Guy Wilkins is retiring as Assistant Headteacher and Head of PE after 30 years at Marjorie McClure School – and leaves a legacy of sporting excellence that is heavily intertwined with Panathlon.
Marjorie McClure pupils have benefited from Panathlon competitions since 2003 and Guy led his Bromley team to victory in the first ever London-wide disability final in 2005, which was held in Marjorie McClure’s school hall and playground.
Looking back over his three decades at the special school in south-east London, the 60-year-old says Panathlon has “shaped our curriculum” and provided numerous personal highlights for both him and his pupils.
The pilot Panathlon swimming competition in 2013, the girls’ football tournament, powerchair competitions and our London Multi-Sport Finals at the Copper Box Arena are just some of Guy’s highlights from Marjorie McClure’s long history of participation. “We’d never have got those kinds of opportunities without Panathlon,” says Guy.
“My whole teaching career here has been so supported and mirrored by our school’s journey with Panathlon,” he adds. “The charity has opened the door to so many opportunities for our pupils to do something that really matters to them – giving them that treasured feeling of representing their school.
“Every time you go to a Panathlon it feels special and they are days that will be forever in those students’ memories.
“Our PE curriculum here is mapped around Panathlon. We focus on football in the autumn term in the build-up to the annual Panathlon football tournament, with the carrot of potentially reaching the final at Wembley. In the new year, we practise the multi-skills activities like kurling, table cricket and Polybat leading up to the London Finals and we have an integrated swimming gala in March which runs parallel with Panathlon’s events in the pool.”
Guy has played a significant part in the growth of Panathlon’s girls’ football programme which is projected to see double the number of days by the summer of 2021 across London delivered in partnership with the Football Association. He has also played a big role in the development of Panathlon swimming.
“As Head of PE, I can line up our curriculum with Panathlon’s calendar, and because of its longevity I can be certain these events are all happening,” he says. “In my time working in education, I’ve seen new initiatives come along but then the money runs out and they disappear, but Panathlon has always been there.”
Around the time of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Marjorie McClure School re-branded their education programmes as ‘The FLAME’ (Fun, Learning And Movement Education). They ensured their programmes promoted values such as personal excellence, determination, courage, friendship, respect, equality and inspiration.
“Panathlon’s activities are the perfect vehicles for these life skills,” explains Guy. “Our engagement in Panathlon was – and still is – the ideal way for us to put these strong values into practice by pupils showing high levels of perseverance and the ability to be part of a team. It’s been a great way to create our own 2012 legacy.”
Adil Ghani, a former Marjorie McClure pupil, represented Bromley numerous times in Panathlon events and went on to become a Panathlon Ambassador. He had the honour of reading the Panathlon Oath at our showcase London Final at the Copper Box Arena in 2014. When he left school, he gave Guy a watch with the inscription, ‘Thank you for lighting the flame’.
Adil now works for The Ability People, a disability inclusion consultancy, which was founded by Panathlon Ambassador and triple Paralympic medallist Liz Johnson.
Another Marjorie McClure alumnus is Tom Clements (pictured below with Channel 4 presenter Alex Brooker at Panathlon’s London Final in 2015). Tom is a former Panathlon team captain who’s now 30 years old and has returned to the school to work as a Level 2 sports coach. He will be taking on Guy’s Wednesday PE classes when he retires at the end of the autumn term.
Barry McDonald is another former pupil who, through Panathlon connections, got the opportunity to carry the Olympic torch on its journey to London and competed in the London wheelchair mini-marathon.
Aminata Kalokoh, who won Panathlon’s Wembley National Stadium Trust Outstanding Achievement award in 2017, is another of Guy’s pupils at Marjorie McClure pupil whose involvement in Panathlon has reaped huge rewards.
“Panathlon has been absolutely vital on the sporting and leadership journeys of pupils like Tom, Adil and Barry,” said Guy. “Short-term, it provides beaming smiles, medals around necks and amazing memories like singing on the bus on the journey home. Long-term, the opportunities and confidence it provides really are limitless.”