Back-to-back boccia competitions took centre stage yesterday on another action-packed day for Panathlon, as over 200 deaf and disabled young people took part in four events across London and the south east.

The College at Braintree played host to the East of England regional final of the Boccia England Lord’s Taverners competition, run by Panathlon, alongside our own deaf boccia competition for schoolchildren in Essex.

On another busy Panathlon day – following hot on the heels of Triple-Header Tuesday – our East London Panathlon kicked off for 2015, while a group of primary schoolchildren from Kent got their first taste of Panathlon at one of our training events.

Altogether 205 deaf and disabled young people from 20 schools took part in the four events, with 39 Panathlon Young Leaders overseeing proceedings.

The big winners in Braintree were Huntingdon’s Hinchingbrooke School, who booked a place in the Lord’s Taverners national boccia final in April by winning the East of England regional final.

“I’m very proud of all of our team,” said team captain Jabe. “We dealt with the pressure very well in the last game coming from one-nil down to win it 2-1. We can’t wait for the final in Sheffield.”

Paralympic boccia gold medallist Dan Bentley, who watched the final unfold, said: “The quality of the boccia today was incredibly impressive!”

Boccia England - Logo - Black - RGBThe East of England Final is one of a series of county and regional events run by Panathlon in conjunction with Boccia England for the under-19 Lords Taverners tournament for physically disabled young people.

Hitchingbrooke saw off stiff competition from five other schools who had qualified from their county –  Granta School (Cambs) finished second, followed by Suffolk One sixth form college, Lonsdale School (Herts), Southview School and Beacon Hill Academy (both Essex) – to book a place in the national final at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on 24th April.

Gill Stevens, teacher at Hinchingbrooke School, said: “We always support the boccia. We’ve got some fantastic young players at school, one of whom has been on the England pathway now for a couple of years. He’s really competitive and learning all the time, so the experience for him is fantastic. As a mainstream school getting out in this sort of event is brilliant for us.”

Carol Park, teacher at Southview School was also full of praise for the event, saying: “It’s really good for the children to take part in any sporting event but also to mix with other schools, so they can see what other children do and get involved. Since becoming involved in Panathlon, the children have become far more competitive. They are able to access a lot of different sports and they are eager to tell other children about it.”

Hitchingbrooke School will compete with 11 others regional champions for the right to be crowned Boccia England Lord’s Taverners National Champions in Sheffield in April. Hoping to join them there are the 12 Panathlon Young Leaders who officiated at yesterday’s regional final, each of whom has a chance of selection to officiate at the national final.

Alongside the regional final, nine teams from four Essex schools competed in their first boccia competition specific to hearing-impaired children, the culmination of a series of coaching days delivered by Panathlon in schools over recent weeks.

Great Baddow High School in Chelmsford won the competition, which featured more than 30 hearing-impaired pupils, all from mainstream schools featuring a deaf unit.

Teams from Sweyne Park School in Rayleigh finished second and third, whilst Colchester’s Philip Morant School and Chelmsford’s Mildmay Junior School both entered three teams of pupils.

Karen Thorpe, SEN co-ordinator at Philip Morant School said her pupils had been excited about the event.

“The kids really love learning boccia,” she said. “It’s a very tactical game which made them really engage their brains. It has helped develop the children’s confidence and developed their communication skills with each other. They have been really looking forward to the competition, especially playing against other deaf students!”

Away from the boccia, 96 disabled young people from nine schools competed as the 2015 East London Panathlon kicked off with the first qualifying event.

Hackney and Islington booked places in the Champions Final, while Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest qualified for the Plate Final, both of which will be held at the UEL Sportsdock in March. Further details from the event are available here.

13 Panathlon Young Leaders, including some with moderate learning difficulties, officiated at the multi-sport event.

Rounding off an action-packed day, 45 primary schoolchildren took part in Panathlon training at Parkwood Hall school, where they were instructed by six Panathlon Young Leaders.

With over 200 disabled children from 20 schools involved, looked after by 39 young leaders, it was yet another big day of sporting action at the Panathlon Challenge.

Well done to all involved!