Priory School pupil Colby Jones has developed into a role model and leader to his Panathlon team-mates – five years on from winning one of our Outstanding Achievement awards as a nine-year-old.

Back in 2017, Colby was named Panathlon’s Emma Holloway Foundation Outstanding Achiever for Suffolk for his success in Panathlon in the face of learning and communication difficulties caused by his hearing impairment.

Sport-mad Colby found Panathlon to be a platform in which he could thrive, competing for the Priory team who finished runners-up in our first ever deaf swimming competition at the London Aquatics Centre five years ago.

He has competed in many Panathlon competitions before and since. His involvement in our boccia events culminated in his appearance at the 2019 Boccia England National Boccia Championship in Sheffield.

At our recent South East Regional Swimming Final (on April 29), Colby was back at the London Aquatics Centre; this time older, wiser, and in a role which reflected his maturity and leadership status within school.

Colby directs his team-mates at the Panathlon South East Regional Swimming Final

Colby explained: “Our main teacher [Tom Parkington] wasn’t there because he was ill and our substitute teacher had never been to a Panathlon before, so I stepped up and took over a little bit.

“I told the younger ones what lane they needed to be in, what they should be doing, how to approach each race and stay calm. Panathlon definitely helps my confidence and makes me a better leader.”

Now 14, Colby is currently undertaking a Young Leader course and will begin his Sports Leaders Level 1 qualification next academic year. They will complement the experience he has already gained by instructing and inspiring his peers.

“I told the school to use Colby as a co-teacher at the Aquatics Centre because that’s the standard he is at within his sports leadership abilities,” said Priory School PE Lead Mr Parkington.

“As a Panathlon ‘veteran’, Colby knew what to do and that allowed the teacher who went to really enjoy the experience as otherwise she may have been frantically worrying about what to do.

“Colby is involved in the sports leadership programme we run at school. He helps in PE lessons and leads activities. He is a good role model for the other kids. He is very confident in front of younger students and his communication has really improved this year. He is inspiring students who are a lot younger and who will hopefully move into our Panathlon teams very soon.”

Colby (left) with fellow Emma Holloway Foundation award winner Mikey Wade back in 2017

Colby represents Essex at pool and has started to compete in kickboxing. “He is an all-round sportsman and that is a good fit with a role in our PE department,” said Mr Partington.

The return of Panathlon’s calendar of external events has proven to be a huge boost for Priory School’s PE department.

“It’s such a massive complement to what we do,” he said. “During the pandemic we had to come up with our own ideas for competitions and some of them were cool. It plugged the gap, but nothing can ever replace mixing with other schools and that sense of competition and participation.

“Having events at venues like the London Aquatics Centre is irreplaceable. It’s a massive opportunity. It’s something we as teachers, as well as students, look forward to every year. We organise our calendar around the Panathlon events. Because of the exposure to competition they offer, they are of the utmost importance to us.”

Tony Waymouth, Panathlon Chief Operating Officer, said: “Priory School’s success in Panathlon swimming competitions over the years is thanks to role models like Colby who leads the way and instils confidence in his peers.

“It is terrific to see Colby’s development since he won his Emma Holloway Foundation award five years ago. Colby has taken on responsibility within school and we hope to give him a platform at Panathlon to explore his leadership skills even further.”