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Empowering communication in Early Years

Empowering communication in Early Years

Noticeboard with Makaton signs

Noticeboard with Makaton signsJayde Conway is a newly qualified Makaton Tutor and Early Years SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) at The Sunflower Children’s Centre in Tameside. Here, she shares her journey to becoming a Makaton Tutor and the positive impact Makaton is making in her Early Years setting.

In the vibrant world of early childhood education, effective communication is the cornerstone of fostering meaningful connections with young learners. As an enthusiastic advocate for inclusive teaching practices, I embarked on a transformative journey to become a Makaton tutor. This decision was fuelled by the desire to create an environment where every child, regardless of their communication abilities, feels heard and understood.

Children entering a nursery setting come along with a diverse range of communication abilities. Some may be confident communicators, while others may face challenges in expressing themselves. Recognising this diversity, I decided to explore Makaton, a unique and inclusive communication tool.

My journey as a Makaton Tutor began with a comprehensive training programme that covered the fundamentals of the Makaton communication programme. From basic signs and symbols to constructing sentences, my Tutor training provided a thorough understanding of how Makaton can be integrated into everyday life. One of the highlights of the training was the emphasis on practical application. Through hands-on activities and scenarios, I gained confidence in incorporating Makaton seamlessly into nursery routines, learning, and play.

The primary benefit of integrating Makaton into the nursery setting is the enhanced communication between educators and children. For those who may struggle with verbal communication, Makaton provides a visual and tactile means to express their thoughts, needs, and feelings. Makaton fosters inclusivity by breaking down communication barriers. It creates a shared understanding that unites children of diverse communication abilities, promoting a sense of belonging among the nursery community.

Beyond communication, Makaton supports the development of essential skills such as fine motor skills, cognitive abilities, and social interaction. Engaging with signs and symbols stimulates various areas of a child's brain, contributing to their overall development.

Picture of JaydeAs we continue to implement Makaton across our early years setting, I am seeing a positive ripple effect as staff and children develop their communication skills and engagement with Makaton. We have introduced a 'Sign of the Week' board, which has been a great way to support staff and children in learning a brand new sign every single week. Children are more engaged, confident, and expressive in their communication. The nursery environment is a space where every child's unique voice is valued and heard.

Becoming a Makaton Tutor not only enriches my teaching practice but also contributes to the development of an inclusive and empowering nursery environment. By embracing the power of Makaton as a team, we are helping children overcome communication barriers and laying the foundation for a future where every child has the tools they need to thrive. In the colourful world of early childhood education, Makaton is a beacon of inclusivity, ensuring that no voice goes unheard, and I am both excited and proud to finally become part of the Makaton family.


Jayde Conway

19th January 2024

At school

Dunholme Pre-School

Dunholme Pre-School

Makaton Friendly CertificateAs the school year draws to a close, let's explore the inspiring story of Dunholme Pre-School, a mainstream primary school in Lincolnshire. 

Their Makaton journey began with a single student, suggested to engage with Makaton to support speech development. The staff's open-minded adoption of Makaton and the ensuing positive change not only transformed their teaching approach but also strengthened their commitment to inclusive education.

In the early stages the staff and students began experimenting with Makaton, and they were instantly able to identify its vast benefits. The positive effects on communication and comprehension led to a unanimous decision: Makaton training for all. Embracing this challenge, the staff has since then incorporated Makaton in their everyday interactions, skillfully utilising signs and symbols within the educational environment.

The Makaton 'Sign of the Week'

This is a particularly popular initiative among the students. Each week, different classes or pupil groups showcase the selected sign, increasing awareness and promoting regular use. Involving students in such participative learning methods has helped cement Makaton as an essential communication tool within the school.

"Makaton is more welcoming to non-verbal children as some of the signs are quite self-explanatory and it makes them feel able to communicate, if they can’t or do not wish to speak" - Gayle Smith, Manager of Dunholme Pre-school

This summer, we celebrate the determination and success of schools like Dunholme Pre-School, who lead by example, making education accessible and engaging for every child.

