It was double delight at Ponds Forge in Sheffield on Wednesday (May 22) as the Royal School for the Deaf Derby clinched Primary and Secondary gold in this year’s Panathlon Northern Deaf Swimming Finals.

They saw off competition in both age groups from Doncaster School for the Deaf, who took home silver medals while York Dolphins – a team formed from seven schools in the York area – claimed bronze medals. 

Victory came for the East Midlands school after successes in the 25m freestyle as well as the 4x10m and 2x25m relay events, securing a total of 54 points across the two competitions. 

Emma Kerry-Williams, senior education assistant at Royal School for the Deaf Derby, highlighted how her students enjoy the competitive edge to Panathlon events as well as the social aspect. 

“The children love coming because they get to see their friends and people that they might have seen at other Panathlon events,” Kerry-Williams said. 

“The activities and groups are set up for them with the flags and everybody helping them. 

“In a normal mainstream event, it can be hard for them but here, everybody is in the same field and it does wonders for their self-esteem. They do love the competition! 

“At our school, we go swimming once a week and we do a lot of preparation which helps their confidence being able to swim the longer distances. 

“And Ponds Forge is a fantastic venue. It’s nice to come somewhere so big and it makes the event feel so much more important rather than just going to a local swimming pool.” 

York Dolphins also won sets of Ducks for Change – kindly donated by the DM Thomas Foundation for Young People – after coming out on top in the Treasure Hunt challenge. 

The York-based teams were made up of 13 students representing seven different schools, who were brought together by Helen Martin, team leader for the Deaf and Hearing support team at the City of York Council. 

“We get the primary children together – some of them are the only deaf children in their school – so they never get to see other students with hearing aids or communicating through sign,” said Martin. 

So it’s really important to get them together as a peer group.  

“We meet every half term but with Panathlon, it’s great because you have so many other deaf children together and particularly for ours who use sign, they see loads of people doing the same and they can make inks with each other. 

“It’s really nice that they have a reason to get together and they love it. 

“One of my students today said: ‘I’ve never done anything like this ever before – it’s so exciting!’ so the event is great but the social side is really important too. 

“For something like swimming, it is a lot about visual and being able to hear things – but we are in a group where everyone is deaf aware so it’s just great. 

“We came on the train today and in the past we have borrowed a minibus. But for them, the journey is really nice and it helps them learn vital independence skills.” 

Special thanks to Ovingdean Hall Foundation – who have generously supported Panathlon’s Deaf programme since 2014 – as well as St. James’s Place Charitable Foundation who both helped make the day a success.

Thanks also to our Panathlon Leaders from New College Pontefract who were outstanding in running the event throughout. 

Full results – Primary: Derby 32Doncaster 29York 27Sunnyside 14 

Secondary: Derby 22Doncaster 18York 14

St James's Place