Thornton College is a specialist college for young people aged 16+ located in the Liverpool City Region. We are dedicated to providing a caring and supportive environment for young people with learning disabilities that require them to undertake their further education in a supportive environment.
In 2016 we employed a Speech and Language Therapist, Betsy Vaudrey to work at the college. Betsy is a Regional Makaton Tutor and suggested we receive training in Makaton to support our students. Our enthusiastic team welcomed the opportunity to learn Makaton, and at present more than 80% of our staff have attended the Foundation Training.
Betsy has supported our staff to incorporate Makaton into lessons as well as helping with the Makaton Choir, which meets twice a week. Most of our students participate enthusiastically and enjoy performing to parents and carers during our Christmas/Summer Fayres, afternoon teas and charity events. Many students choose to take a lead role and are encouraged to help teach new songs to the choir. A certificate is awarded each week to the student who has been observed responding to or using signs well. Using signs with all our students improves their social skills by allowing students of different abilities to communicate with each other.
In addition to using Makaton signs, symbols are used throughout our college to promote a Total Communication approach. We display the Makaton ‘sign of the week’ in the college entrance and reinforce this during lessons. Symbols are use on all the student’s timetables. We have adapted our signage around the college including our fire safety signs so that students are able to understand what to if an evacuation is needed. Staff regularly use symbols within the classroom to support the development of literacy skills and promote independence. We go on many trips into our community and the use of activity boards and social stories has helped our students be prepared for what is planned and communicate when out and about.
Many of our students have begun to use high-tech aids to support their communication while in college. This has been particularly helpful to a bilingual student as he learns English. We have witnessed the positive impact Makaton has had on our students and it is always exciting to see them begin to communicate using signs and symbols for the first time.
We are very proud of our students for embracing the use of Makaton and would recommend it to all organisations! We are dedicated to expanding the use of Makaton within our college and community and are delighted to be a Makaton Friendly setting.