Click here to find out more about how to become Makaton Friendly 


Dunholme Pre-School

3rd July 2023

At school

Willowbank School

Willowbank School

Willowbank Schol logo

Young boy holding Makaton SymbolsWillowbank School has a diverse community, and our pupils have a wide range of communication needs. We know how important a Total Communication approach is, so it just made sense to embark on the Makaton Friendly journey. Embedding Makaton into school life helps to ensure every child and young person is supported to express themselves and understand their environment. And above all, it’s fun to use for pupils and supporting adults. For us, NOT becoming Makaton Friendly was never really an option!

Makaton helps make connections, deepen relationships and foster trust between our staff and pupils. We love to celebrate success and this includes making a big song and dance whenever a young person uses Makaton. Seeing rich, meaningful communication take place is the ultimate reward and evidences clearly the positive impact of Makaton training.

Ensuring everyone uses signs and symbols everywhere, all the time, means every pupil is respected and included in all areas of school life. We strive to have 100% of our staff trained in Makaton, including teachers, classroom assistants, clerical staff, janitors and catering staff. We have also provided training for our families, social workers, allied health professionals and transport providers. We have Makaton clubs for both primary and secondary pupils and a Makaton display board with signs of the week. Makaton is a normal, everyday, valued part of life at Willowbank and we try to spread this far and wide.

Two female staff members: one signing Biscuit, the other signing CakeI can’t imagine Willowbank School without Makaton. The first group of staff were trained by Margaret Walker in 1979! And all of our staff have continued to be trained in the Makaton Language Programme. Our pupils are more able to make choices, ask questions, share news, re-tell information, and just have fun with their friends! Families are better able to communicate with their children, who are more confident, less frustrated and more engaged in communicating. Makaton makes Willowbank a friendlier, happier, more inclusive school.

If you are interested in becoming Makaton Friendly, just go for it! Get in touch with your Makaton Tutor who will be happy to talk you through the process and support your application. Being Makaton Friendly is a journey, so don’t worry if you don’t feel like you’re 100% there yet. Take it one step at a time. Really embrace training opportunities and encourage your colleagues around you to further their skills and confidence. The more you use signs and symbols, the easier it gets. Being Makaton Friendly is such a good way of showing your commitment to supporting your community.

Find out more about Makaton Friendly


Kris Campbell Caldwell

21st April 2023

At school

Essential Early Years

Essential Early Years

Young boy sitting on floor playing with Makaton Symbol cards

Essential Early Years logoHello from Essential Early Years!

We are a private day nursery for children aged 0-5 with special needs and we are Makaton Friendly! We would love to tell you all about how we have implemented Makaton consistently across our setting.

Young boy playing with Makaton Symbol cardsYoung girl playing with Makaton Symbol cards

Essential Early Years opened in September 2020 and began with a very small staff team who had all completed their Level 1 Makaton with the management team having completed Level 2. We very quickly realised the impact that Makaton was having on our children’s communication skills and embedded both sign and symbol into our daily routine. From this point we have included Makaton Level 1 training as part of our induction process for new team members.

Cooking ingredients with their corresponding Makaton SymbolsYoung boy sitting on floor playing with Makaton Symbol cards

Staff are trained to use Makaton sign and symbol consistently across the setting; through daily routines, song and story times, offering choice and generally just communicating! We use both visual and talking choice boards across nursery to encourage the use of symbol as well as sign. If a child uses the symbols our amazing team will then model the sign alongside the spoken word. We have also implemented a Makaton sign and symbol of the week which is displayed on our main doors to also encourage community participation – we quite often see people in the community stop at the door and practice the sign of the week!

Our managing director has recently become a Makaton for Babies and Families Trainer and will be delivering this training to staff and families to ensure consistency in communication approaches between home and setting. Being able to support and train parents has deepened the impact on our Makaton interventions as children are being supported consistently both at home and in nursery which has allowed their communication, both verbally and non-verbally, to develop at a faster rate.

