Parkinson Lane Primary proved their Panathlon prowess once again by successfully defending their West Yorkshire Primary title in Leeds. 

Eight schools from across Leeds, Bradford and Calderdale – who had all won through qualifying rounds earlier in the year – gathered at the John Charles Centre for a keenly-fought contest. 

Once again, Parkinson Lane were triumphant, edging Co-Op Academy Princeville from Bradford into second and St Theresa’s Primary from Cross Gates, east Leeds, into bronze medal position. 

Parkinson Lane’s victory comes as no surprise when you learn about the embedding of Panathlon sports into the whole school’s PE curriculum and practice. 

They hold extra-curricular Panathlon sports sessions for mainstream and special needs pupils at breakfast, lunchtimes and after-school, officiated by 30 of the school’s own fully-trained Year 6 pupils. 

Last year, the Year 6 leaders ran their own Panathlon competition at Calderdale College for pupils in lower years and were assessed for their Sports Leadership qualification. Next month, they’re repeating the event with pupils from Year 5 taking charge of 10 teams and running an inter-school competition. 

“Panathlon has completely changed the way we teach sport in our school,” said Nikki Goldthorpe, Parkinson Lane’s primary PE specialist. “It’s given everybody an opportunity to be a winner. 

“Inspired by Panathlon, we have invested in a lot of equipment and used it to set up a sports leadership programme. Those pupils have become role models at our school. It gives them something impressive on their CV to take forward to secondary school. 

“Everybody is practising throughout the year, so when these competitions come along, they know exactly what to expect. They just absolutely love it.” 

The competition was brilliantly officiated by pupils from Morley Academy in Leeds as well as three volunteers from our funders St. James’s Place (two pictured in white, above), who have committed a legion of willing helpers to our competitions across England and Wales this academic year.

With her medal proudly around her neck at John Charles Centre, Year 6 pupil Sarah Khan said: “It makes me feel really good about myself that we’ve won again. My mum and dad will be really happy with me.” 

Best friends Areez and Brandon from Co-Op Academy Princeville were satisfied with their silver medals, having also finished as runners-up in our first Co-Op Academy Trust event in January.  

Areez said: “Last time, I was kind of nervous, but it was so much fun. We went up in assembly to be presented with our trophy. It was very special because everybody could see how hard we’ve been working. Today has been even better. It has really boosted up my confidence. It will boost the whole school too.” 

Sports coach Paul Rowley from St. Theresa’s Primary hailed the opportunity for pupils who aren’t always afforded the chance to succeed on the sporting stage. 

“Look at this… they’ve got smiles on their faces and they’re succeeding. If it wasn’t for these events, that probably wouldn’t happen. The vast majority don’t represent the school, but this is where they can feel part of a team. 

“Since the last event, this is all they’ve talked about. Virtually every day, they’ve asked me, ‘When’s the final?’ There’s a few who really lack confidence in sport and generally in life, and this helps build them up.” 

The event was organised in partnership with Paul Anderson, who has the dual role of Strategic Lead for the Leeds Well Schools Partnership and South Leeds School Sport Partnership Manager. 

“Panathlon just adds huge sparkle to what we do for children in the region,” he said. “We love it – whether it’s 10-pin bowling, swimming, multiskills… the schools sign up immediately. It’s the one thing our schools are always asking for – what’s the SEND provision? When are the Panathlons? It enhances our offer so much.” 

Low Ash Primary from Bradford is another school to have recognised Panathlon’s benefits and embedded it into its weekly practice at school, both in the curriculum and in extra-curricular sessions. 

“It’s our third year taking part and we now do new-age kurling, skittles, boccia and all these activities with our Year 6 pupils on a Friday afternoon,” reveals teacher Fiona Meer. “That can be a tricky time, but it’s the calmest, most competitive and most engaging event of our whole week. 

“It’s a chance for the SEND children to show other children in the class how to do it – they can be the sporting experts. Panathlon shows them they can do it! It’s especially for them, so it means a lot. The look on their faces when the ball goes in the hoop, or the skittle goes down, is just wonderful.” 

Teaching assistant Emma Hanley said Panathlon had given children from Whitecote Primary in Bramley, Leeds, “a boost that they really need.” 

“It has done wonders for their self-esteem,” she said. “When we won the qualifying event, we phoned the head teacher from the school minibus and they lifted the roof off it they were so excited! 

“It was a massive thing when they received their medals in assembly. They were beaming from ear to ear. Every time they walk past their trophy in the school entrance hall, they stop and say, ‘We did that! That’s ours!’ Now they’ll get that feeling again. 

“These are not the typical children who get picked for things. Some of them struggle making the right choices but I don’t think any of them are displaying negative choices here. They’re really thinking about the way they’re behaving and how they represent their school.”