Charlton Park Academy has been awarded our Jack Petchey Foundation Special Recognition award in association with Pentland Brands for embracing Panathlon’s Virtual Swimming programme so wholeheartedly during the pandemic.

Pupils at the school in south-east London for students with complex, low incidence special educational needs have benefited hugely from Panathlon’s virtual swimming template that facilitated ‘fun but structured’ water activity in the school’s small pool.

Charlton Park was one of the first schools to road-test our Virtual Swimming programme before its launch during the second national Covid-19 lockdown.

Since then, the virtual activities have become a regular feature in the school’s on-site pool, with pupils thriving on their inclusivity and accessibility.

“Panathlon’s virtual swimming is amazing and great fun,” said Lisa Innet, Charlton Park’s swimming instructor (pictured above). “I believe that being able to do the challenges virtually made it really accessible to our students and enabled them to be involved in something competitive and fun against other classes and schools, but in the comfort of their own environment.

“This achieved a fun but structured balance for our school and worked for all abilities.”

Lisa reveals that the learning staff took from our virtual activities has filtered into their other swimming provision.

Charlton Park Academy’s pool all set up for a Panathlon Virtual Swimming competition

She says: “The introduction of Panathlon within school saw a real sense of students coming together as a team and enjoying the challenges. Some of the activities were enjoyed so much that they have been used again within normal lessons, a particular favourite being the treasure hunt and ferry travel.

“I saw a difference in students’ water confidence and how excited they were to use their skills in order to achieve a particular outcome and win a race.”

During the period of Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, the school was able to use Panathlon’s virtual activities flexibly by splitting classes into teams of four and completing the 5m and 10m challenges.

During the same period, the school introduced the Swim England School Swimming and Water Safety Charter which enabled their young people to be assessed and awarded certificates.

Lisa concluded: “I believe that our involvement in the Virtual Panathlon raised spirits amongst the students and staff in what has been a challenging year for us all. Thank you Panathlon!”

In July, Charlton Park attended our London Discovery Gala at the London 2012 Aquatics Centre. Afterwards, Lisa said: “Our students were in awe of the venue and it was so nice to be able to venture out of school and take part in such a fun, exhilarating day.

“We thoroughly enjoyed last year’s virtual Discovery Gala but to experience it in another venue as special as this amongst other schools was so much more exciting and more meaningful for the students. It really was a day full of achievement, celebration and pure joy. We really can not wait to return!”

One pupil, George, said: “I was excited to go to the Olympic venue. I loved it there. I liked the races and I liked to cheer my friends on. I would like to go again and swim because I am a good swimmer!”

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “We thank Charlton Park for being pioneers of our virtual swimming programme which went on to support many pupils’ water confidence and skill development at a time when swimming participation was hugely restricted across the country.”