Young boy sitting at a table playing with Makaton Symbol cards

We have a Makaton information board in our main entrance which contains lots of valuable information about the benefits of Makaton so we can share and celebrate being Makaton Friendly with families, external agencies and anyone else who visits us! At Christmas we used our social media platforms to create our very own Makaton Advent – full of Christmas signs, modelled by our amazing management team! (Full advent available on our story highlights on Instagram! @essentialearlyyearswirral)

In April 2022 we took part in the National Autistic Society’s Super 7 Fundraising Challenge in which we challenged ourselves to learn 7 new signs in a week! We loved this and used lots of opportunities to learn different, meaningful signs! In November 2022 we had our very first OFSTED inspection in which we were graded OUTSTANDING and the inspector commented on our use of Makaton within the report – “Staff use tools such as Makaton signing to provide precise support to the children as they make remarkable progress from being non-verbal to forming short sentences. Parents of children with SEND are in awe of the level of progress their children are making, saying 'the nursery has saved their lives'.” (full report available: Ofsted | Essential Early Years)

A mother signing with her young daughterA young boy signing as he looks out of a window

Kind Regards

Lynnette Bonner's signature

Lynnette Bonner
Managing Director


Lynnette Bonner

21st April 2023

At school

Supporting English as an Additional Language

Supporting English as an Additional Language

EAL board

EAL boardThe majority of the pupils at a one form entry school in Newbury, Berkshire, have English as an additional language, with families from all over the world, making this a very special and unique educational setting.

Holly was a teacher in year 3 in the Autumn term, with a class of 32 children. While most of the ‘EAL’ pupils did not appear to have a language barrier as such in this particular cohort, there was one pupil who stood out more than the rest, who would slip behind but not reach out for help, who was kind and caring but quiet. For the sake of this blog, she will be referred to as Pupil A.


We used Makaton to sign ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon’ every day in class. Pupil A picked this up very quickly, leading her to be more responsive and confident during the register. Signing just these two concepts daily made a significant difference to Pupil A, who would gradually start to contribute a little more in class, start conversations and make links, building on her comprehension and inference skills.

Makaton symbols were used to support story maps of the text we were using in literacy and I would sign the story to the class, which all of the pupils enjoyed joining in with. Using the symbols with the signs further helped Pupil A to sequence the stories, creating her own story maps and innovating ideas in order to write her own version.

Communication boards

Holly’s teaching assistant and school ELSA, Sian Howard, worked with Pupil A in year 2 as well as year 3. After speaking with Sian, it became clear that since introducing Makaton signs and symbols, Pupil A has made significant progress with reading and writing as well as her making links through the movement of gesture as the connections were being made with her speech and recall.

Since returning from the Christmas holidays Pupil A continues to sign 'good morning ' and 'good afternoon'. It has been noted that her spoken English has become clearer and more confident. Makaton is used for Pupil A as much as possible in the classroom setting, for example, during a Spanish lesson on animals the sign for each animal was demonstrated to Pupil A in both Spanish and English. Pupil A finds Spanish challenging but did her best to follow the new vocabulary. After the lesson Sian went through the signs with her in English, Pupil A joined in with the signing, finding it easy to communicate using both her hands and her speech, and after felt confident enough to tell Sian a story about a cat she stroked.


Holly Cannon-Taylor and Sian Howard

1st March 2023

At school

St Columb’s College

St. Columb’s College


Pupils at St. Columb’s College

Hello, my name is Ana. I am from Spain but I live in Derry, Northern Ireland. My first memories of Makaton come from a video tape that I ordered when my daughter was recuperating from her heart surgery back in 2002. It was a video tape of Makaton Nursery Rhymes with Dave Benson Philips. My daughter was so poorly that I was never offered any formal training. They considered it an “unviable option” as there were little resources and they were only offered to those who were going to benefit most from the training...

Fast forward to June 2021, when despite the pandemic, lock-downs, remote teaching, remote learning, adjusting to the reality of having my daughter living in a residential setting, I qualified as Makaton Tutor. I did the Tutor Training via zoom. I was so lucky not only because my tutors were Zanna Finnerty and Tracy Clark but also because I met some of the most wonderful Makaton tutors: my fellow trainees. I found the whole experience both enriching and terrifying. (I didn’t know what zoom was until my tutor training and discovered that you can actually set the camera on top of the screen... )To this day, I meet regularly with my fellow tutors and we have become close friends. We practise; pick each other brains and we are hoping to meet in person one of these days...

As well as being a mum to a young lady with a rare chromosome disorder and a wonderful adolescent son, I am a full-time Modern Languages teacher in St. Columb’s College Grammar School. I wanted to become a tutor so that I could train the carers in my daughter’s setting, to show parents with children with special needs that we can do whatever we set our minds to, that there is hope; but I also wanted to bring Makaton to a main-stream setting. It is so important that everyone knows Makaton so that they can use it with those who rely on it as their way of communication.

