Worthing’s first Makaton Friendly school enters Britain’s Got Talent with signing choir

Dave Benson Phillips cuts the ribbon to officially open Heene Primary School as a certified Makaton Friendly provider, with teacher Sarah Chandler, left, head teacher Jo MacGovern and signing ambassadors
Dave Benson Phillips cuts the ribbon to officially open Heene Primary School as a certified Makaton Friendly provider, with teacher Sarah Chandler, left, head teacher Jo MacGovern and signing ambassadors

Heene Primary has become the first school in Worthing to be certified Makaton Friendly.

Children’s entertainer Dave Benson Phillips, who learned the sign language on BBC Playdays more than 20 years ago and has a Makaton Nursery Rhymes DVD, presented the official certificate in an assembly this afternoon.

He said: “Every since I learned Makaton, I have tried to use it as much as possible when I am entertaining children. Some people need signing in order to speak, so it is an incredible thing.”

Dave was treated to a performance by the school’s Sign Choir, which recently auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent, singing and signing Fight Song by Rachel Platon.

Teacher Sarah Chandler, who runs the choir with teaching assistant Charlotte Lansbury, said Makaton was used in all the classes and in the after-school club, which has 55 members.

Heene Primary School, in Norfolk Street, Worthing, has been using Makaton for two years and has more recently invited pupils to become signing ambassadors for their classes.

Mrs Chandler said: “It was when we introduced the signing ambassadors and handed it over to the children that it really took off.”

Each ambassador was presented with a certificate today in recognition of their effort to teach others Makaton, demonstrating a new word every day.

Sheila Inwards, Makaton trainer, inspected Heene Primary for The Makaton Charity and was ‘blown away’ by how much the sign language is used, including signs and symbols all around the school.

Mrs Chandler said: “We introduced it because we knew a lot of our children would benefit from Makaton. It helps children with speech and language difficulties, and those with English as a second language.”

The school was thrilled to see Margaret Walker, founder of the Makaton Language Programme, win a Pride of Britain award recently.

In the assembly today, some of the children spoke about why they loved Makaton, saying it had helped them to make friends and to speak to relatives who cannot hear.

Mrs Chandler said lots of children are signing outside school, too, and that was really important.

The school hopes to hear by Christmas whether the choir has been successful for Britain’s Got Talent.