The sight of nearly 100 children experiencing their first external Panathlon competition for 18 months was described as ‘joyous’ after last week’s double primary final in East London.

Mayfield School in Redbridge was the venue for two primary multi-sport competitions on 6 October with 12 schools competing on the day. Chadwick Primary and Aldersbrook Primary took home the gold medals but it was the sense of release for SEND pupils that will live longest in the memory – as well as a highly fulfilling experience for the Young Leaders.

Teresa Scully is PE teacher at Mayfield School as well as the local School Games Organiser. She said: “It was just great to have competition back and an activity that was inclusive for students who have missed out for so long.

“It was really inspirational to see the smiles on the faces of the primary school children who attended. It was nice to see students in different coloured shirts all taking part in a competitive but lovely atmosphere. I definitely had a fuzzy warm feeling at the end of the day!”

There was a neat symmetry in the area’s first post-lockdown school sports event being a Panathlon competition, as a primary Panathlon was the last inter-school sport event that took place in the borough before Covid-19 first struck back in February 2020.

“So often, we see the same schools and the same able-bodied kids get to the London Youth Games finals,” said Teresa. “The traditional netball, football and cricket competitions also usually have the same schools winning. But within the School Games, things have changed lately and we put on events that reflect the needs of schools in the locality.

“We have a large number of SEN students at primary, secondary and special schools and we ensure we do not neglect that part of the population. It’s very important we offer physical activity and sports festivals that give them equal credence to every other activity we do. That’s why I’m so happy we’ve got Panathlon. If it wasn’t there it would be a huge loss and lots of students simply wouldn’t get those opportunities – and Young Leaders would miss out hugely too.”

Young Leaders from the host school Mayfield officiated and guided young competitors at the double primary event. Teresa commented: “It’s so rewarding for young people to be the leaders and facilitate the competition. They are thrown in at the deep end and they benefit so much from that. They really excelled and got so much praise from visiting staff about how they conducted themselves and ran the event with such enthusiasm.

“Mayfield is an area of disadvantage and quite a number of our young people need their confidence building or have behavioural issues. The school’s Leadership Academy senior management team use things like Panathlon as a tool to build their skills and at yesterday’s event it was obvious they really got something tangible from it.”

Momentum is quickly re-building now and such was the high demand for the initial ‘comeback’ competition that a third primary event is being planned for November at Mayfield Leisure Centre, with a secondary-age event also in the pipeline.

Momentum is quickly re-building now and such was the high demand for the initial ‘comeback’ competition that a third primary event is being planned for March and a ten-pin bowling event for December. Others in the pipeline include the return of the borough’s Panathlon swimming gala and a secondary-age Xtend event.

Tony Waymouth, Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “London Borough of Redbridge has always been a major delivery area for us and the demand that existed pre-pandemic has certainly been re-invigorated in this comeback phase. The appetite to re-engage has seen us almost reach pre-Covid levels straight away.

“We hope to be able to have a programme across the year that’s close to where we were 18 months ago and thank both Teresa and Charlotte Marsh for the work they have put in to help make this happen.”