Alexandra Park School in North London has won a Jack Petchey Foundation ‘Special Recognition Award’ for embracing the Virtual Panathlon programme wholeheartedly during the pandemic.

The school in Haringey is a very active member of the Panathlon family (pupil Hannah Awoleye won our Jack Petchey Foundation Young Leader award in 2020), but their engagement increased hugely in the last two years by embedding Virtual Panathlon within their PE and sport timetable for SEND pupils.

In addition, Alexandra Park hosted Panathlon sports camps for children with disabilities and special needs during the Easter and summer holidays last year.

The school holds SEND PE ‘booster’ sessions on Wednesday afternoons where many of the activities are replicated from Panathlon competitions, such as ten-pin bowling, polybat, boccia, new-age kurling and wheelchair slalom.

Now Covid-19 restrictions have been relaxed, Alexandra Park’s specialist PE teacher Bren Amooty (pictured above) says his pupils are looking forward to transferring the skills they’ve learned through Virtual Panathlon into our face-to-face competitions.

“It’s lovely that so many of our students have been introduced to Panathlon on home turf at Alexandra Park so when they go to external competitions they are going to feel confident about what to expect,” he said.

“When we originally started entering Panathlon competitions we didn’t realise the variety of events we could get involved in. Unfortunately, just as we started to get our teeth into it, the pandemic hit. Luckily, we have thrown ourselves into the virtual offer and now we can’t wait to participate more in external competitions.”

Bren was speaking at Panathlon’s North London Football Final at Barnet Powerleague where he was presented with the Special Recognition trophy by Jack Petchey Foundation’s Head of Partnerships Victoria Mirfin. Alexandra Park finished fourth at the event – and Bren hopes it will be the first of regular forthcoming appearances at our competitions across all sports in London.

In the meantime, Virtual Panathlon will continue to be a strong influence on in-school PE and sport.

Bren explained: “As a mainstream school we’ve got the challenge of trying to accommodate our students with additional needs into mainstream PE lessons. The lovely Virtual Panathlon offer enabled us to do that and give SEND children extra PE provision that is specific to their level of development.

Alexandra Park pupil Kyan Nicholson, who won the Jack Petchey Foundation Outstanding Achievement award

“It’s really helpful for me and my department to have so many wonderful opportunities to engage students who find it a challenge to access traditional PE. When we are engaging some of our teaching assistants, being able to give them ready-made lesson plans is a huge help.

“We’re not having to re-invent the wheel. Panathlon creates ideas and competitions that make sport really inclusive.”

Alexandra Park continued to offer that variety with their school holiday camps for SEND pupils. There, and at their Wednesday PE ‘booster’ sessions, Year 10 pupil Kyan Nicholson officiates and guides his younger peers. His dedication was rewarded with the Jack Petchey Foundation Outstanding Achievement award.

Victoria Mirfin from the Jack Petchey Foundation said: “The amazing efforts of Alexandra Park have been rightly highlighted by our awards panel. Staff ensured children with disabilities and special needs were prioritised at a time when in so many other areas of life their wellbeing was overlooked.”

Tony Waymouth, Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Alexandra Park epitomise the model of development from in-school sport to external competition that we hope to replicate across the Panathlon family.”