New research has concluded that Panathlon is ‘filling a gap’ to help disabled young people get active.

The research by the University of East London (UEL) describes many benefits of Panathlon participation, including improved emotional wellbeing; self-esteem, confidence and resilience; social skills and social participation; while for the students who help to deliver Panathlon events (known as ‘young leaders’) and the teachers involved, outcomes included an increased sense of leadership, and professional development.

The UEL report states that the inclusion of disabled pupils in mainstream schools has increased in recent years, and this inclusive approach “brings many benefits for children, both those with and without disabilities, but it means that some disabled children come into contact with very few other pupils with similar disabilities and those remaining in special schools may have little external contact.

“To fill this gap, Panathlon offers children with disabilities an opportunity to meet others through engagement in competitive sport.”

The research used was based on a series of semi-structured interviews with participants, event volunteers and teachers from schools which participate in the Panathlon programme, and identified four main themes: the impact on (i) children personally and (ii) their interpersonal skills; (iii) the impact in terms of staff development and curriculum offer; and (iv) finally the impact of changing attitudes to disability and inclusion.

Panathlon Challenge - UEL - London - 25/03/2014 - Licensed to Panathlon for all PR use. All Rights reserved. © Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left Images 2014In its key recommendations, the report states: “Government and other national funders should consider funding grassroots projects, such as Panathlon, that have a direct impact on disabled children and those that teach them.”

It concludes: “Panathlon has delivered on its stated aim to provide disabled children and young people with opportunities to come together in learning new skills and participate in competitive sport.”

Where the impact was thought to be strong on school sport, was where Panathlon had been embedded in the curriculum and was part of the school offer. ‘Panathlon is an ongoing activity …not a one off event.’

“It appears that the work Panathlon has been developing over the last 16 years is now being paralleled by the current Government policies towards disability and competitive sporting opportunities.

“Panathlon is in a strong position to provide an introduction to sport that, if it can be sustained into adult life, could have a long-term positive impact.”

To download the Executive Summary report, please see here uel-reserach-panathlon-executive-summary-november-30th-2016.

For further details of this research and the longitudinal study that UEL has been conducting on the benefits of the Panathlon Challenge, then please contact Richard Hunt, Principal Lecturer, School of Sport & Bioscience at the University of East London.

Panathlon provides sporting competition and physical activity programmes for disabled children across the country. During 2016, more than 10,000 children from 563 schools in 27 counties participated, with that figure set to increase significantly again in 2017.