Children at Slade Primary School in Erdington are benefiting from the Makaton sign language programme that uses signs and symbols to support communication and literacy.

Introducing Makaton’s ‘Sign of the Week’ initiative at the school, part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP), is the bright idea of Primary South Hub SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) Marie Smith.

Marie has vast experience of working with children with special educational needs (SEND). She has previously been an Early Years SEND teacher in Walsall, led a primary autism base for Dudley Council and most recently worked as a SEND consultant across the West Midlands.

Makaton helps many people, including those who struggle with understanding concepts, children with SEND and those who may need support with literacy skills and their ability to communicate their needs non-verbally. It is particularly useful for children with English as an additional language.

Picture: Early Years Foundation Stage Teaching Assistant Amelia Wallen helps a Slade pupil sign.

Marie explained: “I’ve used Makaton previously and wanted to roll its Sign of the Week initiative out across Slade in a coherent way. Slade has a large SEND population (15%) and more than 60 per cent of our SEND pupils have speech and language needs, autism or are awaiting an autism assessment. Makaton is important to help all our children have a voice.

“Makaton is a great augmentative and alternative communication system for children with complex needs. We introduce one or two words per week and all class teachers and parents/carers are emailed these weekly.

“We have started with the basics to help children communicate their needs such as hello and goodbye and ‘help me’ and ‘want more’ and have moved on to things such as feeling hungry or thirsty.

“We want all pupils to have that communication vocabulary because it’s a real-life skill. We want all of our children to be the best communicators that they can be in school and when they are out and about in the community.”

Marie Smith, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator

The project may only be in its infancy at the Slade Road school, but Marie can already see the impact it is having.

She added: “Makaton signing has fostered a real sense of belonging at Slade, including among parents who we keep involved via email and Twitter. The shop opposite the school is even showing the sign of the week in the window.

“Pupils have been very receptive and enthusiastic and we are very keen to roll it out to children across our Primary South Hub of schools and hopefully eventually the entire ATLP.”

Visit Home ( for more information about accessing Makaton’s free resources.