Young sports leaders help Panathlon stage competitive sports events for over 10,000 disabled and SEN students every year, and many of them have proved to be ideal role models for deaf children.
At the recent South England Deaf Panathlon Swimming Championships at the Aquatics Centre in London the sports leaders were deaf as well, including Panathlon ambassadors Jack Gair and Jessica Oaten.
Angela Watson, a teacher at Tany’s Dell Community Primary School who finished runners-up in the primary event, said: “The young sports leaders act as really good deaf role models for our children. They can aspire to be that sort of adult.”
Angela reports that Panathlon has already boosted her deaf students in many ways, as well as opening the eyes of her hearing pupils to what the charity does.
“For the deaf children in our school it has raised their self-esteem and their profile within the school,” she said. “They’ve come back with gold, silver and bronze medals from the events and they are presented in assembly. That’s made our hearing children aware of what Panathlon is all about. We have put a presentation up, they’ve looked at it and asked questions.
“It also gives our children an opportunity to compete on an even footing. It’s well organised, professional and Tony [Waymouth, Panathlon’s COO] is very approachable.
“I just think Panathlon events are wonderful. I absolutely love the competitive element and I think that’s something so important that Panathlon teaches the children. Life is competitive, we do want to win and we try our best.
“One of my girls said to me, ‘I’ve already got a gold and a bronze, I want a silver today!’ I said, ‘No way! We always want gold!’ I’m trying to teach them to be competitive.
“It is very inclusive. Even if you don’t come in the top three, no-one is made to feel as if they’ve lost. Everyone comes away with something. I like it that the competition element is taken quite seriously. It has to be competitive, otherwise it doesn’t have any meaning.”
The venue of Panathlon events is also important to the children, who were thrilled to discover that they would be swimming in the same pool as some of the London 2012 Olympic heroes.
“When we said we were going to the Olympic Pool, we announced it in assembly and the whole school were amazed,” Angela said. “They just absolutely love it.
“They have a trophy, medals and certificates on show, and when I announced that there’s another event coming up, they all jump up and down! When we go there now, they see faces they know, they make friends, so it’s networking for them as well.”
Angela singled out one student in particular for whom Panathlon has been a major boon.
“Asli Gorur is profoundly deaf and is in Year 4. She is so sporty and seems to adapt instantly to whatever is set out in front of her, whether’s it’s boccia, swimming or running. She has thrived on this because this is her area. She absolutely loves it and she’s got a strong competitive streak too,” the teacher said.
Panathlon has also assisted Angela and her fellow teachers at the Harlow primary school.
“It’s an opportunity for us to network when we speak to fellow teachers, so it’s been good for staff development as well,” she explained. “I’ve got nothing but positive things to say!”