Pupils with special needs from Bolton Muslim Girls School have been spectacularly successful since taking the plunge into Panathlon this academic year. 

The team firstly won gold medals at Panathlon’s Bolton Xtend qualifier in the autumn term, which sealed their qualification for the Greater Manchester Xtend Final.

After winning gold medals in that county-level event, they then represented Greater Manchester in our Xtend North West Regional Final, delivered in partnership with Bolton Wanderers in the Community at Bolton Arena, in May.

There, the Bolton Muslim Girls School team were just pipped into second place by Chesterfield High School from Liverpool. The girls have also competed in a Panathlon 10-pin bowling competition. 

In addition, Panathlon’s event manager Debbie Davies recently visited the school to deliver a carousel of Panathlon sports activities as part of a ‘Character Day’ for Year 8 and 9 pupils led by Natalie Hanif, the school’s PE teacher. The day was themed around perseverance and resilience. 

Next year, Debbie plans to train up girls from the school as Young Leaders to officiate and guide pupils at some of the many local, county and regional Panathlon competitions held in Bolton.  

We spoke to Natalie to find out about Panathlon’s positive impact on the school after its pupils with special needs made such rapid progress through our competitive pathway in their debut year! 

Hi Natalie, before you entered Panathlon for the first time this academic year, what opportunities did your girls with special needs have to take part in sport? 

“Opportunities are very limited to take part in sport. Competitions and clubs usually consist of girls that are more gifted and talented and not the girls who are not high ability.”

– What difference has Panathlon made to this group of girls? 

“It has Increased their self-esteem and self-confidence. These girls lacked belief in themselves and their own ability and this has helped them to realise they can achieve much more than they thought they could.”

– What was the impact of Debbie’s visit and the competitions on the pupils? 

“They have got to experience what it feels like to take part in something with other schools. Debbie’s visit was amazing for the girls who were all very interested in why she was there and what she does. They didn’t realise what the organisation did or that it even existed. I feel like they now realise that even people with differences can still aim high and achieve a lot.”

– Has it opened your eyes as a teacher to what is possible for the pupils to achieve? 

“Yes, it definitely has. We have a lot of girls in school who don’t like sport or physical activities because they feel they are not good at it or can’t succeed. But Panathlon’s multi-sports events were suitable for all pupils no matter what their ability.  

“Also they were competing in teams and encouraging each other. This made the pupils feel more confident and like they were part of something that didn’t require them to be the fittest or the most talented. “

– What is the potential going forward for the school with Panathlon on board? 

“We will try to attend as many Panathlon events as we can. I believe that pupils with SEND need to have opportunities like this to feel included and like they are just as able as their peers. Hopefully next year we can look to organise more events in school that are inclusive.” 

Thank you once again to our partners Bolton Wanderers in the Community for their wonderful support in developing Panathlon programmes in the north west.