Panathlon’s recent sporting competitions in Calderdale allowed one team of pupils with special needs to go on their first school trip in three years.

Pupils with SEND at Ravenscliffe High School in Halifax have been prevented from taking part in out-of-school activities since the onset of the pandemic, so for the team who competed in our Calderdale Xtend multisport competition on Thursday, it was their first school trip since graduating to high school – despite being in Year 9! 

“This is massive for our students,” said Joe Greenside, PE Lead at Ravenscliffe High. “Because they have not been out of school for three years, they are learning things today that are totally new to them. 

“Being out in the community as a group, learning how to behave out of school, to sit, listen and follow instructions, being on public transport; all those things are new experiences. They learn a lot in school of course, but learning in a new environment is very important.” 

>> Check out a full gallery of pictures from our Calderdale Panathlon Primary and Xtend competitions <<

Trinity Academy Grammar from Sowerby Bridge were also Panathlon debutants, and teacher Steven Dolby was full of praise afterwards. 

“This has genuinely been the best sporting event I’ve ever been to,” he said. “Nobody is sat still or waiting, there is such a variety of different events, and it’s all about being the best version of yourself. 

“It is building cultural capital for our children. It gives them opportunities they may not get to experience on a day-to-day basis. It builds students’ life skills and social skills for them to be more successful in the future.” 

Trinity Academy pupil Travis said: “I enjoyed the long jump best of all. I don’t really get much chance to play for the school so this means a lot to me.” 

The Xtend competition at Calderdale College was also a fresh experience for pupils from North Halifax Grammar. Such was the demand from their pupils, they entered three teams – and their all-girls team were crowned the winners. 

Their PE Lead, Krystle Baker-Casey, said: “One of our pupils said on the minibus, ‘I never thought I’d be representing school in sport!’ It’s nice to hear that pride from them. 

“This gives them that feeling of, ‘I can actually do this!’ I’ve not seen these girls be competitive before, but look at their team spirit!” 

Greetland Academy had participated in Panathlon before, but for many our events are their only outlet to wear the school badge in external competitions. 

“For some, it will be the only out-of-school sporting event they do this year,” said SENCO Charlotte Ward. “It really is good for their confidence and their attitude towards their learning. 

“Sometimes a morning out like this means we get three or four weeks in the classroom of them being determined to learn, simply because they’ve tasted success.” 

She added: “Some of them don’t love school, to be honest, but they were at school half an hour early this morning because they were so excited to be here! They will be wearing their medals for the rest of the week. It’s about the pride of coming out, representing their school and spending time with their friends.” 

Gemma Hillwood, mum of 11-year-old Greetland Academy pupil Jaycee, said: “Her brother plays for the school in lots of sports, so Jaycee sees this as a really good platform for her to also be part of a team and have that pride of representing the school. 

“Jaycee really suffers with her anxiety as a result of her autism, so this will raise her self-confidence at school – but it also boosts her confidence at home through things like showing her grandparents the photos of herself wearing a medal.” 

Nine-year-old Louie from Luddendenfoot Academy said: “All the challenges were really fun. I was really good at knocking down the skittles. I feel pretty proud of myself because this is the first medal I’ve won in my whole life!”

Panathlon ran the event in partnership with Calderdale School Games Organisers Colin Crowther and Callum McNulty. 

Colin said: “Panathlon’s exceptional quality of delivery makes our life a whole lot easier in providing sporting opportunities for children with special needs. For us, it’s an absolute dream. 

“Before Panathlon came along seven years ago, we only had boccia, curling and seated volleyball. Now we have a pathway of events through primary and secondary levels. We’ve seen numerous students progress from primary competitions, then go to high school and come back for secondary competitions. 

“I want to thank Panathlon for what they do for children here in Calderdale. The opportunities they offer across all sports and age groups are unbelievable. It’s the best programme we offer in this area.” 

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “We wholeheartedly thank Calderdale School Games for their support. Colin has been a fantastic advocate for us not just within his area but has helped us grow our programmes across the whole of Yorkshire.”