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Grandfather campaigns for Makaton sign language to be taught in schools

PUBLISHED: 14:19 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 16 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 grandfather is calling on the government to add an innovative type of sign language to the National Curriculum.

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

John Huggins, from Southwold, has made it his mission to get Makaton taught in UK schools and has started a petition for the attention of education secretary Damian Hinds.

Designed to be used alongside spoken language, Makaton is recognised around the world and involves the use of signs and symbols to aid those with communication difficulties.

Its profile has grown in recent years thanks to CBeebies television programme ‘Something Special’, where Justin Fletcher presents while signing in Makaton.

As word begins to spread about the benefits of teaching Makaton, Mr Huggins was inspired to raise awareness even further following the death of his granddaughter.

“I’ve been interested in Makaton for a number of years,” said the 67-year-old. “My granddaughter Sophie had brain surgery for a tumour and doctors estimated that, when she came out of her coma, she would have communication difficulties.

“Sophie’s family, including myself, decided to learn Makaton to prepare for it. Unfortunately Sophie later died, but it’s something I remain very passionate about.”

Makaton is already being taught at Stomp, a weekly music group held in Southwold for pre-school children. Emphasis is placed on assisting pre-verbal children and children with special needs when it comes to communicating with their peers and parents.

Mr Huggins’ hopes his petition - so far amassing more than 500 signatures - will demonstrate to the government how many people would benefit from Makaton’s integration into education.

“Children at Stomp have so far loved learning Makaton and so have the adults,” added Mr Huggins. “It just seems wrong to me that we are more able to communicate with people who speak French than we are with some of our own community.

“I emailed Damian Hinds and was bombarded with figures about how much money is already spent on special schools for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

“That’s why I started the petition to get Makaton added to the National Curriculum. What has really spurred me on is the number of messages I’ve had from people who say how much their children’s lives would be improved by this.”

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