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Charity backs grandfather’s campaign to get Makaton sign language added to curriculum

PUBLISHED: 14:10 26 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:17 26 January 2019

John Huggins, from Southwold, is campaigning for the introduction of Makaton in schools. Picture: John Huggins

John Huggins, from Southwold, is campaigning for the introduction of Makaton in schools. Picture: John Huggins

Archant

A charity has voiced its support for a grandfather’s campaign to get a pioneering type of sign language taught in UK schools.

John Huggins, from Southwold, started a petition at the end of last year calling for Makaton to be added to the National Curriculum.

Makaton is a language programme that combines signs, symbols and speech to ensure those living with learning or communication difficulties have the tools they need to understand and be understood.

Largely thanks to CBeebies presenter Justin Fletcher, its popularity has grown in recent years and it has already been integrated into some pre-school groups and primary schools.

With Mr Huggins’ petition having collected nearly 1500 signatures, The Makaton Charity has lent its backing to the 67-year-old in his mission to catch the eye of education secretary Damian Hinds.

Mr Huggins has sent numerous emails to education secretary Damian Hinds. Picture: ArchantMr Huggins has sent numerous emails to education secretary Damian Hinds. Picture: Archant

A spokesman for the charity said: “More than a million people in the UK use Makaton and our reach is extending in educational settings and the community.

“However, until a majority of the population have some basic understanding of Makaton, society will not be inclusive for people with communication difficulties.

“We are therefore delighted when people like John are passionate enough about the benefits of Makaton to take action such as this petition.”

Mr Huggins was first inspired to raise awareness of Makaton following the death of his granddaughter, Sophie, who had previously undergone surgery for a brain tumour.

Doctors predicted she would have difficulty communicating when she came out of her coma, so her family decided to learn Makaton to prepare for the eventuality.

Sophie’s death motivated Mr Huggins to raise awareness, but the Department for Education has so far pointed to the large amount of money already spent on pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Stephen Hall, CEO of The Makaton Charity, emphasised the importance of Makaton being integrated into the education system.

“Based on the evidence we have, use of Makaton within schools and preschools makes a significant difference to the lives of children and young people with communication difficulties.

“We are keen to encourage the widest possible uptake of the Makaton language and strongly support initiatives that move this forward - including a greater awareness within the curriculum.”

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