Panathlon has given sporting provision for SEND children in Bury a massive boost, with the local School Sports Partnership calling our competitions “the stand-out events on our calendar”.

Bury SSP joined up with Panathlon two years ago but the pandemic meant inter-school competitions were immediately put on hold. They have now returned, and the borough’s first competition of the new term was so popular it had to be extended to two days, with SEND children from 16 schools taking part and four placed on a reserve list.

There is a ten-pin bowling event in mid-October (which 23 schools have applied to enter), followed by an Xtend multisport competition, cricket, girls’ football and a swimming gala.

Andy Lord, Sports Development Manager at Bury School Sports Partnership, said: “Panathlon has become massively important for us because previously the only events on our calendar for SEN pupils were boccia and tri-golf. By linking with Panathlon we’ve trebled the amount that we can offer.

“Our calendar has had activities and events for our least active pupils and some for those on the SEN register, but we simply haven’t got resources or funding to be able to run them with the sort of expertise and equipment that Panathlon have.

“Next week, for example, we wouldn’t even know where to start with putting a ten-pin bowling event on for SEN children, so Panathlon’s knowledge and experience is crucial.

“Chris [Sugden, our Event Leader] turns up with a van full of equipment that would wipe out our budget completely, plus the T-shirts and medals are the icing on the cake. I know they seem quite a small thing, but for these children they are massive. These are things they will remember forever.

“For us, Panathlons are the stand-out events in our calendar. Our School Games cater for all kinds of children in terms of competence and confidence, but for SEN pupils we’ve struggled to put enough on. So it’s crucial to be able to link up with an organisation like Panathlon. If they didn’t exist, to put it bluntly, we would find it very hard to expand our SEN offer.”

The first event of the new school year in Bury was at Castle Leisure Centre, where one pupil was presented with his medal and T-shirt by a Young Leader. “I’ve never won anything before!” he said to his teacher next to him. “This is the best day ever!”

“The pupils had the best time ever,” said Andy. “After the two years we have all had, to see so many children active, smiling and learning was brilliant. The T-shirts and rewards literally made the children’s day.”

Guardian Angles RC Primary School were crowned Bury primary multisport champions, with Young Leaders from The Derby High School and Hazelwood High School over the two days.

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “Our work with SGOs across Greater Manchester is gathering pace and is hugely exciting.

“We’re working strategically with Jess Simons, Active Children Lead at GreaterSport, towards holding a variety of pathway events leading towards a North West Finals in this academic year.

“The placement of Panathlon within the Greater Manchester Sports Partnership’s ‘Plan for Inclusion’ sees us become a central plank for its development. Together we will give SEND children at special and mainstream schools opportunities in physical activity they have never experienced before.”