Willowbank School

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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