I use Makaton everyday when I am greeting my colleagues and students, in the classroom when I am teaching, with my daughter... She is non-verbal but understands English, Spanish and Makaton and uses a Total Communication approach to get her point across.

I feel privileged that my workplace, St. Columb’s College, has incorporated Makaton Training as part of the Social Education Programme for our Year 13 students (formerly known as Lower Sixth). Every single year 13 student attends a Makaton Taster. Furthermore, as part of their Curriculum Enrichment, they also have the opportunity to do the Makaton Workshop Level 1.

I am so proud that nine of these young men have already achieved their Makaton Level 1; I am currently in the process of training another group of eleven students. These young men embraced Makaton and have learnt so much. They will be applying for part-time jobs, summer schemes, to work in voluntary organisations... They will be able to use what they have learnt in our wider community.

I firmly believe that education is the key. The more people that know Makaton the more inclusive society will become. When I train these young men, as part of the workshop, I talk about my own experience, about my daughter, about how a parent might feel when their child is not included or how a child might feel when he/she does not have the chance to make their voice heard.

Makaton makes it possible for everyone to build a better society. I love the core values of Makaton. I feel it is my duty as an educator and my privilege as a parent of a child with special needs to make sure that I spread the word. Makaton changes lives, not only the lives of those with special needs and/or communication difficulties but of everyone!


Ana María Valadez Peña

9th January 2023

At school

Jennifer’s Makaton Journey

Jennifer's Makaton Journey

Sentence board with lots of Makaton symbol cards
Colourful Semantics with Makaton Symbols

I am a teacher from West Yorkshire, and I started my Makaton journey a little over a year ago with the very talented Kerry Cawley. Kerry has supported me all the way and has become a very good friend. 

I originally attended training to help a little girl in my care that needed Makaton for communication needs. When I took my training back into the classroom it quickly transpired that Makaton was going to not only help her but also help lower ability children within the classroom. I have completed Levels 1-3 and am a registered trainer for MSB (Makaton for babies).

Shortly after I had two other children join my class from overseas and they didn't have any English. We used Makaton signs and symbols and they picked up English quickly. As the rest of the class knew a little Makaton too, they were able to make friends and communicate. During lockdown, my Makaton journey has gone further, and I have used it with encouraging language development and sentence construction through face to face and online learning. I have seen reluctant writers become more confident and their parents have been enjoying learning a new skill along the way, through their children. When I spoke to the parents 93% of them said their children had improved their literacy skills by using Makaton and enjoyed writing again.

As we have moved out of lockdown, I have continued using Makaton within my everyday teaching. The children haven't regressed as much as I thought they might, and their sentence structure is much stronger. I feel very proud of the children as they have developed a new skill by not only helping their writing abilities but have developed the ability to be able to communicate with other people.

At the start of the year, I started by using symbols and colourful semantics to formulate sentences. As we are approaching the end of the year, I have a class of 28 children confidently signing in sentences, constantly asking for how to sign new words. I cannot recommend using Makaton enough for making writing fun and bringing it to live with visual representation!

Are you ready to take the first step and start learning Makaton? Getting started with Makaton is fun and easy. And once you've started, you'll soon want to learn more , starting with the Core Vocabulary. We look forward to welcoming you to the Makaton family soon!


Jennifer M

24th May 2021

At school

Condover College Ltd - Mr Blue Sky

Condover College Ltd

SLT TeamCondover College Ltd is a small independent specialist college and residential care provider in the heart of Shropshire. Founded in 2004 by Steve McGill, a father who insisted the only very best care for his son, Matthew. Steve’s goal was to find a college that catered for his son’s disabilities and he struggled so he decided to start a college himself.

Today 16 years later, we continue Steve’s legacy of providing the best care and opportunities for learners aged 18+ who have moderate to severe learning disabilities, profound and multiple learning difficulties and additional complex needs.

Oli in the woodsWe provide Education, The Opportunities Programme, Care and Support including Accommodation and Short Breaks. Condover College has expanded and grows progressively every year, starting from just one residential home to now 13 residential homes nested in communities in and around Shrewsbury.

At CCL we use Makaton every day and we truly believe that it makes a huge difference to the lives of the people that we support. By making the world a more inclusive place, Makaton is helping everyone who lives with a communication difficulty to understand and be understood.

