Yesterday was a special day for a village school - and not just because so many staff and children were wearing odd socks.

Dearham Primary School became the first mainstream school in Cumbria to be awarded Makaton Friendly status which means that staff and pupils have some basic knowledge of the sign language and welcome it within their school.

Their certificate was presented by Susan Oglanby who has begun her own little sign language business, Signing Hands.

But for Mrs Oglanby the day was nothing about business and all about the joy she shares with her nine-year-old son Luke, who has Down syndrome.

She said: "Yesterday was International Down Syndrome Day. We wore odd socks because our children have an extra chromosome instead of just a pair. And we also wear them because our children with Down syndrome may be different but they are lovely and colourful - just like the socks."

Luke, like many children with Down's, has some difficulty communicating. When he started to learn Makaton she took it into the school.

"Sam Kidd, the headteacher, has always been so supportive - so forward looking. She and her staff have been so open and ready to help."

She said the difference it has made to Luke when a fellow pupil signs "hello" or "How are you?" has been huge.

Luke's support workers, Tracy Bell and Pauline Hanson, have also been learning Makaton.

Mrs Oglanby has worked with people with learning disorders for 23 years but that did not prepare her for the birth of a baby with Down syndrome. What it did give her, though. was a knowledge of how to help Luke and a determination to ensure that he lives life to the full.

Mrs Kidd said Mrs Oglanby is working with all areas of the school teaching Makaton.

"We are delighted to be Makaton friendly. It is lovely to walk around around and be stopped by a child who wants to sign what they had for lunch or just to say hello.

"If they learn it young they will absorb it and use it just like any other spoken language."