Before The Makaton Charity relaunched their Makaton Friendly Scheme, Nottingham Castle identified that its visitors would benefit from the staff attending further training in Makaton, to support those with additional communication needs.
During the £31 million restoration project of the Castle, the Learning and Visitor Experience Manager contacted me. He advised me that at least one member of staff had been booked onto the Makaton Level 1 workshop and was now looking for an introduction/refresher, for the rest of the team, in the rudiments and principles of Makaton and how it works to support learning for the very young and those with additional needs with their communication.
Naturally I was delighted to be asked to support this project, not just because I am passionate about ensuring communication is accessible for all, but also because I live in Nottingham, I know the Castle very well and I can offer that extra ongoing support.
The Learning Manager and I were able to discuss, with two team leaders, the vocabulary that would best suit the learning experiences of their visitors. They wanted to provide a welcome to all of their visitors, by recognising the difficulty that some people might have in such settings. Makaton is such a visual multi modal language and has so many benefits, particularly in today’s current climate, with so many wearing face masks which restrict our ability to read lips and facial expressions.
The Makaton Taster workshop includes more than 34 high frequency, functional, everyday signs and symbols as standard, as well as some background, theory and principles of using Makaton. I was able to discuss with the Learning Manager and two team leaders, an extra set of vocabulary that would be specifically relevant to Nottingham Castle. This vocabulary would benefit visitors accessing the shop, castle exhibitions, galleries, activities, and other services offered within the grounds.
With recent Covid – 19 restrictions having just been lifted ; we were able to arrange two safe face to face workshops for approximately 40 staff. These staff had roles in many areas, such as the Visitor Experience team, Team Leaders, Volunteers, Explainers and Meet and Greet.
I always strive to make my workshops fun and interactive, and this was no exception. The staff all embraced the elements of the Training session in a very positive manner. They asked appropriate questions, which showed that they were thinking how best to implement Makaton into their specific roles. Each participant had the opportunity to practice their Makaton by “reading” each other’s signing, translating signing sentences from me and making up their own sentences with a given selection of symbols.
After the workshops had finished that day, I had the privilege of being able to wander around the Castle and its grounds, as it hadn’t yet opened to the public. This was a fantastic and quite emotional experience for me. I could see first-hand how much hard work had gone into the project. It was amazing. As I strolled around, I bumped into quite a few of the Participants. They all impressed me by signing “hello” and all attempted to sign a full sentence to me, as we passed. I imagined how welcoming and inclusive this would feel as a Makaton user. I know that the confidence they have gained will mean that they will continue using Makaton.
Since completing the training, I have had an email from staff at Nottingham Castle to say that they have had a lot of positive feedback from visitors who have experienced their use of Makaton.
Monday, 11 October 2021