Independent research shows Panathlon’s positive impact reaches deep into schools and communities and drives transformational change for children with disabilities and special needs across England and Wales. 

Our participation figures for 2022/23 showed a record 62,981 pupils took part in our sporting programmes last academic year, but a report published this week by Bean Research reveals that a further 51,164 children benefited from the ‘ripple effect’ our competitions have on schools, families and communities – making our total reach an unprecedented 114,145

This ‘ripple effect’ is achieved through the transformational impact we have on the environment and practices at our participating schools. Evidence shows Panathlon is a catalyst for schools to change their curriculum, invest in sports equipment, assess and benchmark children’s development, create leadership roles and programmes, upskill teachers, initiate inter-school SEND fixtures and open up facilities and opportunities to the community.  

Thus, we are helping schools create a legacy of inclusion

The report proves that our reach goes far beyond merely providing opportunities for pupils with SEND to take part in competitive sport. We are also: 

  • having profound effects on pupils’ education and development 
  • reducing inequalities for children in areas of social deprivation and geographical isolation 
  • providing choice in our programmes so that children with all kinds of impairments have activity that meets their needs 
  • improving the competence and confidence of school staff in delivering inclusive PE and sport 

The report shows Panathlon is driving real change for those who need it most. By doing so, we’re also emphatically bucking the trends of declining physical activity – especially amongst SEND children. 

These negative trends include reductions in PE in English state-funded secondary schools in the last year (which “hit disabled children hardest”), parents reporting that their children with disabilities feel uncomfortable taking part in sport with other children, the cost of living, isolation and loneliness (often linked to the pandemic) and negative attitudes towards sport and physical activity.  

In Wales, inequalities are widespread – only 60% of schools have the equipment to enable inclusion of pupils with disabilities, impairments and additional learning needs (ALN) and overall, only 35% of disabled/ALN pupils participate in organised sport. The most deprived and rurally isolated areas were most heavily impacted.

The Panathlon Impact Report emphasises that these trends are “crucial context” against which the growing impact of Panathlon should be viewed. 

Another key aspect to our ‘ripple effect’ is the upskilling of staff. Of teachers surveyed in the report, 80% said Panathlon had given them ideas they can use back in the classroom, school hall and playground. Two in three reported increased staff knowledge to support students with disabilities taking part in sports and 70% said it had made them more aware of what their pupils are capable of. This directly addresses widespread concerns over inadequate primary PE training

As the independent report states: “[Through Panathlon] schools are not only equipped to support current students into greater levels of physical activity, but are supported to generate a culture of inclusivity, a wealth of experience and a pool of skills which continue to shape the provision for children and communities in the future.” 

Our record participation figures in 2022/23 include pupils who participated in our virtual (in-school) sporting programmes, delivered by staff using existing school equipment, which we initiated during the pandemic. The report says: “… in-school virtual competition has become integral to the Panathlon offer and has empowered schools to increase reach and depth of engagement that they themselves can offer.” 

Meanwhile, our qualitative impact on individual pupils remains as strong as ever, with the vast majority reporting increased self-belief, confidence, resilience and social interaction. Tellingly, 79% said Panathlon had given them their first competitive sporting experience

Anyone familiar with our competitions will understand the vital role played by our Young Leaders. Traditionally, secondary-age pupils have fulfilled these roles, but some primary schools have used Panathlon as an opportunity to develop their Year 5 and 6 pupils’ leadership skills and confidence. The report notes the numerous ways leaders have “benefited from their role, building self-esteem, leadership skills, awareness and empathy.” 

Panathlon Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, commented: “We know that young people with SEND are facing huge barriers to being physically active since Covid. We are incredibly proud to offer a range of programmes that break down these barriers, meet the government’s new Get Active strategy objectives and have a positive ripple effect on entire school environments. With our ever-expanding reach, we are effecting profound change in the sphere of SEND.” 

Download the full 2022-23 Panthlon Impact report here.