The challenges he faces as a deaf student haven’t stopped Mohammed Ebadi being a leader and sporting role model to his peers at Kingsbury Green Primary School in Brent, north west London.

Nine-year-old Mohammed is sport mad and his efforts to support others in taking part and enjoying sport (particularly Panathlon activity) have earned him our 2020/21 London Primary Outstanding Achievement award.

During the pandemic, Mohammed initially struggled with home learning due to his disability. He used Microsoft Teams with subtitles to access lessons but experienced fatigue, frustration and fear about Covid-19.

On return to school, he was kept in a bubble with others from the school’s Deaf and Hearing Impaired Unit. It affected him socially he really missed interacting and developing relationships with his mainstream peers.

Virtual Panathlon activity became a crucial outlet for Mohammed. As his teacher, Leanne Chorekdjian-Jojaghaian, explains: “He threw himself into sport as that’s where he thrives.

“Panathlon has given him the confidence and leaderships skills to mature and work independently. He’s inspired younger children and has thrived through the virtual activities. In the virtual winter games he began to demonstrate and support the younger children. We received a trophy and medals for our participation.

“We have really seen him develop as a leader and a really good role model, not just for younger children but for all his peers around school. He is patient and understanding and has inspired the younger children to persevere and achieve their best through sport.

“He is always ready to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in, help the little ones if they fall over and set them off again. His smile is infectious and he makes them laugh and giggle and carry on with the activity to ensure they are successful. He has been a real inspiration to others. He always perseveres and never gives up.”

As part of Kingsbury Green’s adoption of Panathlon’s Virtual Programme during the pandemic they had special Zoom Q&A sessions with our ambassadors Jodie Ounsley and James Dixon – two deaf role model who have made it to the pinnacle of their sports (rugby union and cricket respectively).

“I am inspired by them,” said Mohammed. “They talked about resilience and never giving up on yourself. I’ve also learned that no matter what, you should treat people the way you want to be treated yourself.

“I loved helping my team-mates in Panathlon while also learning stuff myself. I’m going to put this trophy on the table at home so all my family can see it. They will be very proud of me. I’m going to ask for fish and chips tonight to celebrate!”

Kingsbury Green PE teacher Judita Kantorova, added: “It has been wonderful that all of our SEND children can access Panathlon during the pandemic. It’s so eye-opening for them.

“We used to go to the external Panathlon events pre-Covid, so to have events come to us has been one consistent thing that children know about, can access and enjoy. It has been really, really helpful.

“Our children are so dedicated. Panathlon shows them that anybody can achieve as long as they put themselves forward and try their hardest.

“Day in day out, on the playground, Mohammed is the first child to step up and support other kids. He does sport every day. He really is a role model for everyone.”

The fulfilment and confidence he gets from Panathlon and other sporting endeavours has spread to other areas of the curriculum and Mohammed was recently made a Digital Leader.

His teacher Leanne explained: “He overcame initial difficulties accessing learning online and was selected as a Digital Leader. In the role, he supports children across the school with learning online to pass on his knowledge and support others. This role is across mainstream not only in the Deaf and Hearing Impaired base so it’s a big achievement.”

Mohammed’s positive attitude and support for others is all the more impressive when seen in the context of his own challenges.

His bilateral moderate sensorineural hearing loss impacted on his language development, understanding of emotions and problem-solving skills. He often missed key information, had difficulty understanding others’ emotions and fully expressing himself so he is understood by others.

But he has worked to overcome barriers and is now confident to engage with all staff and students despite his disability. He has also made great progress academically and made up for lost learning in his younger years. He has developed a can-do attitude to his studies and has matured into an independent and responsible student.

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer Tony Waymouth said: “Each year we have outstanding children involved in Panathlon, and this pandemic period has been no exception. So many young people have reacted with great fortitude and have gone beyond what those close to them had thought possible. Mohammed is an example of this.

“It has been important for us to provide a solid framework that enables schools and pupils like Mohammed to thrive in this difficult period.

“Mohammed is a role model for other young deaf children, showing what can be achieved despite many barriers in his way. We are proud to showcase his achievement as our award winner.”

Thank you to the MCKS Charitable Foundation for their support and to the Ovingdean Foundation for supporting our work with deaf pupils.