Emma hiking With this is mind, CCL wanted to fundraise for The Makaton Charity, to support them to be able to continue to provide the wonderful service that they offer. We had organised a Mini Makahike to take place at the beginning of May but this sadly could not take place due to the current COVID-19 situation. All was not lost… we decided to twist it up and collectively travel the equivalent distance of Snowdon as part of our daily exercise. And of course, no decent Mini Makahike is complete with a song so we all managed to practice the signs for ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and create a fun video compilation of our efforts.

Using platforms like FaceTime and Skype to communicate and teach the Makaton signs to learners and staff was a great method  to use in lockdown. Creating the video has lifted the spirits of everyone and put a smile on lots of faces! Our fundraising target was £100 and at the time of writing, we have reached £231. From everyone at CCL, we would like to thank everyone who has donated and to all staff and students who took part in the video.


Condover College Ltd

16th June 2020

At school

Castlemilk Family Learning Centre

Castlemilk Family Learning Centre

Joanne and Johan with Dave Benson Phillips

Joanne and Johan with Dave Benson PhillipsWe are on a wonderful Makaton journey which has led to us sharing our passion for Makaton within our local community. This journey began with our two wonderful staff members, Joanne and Johan, attending Makaton training and sharing their interest in further developing our children’s communication skills. They have led this journey; supporting our staff and families and sharing their enthusiasm.

We began using signs of the week, and staff quickly embraced signing and the enjoyment it brought to our establishment. We post our sign of the week and Makaton song of the month on our seesaw app and on our twitter page.

We have visuals and signs displayed all around our establishment as well as our sign of the week.

Families watch and learn the signs and join in together. The positive feedback we have gained from parents is huge. We observed in particular how beneficial signing with songs had on our children and the impact it had on all our children’s communication skills. The children started to spontaneously sign to one another, helping each other understand. We began sign along sessions with our parents, so the children could show how much they had learned and express the enjoyment it brings. Makaton strengthens the children’s communication, confidence and self-esteem.

Our sign along sessions have become a big family event. In September 2019 we received our Makaton Friendly award and quickly got to work on how we would like to celebrate. We invited Dave Benson Philips, and on the 12th December 2019 he spent the morning with us singing Christmas songs and watching all our fabulous children sign and sing. All of our families joined us in this event. Dave was amazing, energetic and expressed how much he enjoyed seeing all the signing the children were doing. Dave joined us for our Christmas family market, having some warm soup, and enjoyed chatting to staff and our families.
Pupils and staff with Dave Benson Phillips

The children are so proud of their achievements and love learning new signs and songs. Makaton is embedded within Castlemilk Family Learning Centre and we are very proud. We are now focusing on raising further awareness within our education sector and sharing our good practice.

We are delighted Makaton is being talked about and used in and around our community. This is because of all our staff children and families’ enthusiasm recognising the enjoyment and benefits signing have brought to our establishment.

As our Makaton Tutor Karen said, we are “riding a Makaton wave."


Kelly Sloan

12th May 2020

At school

Makaton at Derwen College

Makaton at Derwen College

Derwen College Head of Speech and Language Therapy Julie Hawkins is a Senior Makaton Tutor and a firm believer in the power of Makaton. She explains why Derwen is a proud advocate of Makaton.

Julie Hawkins teaching Makaton to a class

Derwen College logoDerwen College is incredibly proud to be officially Makaton Friendly , offering students with special education needs and disabilities (SEND), and communication difficulties, a helping hand to communicate.

We believe it is vital that students are understood, and that they should be given every opportunity to communicate their feelings and needs. Makaton signs and symbols support communication and increase understanding between students, and between students and staff, helping to extinguish some of the frustrations that students feel at not being understood. Makaton also allows staff to better explain what is expected of students in their work area, residence or free time, and to recognise and communicate quickly when there is an issue.

As a College, we are proud to be able to offer Makaton expertise. I am a Senior Makaton Tutor, and also have a team of two trained Regional Makaton Tutors and six Local Makaton Tutors.

The college was delighted to host The Makaton Charity’s Study Day on 21st February, with 37 people. It was an opportunity to showcase our work with Makaton and demonstrate the vocational learning, work skills and independent living skills that our students learn.

