Parkinson Lane Primary School in Halifax were so inspired by Panathlon competitions that they have trained 60 Year 6 pupils to lead adapted sport sessions for younger children with SEN in school. 

The school began taking part in Panathlon three years ago and have been remarkably successful, winning our West Yorkshire Primary Final in 2021. They brought three teams to our Calderdale Panathlon Primary events on 23 and 24 November: their Year 4 team won bronze and their Year 5 and 6 teams both won gold. 

Their success should come as no surprise, as the school’s pupils with SEN are receiving expert coaching every week at breakfast, lunchtime and after-school clubs from their own fully-trained peers! 

Inspired by their initial participation in Panathlon, Parkinson Lane purchased some of the adapted sports equipment they saw and used in our competitions. 

In September last year, they selected 30 leaders from Year 6 who used the equipment in delivering activities and competitions to eight different groups of fellow pupils (both mainstream and SEN). 

This culminated in a large competition, held outside at Calderdale College in the summer term, where they were assessed by local School Games Organisers. All achieved their Sports Leaders awards and were able to graduate to high school with a certified qualification.

 This academic year, another 30 Year 6 pupils have begun leading sports sessions in school. Come summer term, they too will host a Panathlon-style competition for SEN students and be assessed for their sports leaders qualification. 

“We came to quite a few Panathlon competitions and were inspired,” said Parkinson Lane Primary’s PE specialist, Nikki Goldthorpe. “We got so much out of them, so we thought why not take it on board back at school? So we invested in the equipment and resources to enable our sports clubs to be fully inclusive. 

“We decided to run a competition of our own at the end of the year, which benefits not just the children with SEN competing in it, but the older children who can train all year, run the event and get valuable experience and a qualification.

“We believe in creating leaders from a young age. They absolutely love the responsibility of running activities. They are assertive and good organisers and have become role models for the younger students.” 

The leaders run the same new-age kurling, Murray tennis, target throwing and basketball activities that feature in Panathlons. They also make up their own games and adapt the rules to suit the children’s abilities.

As she watched her Parkinson Lane pupils collect their gold medals in Thursday’s Panathlon Calderdale Primary event at Calderdale College, Nikki reflected: “The kids absolutely love this. It’s perfect for these children who probably wouldn’t participate in other sporting activities. 

“It builds their confidence, makes them feel good about themselves and by being successful and coming back to school with medals, they become role models for other children with special needs back at school. 

“It definitely affects attainment in class. When they’ve done sporting activity like this, it shows in the classroom. They are more mentally alert and they gain confidence so they’re more likely to put their hand up in class to answer a question. They might not be as quiet as they were before and they’re a bit braver. It’s brilliant seeing all the different positive impacts it has.”