Val French, of the region’s Inclusive Schools Sports Partnership, is in no doubt about the impact of Panathlon events in North Yorkshire. “It’s huge. Panathlon is now held in high regard across all our schools,” she said.
Val added: “We previously ran Festivals, none of them gave our young people the opportunity to compete in meaningful and appropriate competitions that met their special needs. The support from Panathlon has enabled us to provide opportunities on a huge scale bringing, literally, hundreds of these young people together in good quality sporting venues.”
Panathlon was introduced initially to schools across York, then across North Yorkshire and, more recently, to Pocklington, just over on the East Riding side of the county boundary
In this last year academic, the new Panathlon Xtend was introduced to target KS3 pupils who were missing out on events, this complements the Primary Panathlon’s, Swimming, Ten Pin and Special School Multisport.
Val said: “The very positive feedback from teachers, parents and the young people themselves meant adding several more events to our calendar. In addition, we have also introduced a Panathlon Ten Pin event which we are hoping to extend further this year. A new Tennis Panathlon was due to be trialed at Pocklington Tennis Club, which sits in the East Riding but has been put on hold due to the coronavirus.
“The impact on our young people has been huge. Most of our schools have very limited sports facilities, with only a small gym or halls not fit for purpose. Through Panathlon we have been able to show teachers the events that they can run and adapt in their own settings, which give these young people the opportunity to develop their skills, gain in confidence and in their own worth and self- esteem.
“The medals they receive from Panathlon have a massive impact and we are constantly blown away by the pure joy on their faces on having something to show for their efforts. In addition, they are encouraged to be the best they can be and for the first time in their lives they have competitions with a clear pathway.
“Many of our youngsters have now gone on to county regional and even national finals. Panathlon is now held in high regard across all our schools.”
Val says that the county’s special needs schools have benefitted the most from Panathlon and now they are working hard with Panathlon to bring on board mainstream schools SEN units.
Val adds that it is a constant process of reviewing the events and looking to extend their activities.
She says: “Our latest project is Panathlon Tennis. As a keen tennis player, myself and a lifelong member of Pocklington Tennis Club, with Panathlon’s support I am working with our club coach who is keen to develop disability tennis. Due to the coronavirus, the pilot event is on hold but we anticipate rolling this out as soon as we can and – if successful, which I am confident it will be – we will then roll this out across all our North Yorkshire special schools and mainstream with SEND.”
We also have seen also Deaf provision increase, we held a Panathlon Deaf Orienteering day in York and also York Council having a deaf swim team for a Panathlon event
Val also admits that working with Panathlon has stopped her winding down. She says: “Since meeting Tony Waymouth and getting the support from Panathlon, life has truly been enhanced for our young people and, although I supposedly retired two years ago, I am so passionate about Panathlon, it is impossible to stop!”
Fran Nicholl, School Games lead for North Yorkshire also a key component in Panathlon’s development in the county around swimming said “Panathlon swimming galas provide a fantastic opportunity to compete against other schools in a structured, inclusive, fair competition. The programme is well designed so disabled pupils of similar ability compete against each other.
“Swimming is part of the Department of Education’s desire to improve standards and this gala structure and competition at all ability levels challenges pupils and makes them strive to get better. Without Panathlon swimming competitions, many children in North Yorkshire with SEND would not get the opportunity to participate and to also compete regularly at regional levels.”