Four years ago, Emily Treweek was a Panathlon Young Leader at Richmond School & Sixth Form College in North Yorkshire. Now, aged 20, she is PE Lead at Sacred Heart Primary and recently took her pupils to a Panathlon competition at her old school – where they won gold!
Emily’s remarkable circular journey began in CTEC Sport class in Year 12. As part of the course, she was given the opportunity to be a Panathlon Young Leader. It changed her life.
“As soon as I found out what we’d be doing, I thought, ‘This is so cool,’” she recalls. “I developed a passion for it straight away.
“Every time Panathlon came up, I put my name down. I remember after I passed my driving test, I did an event where the Dales School [in Blyth] couldn’t get a minibus to get there. I ran round all my teachers and begged them to let me miss the afternoon’s lessons so I could go and fetch their team and drive them to the Panathlon!
“I met the staff at Mowbray School through Panathlon and ended up doing a week’s work experience there with pupils with additional needs and disabilities. It was honestly the best thing ever.”
After leaving sixth form, Emily was due to spend a gap year working alongside Val French, Panathlon’s event manager in North Yorkshire, but Covid intervened. Instead, she started a job at Sacred Heart Primary in Northallerton working one-to-one with a child with behavioural needs.
She was soon offered the chance to do an HLTA qualification and take over PE delivery. She said: “When I first started the job I thought, ‘It can’t get better than this!’ But then when I got to work with all the children with additional needs and do PE – it was like a Panathlon all the time! I love it so much I actually can’t contain my excitement.”
Emily’s love of Panathlon persuaded Sacred Heart’s head teacher to enter a Key Stage 2 team in some of our local events. At their first competition, they finished as runners-up and qualified for the county primary final – back at her old stomping ground, Richmond School.
“When we went and came first it just topped it all off. It’s gone full circle. It’s just the icing on the cake,” Emily beamed.
“I was obviously disappointed when I couldn’t work with Val but the chance to take part in Panathlon has come back around in a different way – maybe even a better way. Taking your own team of children is really, really special.”
Emily takes time to chat to Young Leaders wearing the famous pink T-shirt who are following in her illustrious footsteps. Working every day with her pupils, she is also able to see Panathlon’s ripple effects on their confidence and skills.
“Panathlon opens their eyes to possibilities they didn’t think were open to them,” she says. “They are intrigued to see what adaptations can be made to sport so they can take part. They think to themselves, ‘There is something in this world of sport for me after all!’
“I actually don’t agree with the word ‘disabled’ because the children aren’t unable to do it, they just do it differently. The children learn that they can do things, no matter what they’ve been told in the past or what additional needs they have.
“When I walk them into the hall you immediately see them relax and settle, even those who wouldn’t go to any other sports event. They think, ‘I enjoyed doing that so I’m going to do it again.’ It breeds so much confidence.”
One pupil comes to mind when Emily is asked about impact – Esme in Year 3 (pictured above). She wears a leg brace and a block underneath her shoe. She has been to every Panathlon that Sacred Heart have entered so far.
“She is the most determined child I have ever met and will forever be one of my biggest inspirations. She loves Panathlon so much,” says Emily.
“When she comes back from a Panathlon with a medal or trophy, all the school come out to greet her. They see her as our Panathlon team captain.
“You never hear her moan. I can’t tell you how amazing that little girl is. She genuinely does it for herself and doesn’t care what other people say.
“She sets herself physical challenges and practises every day in the playground in order to achieve them. The other pupils recognise her determination and she inspires them. In my career I’ll meet so many pupils, but I know I’ll never forget that child.”