The 2023/24 autumn term was officially our biggest ever – with over 20,000 pupils with disabilities and special needs participating in Panathlon sporting programmes.

Since the start of the new academic year, we’ve staged 363 events across the country, with 20,119 pupils participating as competitors and another 2,208 Young Leaders gaining priceless experience guiding young people and officiating the competitions.

These numbers constitute an 11% rise on autumn term last year – and those figures were also record-breaking!

These figures were certainly not the only positive milestones for Panathlon since the summer. After a three-and-a-half year wait caused by Covid, in November we finally held our first ever event in Northern Ireland (and we have a second planned in Belfast in early March).

November also saw the long-awaited return of our National Finals – the top level of our performance pathway – for the first time since the pandemic. The Aquatic Centre at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park was the venue for our National Special Schools Swimming Final and our National Primary gala, with teams coming from as far afield as Blackpool, Greater Manchester and Gloucestershire.

And back at the start of term, new independent research showed the incredible breadth and depth of our impact. Amongst its many findings was the ripple effect we have on schools, families and communities, with a further 51,164 being impacted by our provision – even though they hadn’t attended our events!

This ripple effect is evidenced in our transformational impact on the environment and practices at our participating schools. Evidence showed Panathlon is a catalyst for schools to change their curriculum, invest in sports equipment, start inclusive lunch-time and after-school sports clubs, assess and benchmark children’s development, create leadership roles and programmes, upskill teachers, initiate inter-school SEND fixtures and open up facilities and opportunities to the community.

As our programmes expand, more pupils from more schools across the country get to experience our multi-faceted positive impact. Just one example was Coldfall Primary School in North London. Their Head of PE, Mitchell Browning, said: “Panathlon really is the whole package. Until two years ago, all the competitions we entered were mainsteam, so to have something that’s specifically catered to their needs is indescribable, it really is. It’s the first time they’ve had the opportunity to excel and show something they can do themselves. The whole school is invested in how they get on.”

We owe a massive thank you to all our supporters who allow our programmes to flourish – and thanks also to all participating schools, teachers, parents, support staff and most of all, our Panathletes!

We can’t wait to expand our impact even further for the rest of the 2023/24 academic year!