A record 92 children took part in the opening event of the 2016-17 Panathlon academic year’s deaf programme on Monday at Osterley Leisure Centre.

In the annual deaf boccia competition in London newcomers a Combined Academy team defeated two-time champions Norwood Green Junior School in the primary final, while Essex school Great Baddow High School, (pictured in the main image at the top) beat St Marylebone Church of England School of Camden (pictured above left) in the secondary decider.

Alicia Sudnik, Communication Support Worker at Great Baddow, said: “It was another great day at Panathlon, with competition, interaction, new faces and learning to be part of a team.”

Altogether 25 teams part. Schools competing for the first time were Elmgreen from Lambeth, The Village from Brent, the Academy Combination team and and St Clere’s from Essex Met.

Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls in Ealing provided the eight leaders for the primary coimg_7370mpetition (pictured right), while seven deaf leaders from Oak Lodge ran the secondary competition, further developing the role and involvement of young deaf leaders as role models.

Dave Pogson, a teacher at Elmgreen School, said: “This is the first deaf Panathlon event we have been to and it’s amazing to see so many deaf schools competing. Our students have this opportunity to meet all these students from other schools and that is so important for them. We really want to get more involved in deaf sport and we’ll definitely be along to further Panathlon days in the future.”

Louise Hurford, a teacher at Rushy Meadow Primary School in Sutton , added: “We have come to the boccia competition for the last three years and to see it reach record numbers this year is great. When we first came a few years ago, I think there were only six schools competing and now there are 15!

“For us personally, meeting the other staff and students is as important as the competition itself, because it allows us to network and gives our students the chance to sign and communicate with lots of new faces. We also have some of our old students who have gone to these secondary schools and so it’s great to catch up with them.

“We love these events and are looking forward to our in-school tennis sessions now that Panathlon are delivering.”

The boccia competition held in London was the first in a country-wide Panathlon deaf programme that will see the Midlands, North-West, East, London and Yorkshire involved again, and the North-East and Norfolk/Suffolk staging events for the first time. As well as boccia, the deaf programme in London includes football, ten pin bowling, tennis and multi-sports.

The programme has been supported in London by the City Bridge Trust. Their backing since the award of the grant has been instrumental in this rapidly-expanding growth of events across London and an increase in participation numbers.