Derwen Premier Inn appDerwen College is particularly pleased to showcase its ground-breaking ‘Support Work’ apps. The apps, which can be used on a tablet or a mobile phone, support students to access work, using Makaton options to prompt students. The apps, which have been developed with backing from The Makaton Charity, include a CV Builder App, Working in a Premier Inn app, and Working in a Café app. We believe that these apps are the first of their kind to help students with SEND in accessing work.

Using images, video, words or Makaton sign options, students can be guided step-by-step towards creating a CV; Hospitality students working in the college’s training hotel or at an off-site work placement are prompted gradually through ‘routes’ on how to make up a Premier Inn guest bedroom.

Derwen Working in a Café appHaving our own on-site Makaton Tutors means that all staff have access to a mandatory Makaton Taster and the new Level 1 and Level 2 training. Makaton symbols and signs are used in reception, food outlets and garden shop. Symbols are used as signage, on posters, college leaflets, student timetables and on the college website. Makaton can be embedded throughout learning and independence skills, not only for students with specified communication or SALT needs.

As well as facilitating the use of Makaton across college, Derwen is keen to spread the word locally, regionally and nationally. As a Senior Tutor, I am asked to train new Makaton Tutors for The Makaton Charity. At Derwen College, we are able to teach Makaton to groups in the community or to invite groups to come to us for workshops..The college runs courses on or off site, and has visited schools, groups and businesses. The college has hosted and led Makaton Taster sessions which have included teaching horse-related signs at a Riding Centre and festive signing for potential Santa’s Grotto employees.

The college also raises awareness of Makaton with our fabulous sign and dance group DOT (Derwen on Tour) who have performed at events including the National Eisteddfod, Christmas light switch-ons, and a Premier Inn national conference, bringing Makaton to as wide and diverse an audience as possible.

We look forward to welcoming Makaton delegates to the college this month, and to continuing to support The Makaton Charity in creating a more inclusive environment for learning, work and communication.


Julie Hawkins

28th February 2020

At school

Charlie Farley's

Charlie Farley's

Charlie Farley's image

Makaton Tutor Fiona Cockram signing with a young girlAt Charlie Farley’s Nursery in Jersey, Makaton training has changed how we communicate with the children.

It has given us, as practitioners a whole new skill set to support and develop all our children to become effective communicators, whilst having great fun too. There’s nothing like your nursery teacher signing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer to make a group of pre-schoolers laugh.

Using Makaton has brought children of all ages and abilities together, making it easier for all children to understand each other. Being an Early Years practitioner is all about having those moments when you’ve taught a child something that has supported them in their day, and raised their self-confidence.

Looking after the children’s well-being is of upmost importance and having this training has boosted the children’s and the practitioners' confidence. With Makaton we now have a nursery full of positive communicators who have tools ready to support when needing to express a want or need.

We have now made our two nurseries Makaton Friendly, and will carry on working with Makaton Tutor Fiona Cockram.

Are you interested in becoming Makaton Friendly?


30th January 2020

At school

Marine Academy Primary

Marine Academy Primary

Young girl poimtint at Makaton symbol for cutleryWe are the Makaton Champions from Marine Academy Primary in Plymouth. We would love to introduce ourselves to you and tell you all about the outstanding Makaton we do across the school.

In every class there is a selected Makaton Champion pupil. We have weekly meetings (which are invite only) where we discuss and come up with ideas of how we can improve the use of Makaton.

The Makaton Champions wear Makaton badges with pride, so other children can easily recognise who the Makaton Champions are. They are great role models who are superb at Makaton and want to help and learn more about Makaton.

Three pupils -two girls and a boy

Recently, the Makaton Champions came up with the idea of Makaton Mailboxes: a small box decorated with appropriate Makaton signs.

Each class has one. If a student or a member of staff would like to know a certain Makaton sign, they can write down the word they want to learn and post it in the Makaton Mailbox. Then in our weekly meetings, the children collect the mailboxes and learn what has been asked. Then they teach their friends the Makaton sign.

We have a designated Makaton Board for all staff, external agencies, parents and children to see. The board is filled with information about the Makaton Charity, the Makaton Champions, and useful website links that could be of use. The Makaton Board is updated weekly with the Sign of the Week (which is sent our electronically to all teachers too). Children learn the Sign of the Week and try to use it independently with their learning or when communicating to other adults and children. We read the Makaton Monthly newsletters and send them to the teachers to read too.

