Panathlon’s positive ripple effect on pupils and schools was very much in evidence in beautiful Windermere for our Southern Lakes Primary Final in Cumbria. 

Our programme of competitions for both primary and secondary-age pupils has become embedded in Cumbria over the last few years – and several schools who competed at The Lakes School on Wednesday (21 June) had clearly benefited immensely from taking part. 

St Martin’s and St Mary’s Primary entered three teams in the competition and their PE coordinator Carol Quill revealed the stunning impact Panathlon has had on its pupils with disabilities and special needs – as well as mainstream children. 

“Our first Panathlon experience was at the North West Boccia Final in Liverpool a couple of years ago and that experience completely blew me away,” said Carol. 

“Since that day, we’ve done many more events and it has had a big impact at school. We’ve invested in Panathlon equipment and each year group now has the opportunity to do these activities within their games session and after-school clubs. We even have our own designated boccia area. 

“Every child is now accessing sports that they feel comfortable with and in which they can challenge themselves.” 

Carol revealed that she now uses Panathlon’s sporting activities to assess each child’s abilities. “We have a six-week session at the beginning of every term. It gives us a good insight to where each child is in terms of confidence, ability and stamina. 

“We set it up like a Panathlon, they go round in groups, we give them a chance to be captain and the children can intervene to make the activities easier or more challenging, depending on their needs.” 

She added: “Sport allows the children to keep fit and healthy, push themselves and get a release from being inside the classroom. All that becomes even more important for children who don’t feel like they can be part of a team or who feel stressed in a competitive environment. That’s why Panathlon fulfils such a vital role.” 

St Martin’s and St Mary’s team captain Tommy Galloway (pictured below) absolutely revelled in competing and supporting his team-mates. 

“Today has made me feel really happy and proud,” he said. “I love being part of a team. You’ve got to play as a team in order to win. Everybody counts – and that’s what I love about it.” 

Another pupil, Errol Keenan, added: “Out of school, I don’t really play much sport – in fact, I’m not even close to being sporty – but today might have changed my mind. It means a lot to represent the school. It’s good to get sweaty and learn new skills.” 

Winners of the event were Castle Park Primary from Kendal – and the impact on pupils was clear as they accepted the trophy and their medals from the day’s team of volunteers from our long-term funders St. James’s Place Charitable Foundation

“Some of these children don’t like PE, but they have really enjoyed this and got into the spirit of it,” said PE leader Sarah Bibby. “Shaking hands with other schools afterwards is what sport is all about. This is an event we will definitely look for in the calendar next year!” 

It was John Ruskin School’s first taste of a Panathlon multiskills competition (having already competed in one of our 10-pin bowling events) and pupils at the Coniston school fully embraced the activities. 

“Having this event and these kinds of experiences is really important for our students,” said PE teacher/HLTA, Suzanne Walker. “Whereas in school they might miss out on team sports, this is fully inclusive and pitched just right for their level. I’m so pleased we have been able to take part and I really hope we can enter again.” 

The event was organised in partnership with Sharon Nicholson, the South Lakes School Games Organiser. 

She said: “We’ve loved hosting our first outdoor Panathlon in South Lakes. Huge thanks must go to The Lakes School for allowing us to give these children such an amazing opportunity. 

“These events offer a priceless platform for children who would otherwise miss out on the chance to get their teeth into sporting competition. This is their stage to shine. The inclusivity of Panathlon is wonderful and it’s such an important addition to our calendar of sporting events for children in the area.”