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‘Magic moment’ – Sunderland teacher describes the power of Makaton as school receives bronze award

Columbia Grange School, in Washington, has received the Bronze Accreditation Award for the delivery of Makaton to help its non-verbal children, as well as pupils who struggle with their language, to be able to communicate.

By Neil Fatkin
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 12:34 pm

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Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable the children to communicate.

It is relayed primarily through a range of hand signs, but can also incorporate symbols in books and on key-cards.

The school, in Oxclose Road, provides education for children with severe learning difficulties, including autism, and “around 65 out of 115” of the pupils use Makaton to enable them to communicate.

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The accreditation, which is awarded by the Makaton Charity, is a national standard benchmark of excellence in the delivery of the language programme.

Headteacher John Lines said: “This award means an awful lot to us. It means we have reached a national standard in the delivery of Makaton across the school. It means that we’ve got staff who are competent, able and willing to use Makaton as an interface with the children.”

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The ability for children to be able to communicate is fundamental to both their academic progress and social and mental wellbeing.

Teacher Michelle Wardropper alongside Class 1 and Class 10 pupils practising their Makaton at Columbia Grange School.

Each week will see the children and staff learn a ’Sign of the Week’, many of which are linked to emotions.

John added: “Many of our children are visual learners and Makaton focuses on the link between sound and meaning.

“For a child not to be able to communicate is obviously very frustrating for them. Makaton is therefore essential for regulating their mood and enabling them to get essential messages across.”

The programme has been led by teacher Michelle Wardroppper who has seen firsthand the benefits Makaton can have.

She said: “There’s a lot of frustration when children can’t communicate which can lead to behaviour problems. For some children it has made a massive difference.

"Seeing that light bulb moment when they are able to to get their message across is a real moment of magic. We now want to push on even further and achieve the silver and then gold award.”

Year 6 pupil Max added: “Makaton really helps. This week’s sign is flower. I have been practising with my mam.”