The rich potential of Panathlon’s partnership with IQM was clear to see at Bolton Arena where 12 schools from across the north west gathered for a primary competition. 

IQM (Inclusion Quality Mark) is the national recognised standard for inclusion, giving schools a framework and recognition for how they promote equal opportunities for all pupils, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, attainment and background. Over 5,500 schools in the UK have either received an IQM Inclusive School Award or are working towards meeting the standard required. 

IQM’s inclusive ethos aligns perfectly with Panathlon’s and Tuesday (28 March) marked our first major competition for schools with IQM Award status, following a small pilot in Liverpool last year. 

The competition was run with our wonderful partners Bolton Wanderers in the Community, supported by Bolton School Games and Greater Sport. The children were guided by Young Leaders from St. Joseph’s High School and LLS Online from Thornleigh Salesian College, who were joined by Kaye Price and Eve Jones, volunteers from our sponsors St. James’s Place Charitable Foundation

>> Check out a full gallery of pictures from the event here <<

Gold medal winners were Prestolee Primary School from Radcliffe, Bolton, with Red Lane Primary and The Valley Primary winning silver and bronze respectively. All teams were also taken on a tour of Bolton’s University of Bolton Stadium – just illustrating how working with delivery partners adds value for participating schools. 

There was a special surprise for the winning teams when Bolton Wanderers midfielder MJ Williams entered the arena to present the medals – just three days before he and the Wanderers squad head to Wembley for Sunday’s Papa Johns Trophy final against Plymouth Argyle. 

“We’re so excited and proud to be in partnership with Panathlon,” said IQM Ambassador Sarah Linari. “We can see this becoming a national model to introduce Panathlon into all our schools. 

“Working with Panathlon is about opening up teachers’ minds to what is possible with PE as they may lack the knowledge, skills and awareness of what they can do. It’s one of those areas of the curriculum which has historically been shut off to those pupils with special educational needs.” 

Since last summer’s pilot event, many IQM schools in the north west have entered Panathlon competitions. One of them, Holy Cross Primary from the Wirral, were crowned Panathlon North West Primary champions last July. 

“Teachers at our schools have told me they’ve seen children in a completely different light at Panathlon’s events,” said Sarah. “For the pupils, it’s an opportunity to experience success and overcome barriers. It’s competitive but in a supportive, safe, non-threatening and inclusive environment that brings out the best in them.” 

Panathlon’s positive ripple effects are already evident in schools who have taken part. Gold medal winners Prestolee Primary (pictured below) have organised their own Panathlon-inspired competition for pupils with special needs at eight schools within the Prestolee Multi Academy Trust. 

“This is our third Panathlon competition and they have all been fantastic,” said Prestolee Primary’s Key Stage 1 Lead Siobhan Lever. “I pitched it to other PE Leads within our Trust and we’re adapting some of the games and ideas to hold a mini Panathlon this summer using our PE equipment. 

“We’re still going to enter Panathlon – it’s by no means a replacement. We just love it so much and we wanted to spread its impact to other schools in our Trust. It encapsulates everything that inclusive sport should be. These pupils feel safe and comfortable and can access everything with no stresses or worries.” 

Prestolee pupil Riley, 11, said: “It’s lots of fun and there are so many activities. My mum and dad will be so surprised and proud when I show them this medal!” 

The team from Shadsworth Junior School in Blackburn were experiencing Panathlon for the first time. Their Sports Development Officer, Chris Baker, said: “This is such a fantastic opportunity for these guys to experience competition and represent the school. They’ll be up on stage in ‘Show and Tell’ on Friday which will be a wonderful feeling for them and really boost their confidence within school.” 

Volunteer leader Kaye, whose local business KP Financial Wellbeing is a partner practice of our sponsors, St. James’s Place Charitable Foundation, could not hide her joy at helping the children. 

“This is my second time at a Panathlon competition and it’s just an incredible experience,” she said. “Last time, I was smiling for days afterwards. This is my best day of the year – I just love it! 

“I help these children feel included in sporting opportunities they perhaps wouldn’t normally get to do. Encouraging and motivating them and helping them have fun is what it’s all about. I can’t believe how well run these events are. Long may they continue!”

Working alongside Kaye was Young Leader Shanti Narsih (pictured below, fourth from right), a Year 12 student at Thornleigh Salesian College, whose ambition is to be a PE teacher.

She said: “This role helps me to see that these kids might have difficult day with their additional needs, but they have always got days like this to look forward to. 

“The key to being a Young Leader is to be positive and have a smile on your face. Keep it fun, keep them active but always ensure they understand what they’re doing by repeating instructions or finding different ways to tell them what needs to be done. 

“I want to be a PE teacher because I want to help young people find enjoyment in sport and being a Young Leader is helping me learn about how I can adjust to different needs. It’s absolutely brilliant.” 

After presenting the trophies, medals and certificates, Bolton Wanderers star MJ Williams said: “This is amazing. Ever since I’ve been at this club, we have had so many things for the community to come down and do. It is great to come and help out. You could see the smiles on the kids’ faces.”