Panathlon has energised and empowered children with special needs across mainstream schools in Flintshire who previously thought sport was “out of reach” for them. 

Panathlon began delivery in North Wales in November 2018, working initially with special schools. During lockdown, we worked with Paula Roberts, Senior Learning Advisor at Flintshire County Council, to introduce our in-school Virtual Panathlon programme to mainstream schools in the county. 

When Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed in 2021, we were able to deliver external competitions again and Paula helped us introduce even more schools to our programme. We now work with 15 schools across the area, with plans to expand even further. 

Ysgol Gwynedd in Flint is just one school to have fully embraced our offer, with their pupils taking part in our primary multisport and ten-pin bowling competitions for the last two years. 

Teacher Shelley Price said: “Through Panathlon, the children have gained confidence in participating in sports as they were each able to achieve and succeed in what they were doing – whereas in school they sometimes feel that being successful in sport is out of reach. 

Ysgol Gwynedd pupils enjoy precision beanbag at a Panathlon primary competition

“Some of the children do not enjoy their PE lessons and tend to sit on the sidelines and watch the others, whereas with Panathlon they became fully engaged in the task. 

“The children still speak about what they did and the fun that they had.” 

Panathlon’s competitions often have a positive ripple effect back at school, with staff picking up ideas and inspiration for use in PE lessons and extra-curricular sports clubs. That has certainly been the case in Flint. 

Miss Price said: “We as staff have enjoyed observing the children’s enthusiasm and enjoyment during the Panathlon events and it gave us ideas how we can adapt activities easily so that they are suitable for everyone. 

“Following the session, myself and Miss Gittins have spoken about purchasing some of the resources you used so that we can provide the same or similar activities to the children, in the hope that the pupils who attended could possibly help in leading some sessions.” 

Staff at Ysgol Mynydd Isa in Mold have also taken ideas from Panathlon competitions to use within PE lessons. Staff member Hayley Green was hugely positive about our primary multisport competition they engaged in before Christmas. 

“The Panathlon event gave the children a fantastic opportunity to be involved in an activity open to other schools,” she said. “It focused the children to work at their own ability, but also enhanced their teamwork.  It was a positive morning filled with new experiences.” 

At Pen Coch Specialist Primary School in Flint, the impact has been felt across the school. Inspired by Panathlon, staff have used existing sports equipment to base Key Stage 2 PE lessons entirely around our activities, including boccia, new-age kurling, precision beanbag, 10-pin topple and flight path. 

The school’s PE Lead said: “Every child, regardless of disability, is now getting a chance to access a sport. Each class I have is so varied in age, disability and need, but all of the events and games can be adapted ever so slightly, or indeed significantly, to meet the need of every child who comes into the PE session.  

“Going to that first Panathlon event gave me so many ideas to bring back to the school and implement. It’s been exciting.  

“The children are learning so much more than just the physical side of it – waiting skills, working with a peer or groups of three or four, the social interaction. All this learning is from us incorporating Panathlon-style events into PE.” 

Tony Waymouth, Panathlon Chief Operating Officer, said: “We give a heartfelt thank you to Paula Roberts for her help in engaging schools on our behalf since lockdown. 

“The knock-on effect has been enormous with 15 schools involved across a variety of sporting activities – and more still to come. As we have heard from school staff, the impact on pupils has been immensely positive.”