literacy training. The basic skills needed to successfully cope with the world of work are also introduced through a work-readiness program that will also help learners get a head start as they embark on their journey through the FET College. This ensures the learner is mature enough to cope and compete in society.

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In January 2015, nine learners from the Combined school were successfully recruited into the FET College’s Furniture Making: Wood programme. The learners spent six months undergoing both theoretical and practical training at the FET College. “It was not easy getting the learners to the level that I want them to be at considering they came here at a much younger age. I’m very happy about this bridging programme as it will make all our jobs easier, including helping the learners have a much better transitioning experience,” says Furniture Making: Wood programme facilitator, Wayne Hendricks.

The learners have been successfully placed into various companies for their workplace experience. These companies include Webbers Woodcraft, Falcon Shopfitters SA (Pty) Ltd, Everhood, Devin Cabinet Doors, and Charles Oregon Furniture.

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Sparrow Schools joins third industrial revolution

Additive Manufacturing, also known as 3D printing is taking the world by storm and Sparrow Schools is joining the revolution. With just a click of a button, you can turn a digital file into an actual physical 3D part object. Many manufacturing industries have also joined the wave. According to a Wohlers Report 2014, the 3D printing industry is expected to grow and exceed the $21B mark in worldwide revenue by 2020.


After being approached by two University of Cape Town students who started a programme called 3D for Schools, the Sparrow Foundation School is looking to integrate 3D printing into the school’s maths, science and technology curriculum.  For instance in the mathematics subject, while learners are taught about shapes, through 3D printing, they will be able to physically develop the shapes, giving them a better grasp of volume, height and width.

3D print

Furthermore, 3D printing will take its remedial intervention plans to a whole new level, particularly for autistic learners. It has been found that autistic children learn differently from their peers.  They have difficulty visualising concepts and relating to stories or pictures on a page.

The Foundation Schools’ autistic learners were tasked with designing floor plans for their dream houses. They failed when they drew on paper but thanks to 3D printing, they successfully completed the floor plans in 2 days after using Sketchup (3D modelling computer programme). People with autism are visually gifted, they think in pictures. In this sense, 3D printing is one of the tools that can help them express their ideas and creativity.

3D printer

The 3D printing programme also aims to inspire and trigger thoughts in young minds. It seeks to keep them up-to-date with the third industrial revolution, driven by additive manufacturing (3D printing).  The programme will also instill the spirit of entrepreneurship in learners from an early age considering that the industry is going mainstream. “We are already starting to see businesses, both large and small, take advantage of 3D printers to create customized designs or follow blueprints. The real appeal lies in speedy prototyping and increased accessibility,” says Chris Elsworthy, CEO of CEL, the makers of the Robox 3D printer.

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