Teams of students from nine Panathlon schools will be heading to Sheffield next month for the finals of the Lord’s Taverners Under-19s National Boccia Championships.
The prestigious national finals run by Boccia England will bring together champions from 12 regions across the country to compete for the national title at the English Insitute of Sport (EIS) on 20 May.
Amongst the 24 teams to compete across two divisions are no fewer than seven schools to feature regularly in Panathlon competitions in recent years, along with two schools who made their Panathlon debut this year.
The 12 finalists in the Physical Disability (PD) final include Panathlon regulars St Giles School from Croydon, Berkshire’s Arbour Vale School, Ipswich’s Thomas Wolsey School and Beacon Hill Academy from Thurrock. They will be joined by Panathlon debutants Durham Trinity School and Doncaster’s Danum Academy.
Danum are also represented in the Pan-Disability final, where they will be joined by Priory School from Bury St Edmunds, Birmingham’s Baskerville School and Trinity School from Barking & Dagenham.
Many of these schools have enjoyed success at Panathlon in recent years and a number of reigning Panathlon multi-sport champions will be represented at the EIS, including London champions Croydon (St Giles), east regional champions Beacon Hill, south regional winners Arbour Vale and Suffolk champions Priory, who are also the reigning Panathlon south east regional swim champions.
Now each of the schools is translating their success in the wider multi-sport arena to the sport of boccia and proving themselves amongst the best in the country by reaching the national finals.
Since 2013, Panathlon has worked in partnership with Boccia England to increase the scope and reach of the national Lord’s Taverners competition. This year Panathlon delivered a total eight county finals and six regional finals across the two divisions.
One of these, the London PD regional final in March, saw Croydon’s St Giles School (pictured top of page) win through to the national finals in the most dramatic of circumstances.
In two of their matches, including the final against Enfield’s West Lea School, the scores finished level which led to a ‘golden ball’ sudden death shootout, in which the team captains shoot one ball each at a placed jack to determine the winner.
St Giles captain Toyin Fabusiwa (pictured above, left) held her nerve on both occasions to book her team’s place at the EIS – their third national finals in four years, but arguably their most rewarding.
“We’re over the moon,” said Fiona Bell, PE teacher and Head of Secondary at St Giles. “I really didn’t think we’d get into the final. It was a development team this year, so it’s a real achievement for them.”
St Giles are one of three schools in the successful Croydon Panathlon team, who will defend their London title at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in June. They got involved in Panathlon in 2003 and it is has since become a key part of their sporting provision, with a weekly Panathlon club and, more recently, a boccia club now established in their extra-curricular timetable.
“Panathlon really helps form the backbone of a lot of the PE activities that we do,” added Fiona. “We start Panathlon activities in primary school so that kids get a taste, then it’s something that they aspire to take part in when they move up the school.”
Another school to have fully embraced Panathlon is Beacon Hill Academy in Thurrock (two of their team pictured left), who won the East Anglia South regional boccia final in January to qualify for the national finals.
The school are reigning back-to-back Panathlon multi-sport champions in Essex and were crowned east regional champions in March, marking huge progress since the school first became involved with the charity seven years ago.
Before then Beacon Hill students only took part in sport experience days, whereas now Panathlon provides them with an opportunity to compete with their peers from other schools at various sports, including boccia, on a level playing field.
“Panathlon has been the main driving force behind sport in school,” said Brandon Mullin, Head of PE at Beacon Hill. “There was never any place for us to go and play sport of a competitive nature until Panathlon came to Essex, so we owe pretty much everything that we do to them.
“Panathlon is still the only competitive event that we attend. It helps give our children confidence in their ability, they meet lots of people, make lots of friends and have success that is recognised outside of the school, which is really important for them.”
Almost 3,000 young people across the country have taken part in the Lord’s Taverners boccia competition this year, with 444 young officials trained to run the county and regional competitions. Amongst these are a large number of Panathlon young leaders, many of whom will be hoping to be one of the 10 referees selected to officiate at the national finals next month.
It’s great to see so many Panathlon schools translating their success onto a bigger stage and reaching the finals of a prestigious national competition.
We hope you all have a memorable trip to Sheffield in May and we wish all 10 teams the very best of luck in the national finals.