Panathlon has been hailed as the “perfect partner” in giving thousands of children with disabilities and special needs in Sheffield access to competitive sport.
Our calendar of events has grown massively across the city and South Yorkshire thanks to our partnership with Links School Sports Partnership. They help us organise events and allow us to tap into their network of local contacts to reach children with SEND who would benefit the most.
Within its network, Links SSP has 10 special schools and 24 schools with integrated resources, but Panathlon have provided so much extra capacity, manpower, equipment and expertise, that together we are able to offer provision beyond that network and right across the city.
“Our offer has expanded massively since Panathlon came on board as a partner,” said Kim Horton, Links SSP Partnership Development Manager and School Games Organiser for All Saints and Sheffield.
“Panathlon are a perfect key partner, we work together so well and they make our job so much easier. All their preparation and resources are fantastic and together we have been able to offer opportunities to so many more children who may otherwise miss out.”
Kim was speaking at a Panathlon 10-pin bowling event on Monday (October 3) at Hollywood Bowl in Sheffield which was attended by 200 children. It was part of a busy week of Panathlon activity in South Yorkshire that included four 10-pin bowling competitions, girls’ football and multisport.
“Panathlon events are so inclusive and there really is something for everyone,” said Kim. “Regardless of their disability, or their ability, it is a level playing field. Everyone feels included and the activity is so easily adapted. The children love it.
“The personal development that happens at these events is massive. It has a real impact on learning back at school. It develops their social skills too. They get to be amongst children from other schools which is quite rare for them.”
Teacher Joe Fenn from Loxley School in Sheffield said: “The impact of these events is immediate. The very next day back at school we see these guys have more confidence in their own abilities and work better as a team.
“The quieter ones really come out of their shells and tell the others what happened. They get to experience something they’ve not done before and are opened up to a bigger environment. This sort of event happening on a cross-city basis is really important. It’s a win in every dimension.”
Dan Nellis, PSHE Lead at Holgate Meadows, agrees. He said: “It can be very isolating as a pupil in a special school like ours, so it’s great for them to interact with other schools and realise that they’re not alone in this world. There are other people like them, dealing with the same things they’re dealing with.
“There aren’t many events where they get to represent their school as it’s all aimed at the elite end. We go out of school quite a lot but we don’t compete very much, so having days like this is just fabulous.”
Matt Wright, PE teacher at Astrea Academy Sheffield, said the experience had also been an incredibly positive one for his pupils.
“Only one person in our team had been bowling previously, so it’s something completely different. Taking them out of mainstream lessons and giving them an opportunity to do something they wouldn’t normally get the chance to do is exceptional for these guys.
“This is something we’d really like to do again. Any opportunity is gratefully received because they don’t necessarily get them within their own environment. Today has helped them understand each other’s needs and they can take that ethic of teamwork back into the classroom.”
Astrea pupil Moiz, 11, couldn’t wiped the beaming smile from his face as he received his medal. “I’ve enjoyed it a lot because it’s my first trip in a long, long time! I am representing my school. Who knows? Anything could happen next!”
Faye Hodgkins, Director of Teaching and Learning at High Hazel School, added: “We are a very big primary school and here they are forming relationships and high-fiving with children in other year groups.
“This builds their confidence to do more competitive activities and get involved in school sports clubs. It’s a building block to greater things.”
Alicia Shepherd, Integrated Resource Lead at Nook Lane School, said that competition was “a really difficult skill” for many of her pupils to learn, but the atmosphere of Panathlon had allowed them to deal with the competitive element very well.
“The impact has been really big,” said Alicia. “They have worked together so well, taking turns and keeping focused. They have got so much out of it – and we’re off to Burger King afterwards!”
By autumn half term, Panathlon will have put on 10 events for over 700 SEND children in Sheffield.
Panathlon Chief Operating Officer Tony Waymouth said: “Our relationship with Links SSP has been so positive for pupils across the city. They now get a diverse choice of activity, priceless chances to represent their school in sporting competition and events that generate ideas back at school to offer further support in sport and physical activity.”