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Pre-school pupils empowered by Makaton

Beenham Pre-School celebrates first anniversary of taught language programme

THE manager of a West Berkshire pre-school has spoken of the “empowering” way in which a language programme has instilled confidence within its pupils and staff.

Beenham Pre-school was granted ‘Makaton Friendly’ status from the National Makaton Charity in January 2018 after it introduced monthly lessons for toddlers.

A year on, Paula Read, the manager of the Early Years provider in Back Lane, says mastering another skill is paying dividends for the children in the classroom.

Makaton is a language programme that uses signs and symbols to help people communicate.

It is often used with individuals who have cognitive or language impairments, autism or Down’s syndrome.

Beenham Pre-school remains the only mainstream pre-school in Berkshire to have been given the accreditation.

To mark the one-year anniversary, children at the school celebrated with a birthday cake on Friday, January 25.

They also received a special video message from Mr Tumble from children’s television programme Something Special, which is designed to introduce children to Makaton signing.

Played by English comedian Justin Fletcher, Mr Tumble is a clown who displays delayed learning and communication difficulties in the popular CBeebies series.

Mrs Read was first introduced to Makaton at a taster session with regional tutor Lesley Bungay, who teaches the programme at the school.

While there are no children at the Beenham Pre-school with hearing impairments or on the special educational needs register, Mrs Read thought the pupils could benefit through learning the language.

She also introduced the scheme in a bid to promote inclusivity – but the successful programme has achieved much more than that.

“The staff are more confident in their ability,” said Mrs Read, who also paid tribute to Mrs Bungay for being “so supportive” throughout her own Makaton training, as well as those of other teachers at Beenham Pre-School.

“Makaton is not designed to take the place of the speaking, but to enhance it.

“It definitely encourages the children’s confidence too.

“For those who are shy to stand up and speak, having a sign for something they wish to say will encourage them to get up and do it.”

The pre-school also hosts regular taster sessions for parents, who are invited in for a free class led by Mrs Bungay – where the basics of Makaton are taught – while the toddlers have also been honing their sign language skills outside the classroom.

Mrs Read added: “The children are even teaching their parents too. That doesn’t happen very often in early years.

“It’s really empowering.”

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