Young girl pointing at Makaton symbol for Classroom

In the past we have held Makaton workshops for parents and carers and have had the two-day Makaton Foundation Workshop for staff members to support their CPD.

Throughout our school we have Makaton symbols on the doors and the cupboards to support the visual image of the meaning of object.

Currently, we are learning lots of Makaton signs to complement our Christmas performances. When practising the songs in class, the Makaton Champion helps the teacher by demonstrating and teaching the signs.

When we have whole school rehearsals, the Makaton Champions stand at the front of the hall and performances the songs with the Makaton actions. Teachers get PDF documents of the signs they need to complement their songs.

Two young giels signing Tiny

We are very lucky to have Widgit's InPrint3 which our Inclusion Team use to make personalised resources with appropriate Makaton signs and symbols to support a child's learning, transitions or communication.

In the future we are hosting a Dudes Club, where dads can spend time with their children for one afternoon and take part in a variety of fun activities. One of the activities is going to be a ‘Makaton sing off’ of Christmas songs between the children and their parents.

We try our hardest to post our Makaton learning on Facebook and Twitter so please do have a look @MarineAcademyPlymouth (Facebook) and @MarineAcademy (Twitter).


Makaton Champions

25th November 2019

At school

Makaton in the morning

Makaton in the morning

Steven signing with pupils

Walking into school every morning, hurrying to the staff room for my first cup of tea, I pass the ‘Breakfast Club’.

Holbrook Primary School, where I teach, runs a breakfast club for its pupils every day, a chance to eat something nutritious and start the day in a settled and inspiring way. It’s an important time and can have huge influence over the rest of the day, positively or negatively. The school works hard to give the best possible start to its pupils, encouraging their mind and bodies to be prepared and ready to learn.

On a few occasions I’ve noticed the pupils standing in front of the screen copying dance moves or doing a mini morning workout. My first thought is ‘Maybe I should put down my biscuit and join them’. Afterwards, I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to use some Makaton, promoting signing and giving their brains a kick start, to the day.

The staff running the club were enthusiastic about the idea and the very next morning I walked in and saw a very large version of myself high up on the wall. All of breakfast club were joining in, including the staff. The pupils were engaged and focused, being active and concentrating, it was a great way to expand their muscles and their minds. I could tell they were having a lot of fun too.

The great thing about Makaton is that it benefits everyone in our school, even if pupils don’t use the signs to communicate, the physical and cognitive benefits are enormous. Pupils begin their education each day with focus, energy and enthusiasm.

Now when I walk in and see the pupils excitedly signing, I feel lucky to work in a ‘Makaton Friendly’ environment, that positively promotes inclusion and is able to celebrate our differences, recognising the benefits for all.

Pupils at breakfast club

Holbrook Primary School is a Makaton Friendly school, click here for more information about becoming Makaton Friendly and its benefits.


Steven M

5th November 2019

At school

New Life Nursery

New Life Nursery

New Life Nursery is the first preschool in Congleton to receive Makaton Friendly status.

Children holding Makaton Friendly certificate

We have a little boy who has Down’s Syndrome and using Makaton with him was really where our Makaton journey began.

At New Life Nursery all staff have received Makaton taster training and we have one fully trained practitioner who helps the whole staff team develop their signing. 

Callum with Makaton Friendly certificateIt was tricky at first trying to learn and remember new signs.  Signs around the nursery including the kitchen cupboards help to prompt us.

Our children are excited to ask for their drinks at snack time by signing and we sign our snack time song and end of day song too. We are starting to see the children use signs during play when asking for help or encouraging each other to share.

Using Makaton on a daily basis means that our nursery is accessible to everyone, including children and/or their families who find communication difficult for whatever reason.  We are very proud to have been recognised as Makaton Friendly.

Callum with his mum, TinaCallum’s mum, Tina, says “I’m really pleased that the nursery has taken the time to all learn something that will benefit my son and others. It stops him becoming frustrated when he can’t express himself.”

We are very grateful to Cheshire Down’s Syndrome Support group for training, supporting  and encouraging our staff.

We would encourage anyone thinking of learning Makaton to have a go. It can make such a difference to anyone who finds communication tricky.


Alison Timbey

10th June 2019

At school