Sherwood Park is one of many schools where Panathlon’s impact has gone much deeper than simply participating in competitions.
The school for pupils with autism and severe learning difficulties in Sutton, South London, has been involved with Panathlon for around seven years. Just a fortnight ago they were part of the Sutton team to win bronze medals at our showpiece London Multisport Finals at the Copper Box Arena.
But such big competitions are just the icing on the cake for Sherwood Park pupils, with Panathlon’s positive effects trickling down into their normal school routine thanks to a lunchtime Panathlon club in upper and lower school.
Run by teacher Ganymeade Gnahoui and external sports coach Tony Brown, the club gives pupils a chance to practise boccia, table cricket, New Age Kurling and polybat. It provides an alternative for those who find traditional sports too complex or physically challenging, as well as preparing them for the events they will face in Panathlon competitions.
“Panathlon has really has enriched and enhanced our curriculum,” said Sherwood Park Deputy Headteacher Sue Fergusson. “It has had a truly major impact on our school and thanks to our Panathlon club that impact lasts throughout the whole of the school year.
“The children absolutely love it and talk about it all the time. It has enabled us to offer them more opportunities than they’ve ever had before.
“It helps the children know what they’re going to be doing when they get to a competition, which is especially useful for those with autism. It also enables our staff to find those who have got talent and skills in different areas.
“It also helps them to start to understand the rules, which is very hard for our kids, and what is expected of them. Their skills have really improved over time and getting to the London Final this year is testament to that. We didn’t think we stood a chance, but we did really well.”
As well as qualifying for three London Finals (in 2015, 2016 and 2018), three Sherwood Park pupils have featured in our annual Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement awards – Santini Gill (Sporting Achievement award winner – pictured right) in 2017, Doreen Mukoda (Young Leader runner-up) in 2016 and Jason Bates (Sporting Achievement winner) in 2014.
Panathlon recently donated kurling and boccia sets to Sherwood Park and Sue highlighted the simplicity of Panathlon’s various sports as key to the success and popularity of the lunchtime club.
She added: “We’ve got more less-able pupils here now than in previous years. They simply don’t have the skills or athleticism to take part in tennis or football, but they can all access kurling or boccia – that’s the beauty of it. It enables all of our pupils to participate.
“Panathlon has enabled us to provide a much broader curriculum and range of sports, especially for more physically disabled children in wheelchairs. It has enriched our school provision greatly.”