Panathlon’s partnership with The Tapscott Learning Trust is helping to embed inclusion in PE and sport at primary schools in Newham, East London. 

The Tapscott Learning Trust (TTLT) consists of four primary schools who all recognise Panathlon as an opportunity for their pupils with special needs to experience sporting competition tailored to their needs. Around 100 children across the four schools take part in Panathlon each academic year. 

Additionally, the Trust’s four schools are part of a Sports Hub with eight other local primary schools. All 12 schools in the hub enter pupils with SEND into Panathlon’s primary-age multisport, 10-pin bowling and swimming competitions.  

The man coordinating this activity is Paul Belcher, Sports Hub Director for The Tapscott Learning Trust. He outlined the value that Panathlon has added to the experience of PE and sport for children with disabilities and special needs within the Hub. 

“It has been a massively positive experience for everybody,” he said. “Staff have been amazed at what the kids can do. 

“A lot of our children are supported one-to-one and the staff who care for them obviously don’t want them to get hurt. Often that means, for the right reasons, they may have already decided what they can and can’t do. Panathlon has actually removed many of those conceptions. 

“We’ve engaged with 10-pin bowling, multiskills and swimming. These very different forms of competition have all shown how engaged this cohort of children can be when they’re offered the right equipment, activities and expertise.” 

Paul explained that Panathlon’s positive impact doesn’t end with our competitions. PE and classroom staff are taking learning back into their daily practice. 

“We’ve seen that staff are becoming much more confident to let the child do more, or are setting up alternatives for children with special needs so they’re not excluded,” said Paul. 

“Schools have bought additional equipment to make sure lessons are more inclusive and have dedicated PE lessons for targeted groups.” 

The four Trust schools now operate weekly SEND swimming lessons to raise children’s water confidence. The children are working to the Swim England ‘Learn to Swim Framework’. “This has all come from the confidence staff have been given by Panathlon,” says Paul. 

In late March, Panathlon staged a gala for seven schools in the Sports Hub at the London Aquatic Centre, venue of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Paul invited head teachers and lead staff to showcase what the children are capable of. 

“We don’t actually promote Panathlon as a SEND event,” he explains. “It’s simply an event in which they are representing the school just like mainstream pupils do. 

“When kids and staff come back with gold medals and trophies they are absolutely buzzing. North Beckton won an event recently and it was the school’s first sporting trophy of the entire year. It raises their self-esteem and make the children with SEND feel respected and included. 

“I’ve run hundreds of school festivals and competitions and reported back to head teachers, SGOs and governors. When I do that, I always used to get caught up on the number of kids involved. 

“What I’ve learned from Panathlon is that the focus shouldn’t always be on numbers and getting a big photo at the end. It’s more important that everyone has a fantastic experience. 

“Looking at Panathlon’s events calendar on the website is awesome. I didn’t realise how many events you guys do – and yet the quality is always fabulous and the events have ripple effects that last a long, long time.”