Panathlon’s deep impact at Rosary Roman Catholic Primary School was very much in evidence as they were crowned our Birmingham Primary champions for the first time.

The school in the Saltley area of the Second City has participated in Panathlon for many years. Panathlon inspired them to create an extra-curricular accessible sports club and they have invested in the same equipment used in Panathlon’s multi-skills competitions. There’s also a Panathlon representative on the school sports council.

The passion and dedication that the school’s staff have put into sports provision for their pupils with disabilities and special needs has clearly had a massive impact. SENCO Sarah Banks admitted it was an emotional moment when pupils lifted the trophy at the University of Birmingham Sports Centre on Wednesday (17 April).

“We’ve come second so many times in this competition, we were getting used to being the bridesmaids!” she laughed. “The children have been so excited. I can’t tell you how many times over the last couple of weeks I’ve heard, ‘When is it? When is it?’

“Ordinarily, they won’t be the children that do well academically, so they are not often celebrated and don’t often have the opportunity to take part in schools teams – so this is their team. It’s a source of massive pride.”

The pupils’ excitement can now start building again, because by virtue of winning the Birmingham Primary Final, Rosary and the second-placed team, Tiverton Primary, will now qualify for our Central England Regional Final back at the same venue in June.

Sarah added: “Our Panathlon team is selected from the children who attend our accessible sports club. It gives them access to competitive sport – and that builds resilience, teamwork and skills that they might struggle with day-to-day such as taking turns and dealing with losing.

“Over the years they way we’ve embraced and built upon Panathlon in school has grown and grown. It really has had a massive impact.

“It is celebrated in assembly which makes the other children want to be part of the team. We have to say no because they are obviously not SEN children! It is regarded exactly the same as the football, netball or cricket team. This is a team they want to be on!”

As a SENCO, Sarah takes special pleasure in seeing up-close how sport can play a massive part in positively impacting on children with special needs. “It’s a source of massive pride,” she said. “When they attend our club and events like this, then we celebrate them in assembly, you can see the confidence that grows within them.”

Ayaan, 10, from the winning team, succinctly summed up the feeling: “It makes me feel joyful!”

That sentiment was shared by nine-year-old Tom Bohldko from Parkhill Primary: “My mum is going to tell me ‘well done’ and probably give me some cake!”

The day’s bronze medal winners were from Warren Farm Primary. Their PE coach Jodie Lewis commented: “My kids will walk around with those medals around their necks for at least the next week. Parents have told me they struggled to get them to take it off to go to bed – and even to go in the bath!

“They see children going to football games every week winning things, but this is their thing they have that the others don’t. It plays a big part in their confidence.”

For Hindi Lao, sports instructor at Minworth Primary, Panathlon is “like a form of CPD.” She said: “The differentiated activities and games show us how we can adapt to meet their needs better in PE back at school, what their needs and abilities are and what kind of equipment helps them.

“Sometimes they have shocked us here with what they can do. They enjoy PE and attend lots of extra-curricular clubs, but sometimes it’s a worry how they will react to competition. But they come here and they’re immediately raring to go. Sometimes they hit a target or score a point with a great throw and we’re like, ‘Woh! Where did that come from?’

“They go back to school and feel like they can do things. It gives them that positive mindset that they’ve achieved something and boosts their morale when they are recognised and celebrated by the school.”

The Panathlon Birmingham Primary Final was officiated by 14 volunteers from our supporters St. James’s Place. Read their reaction to the day here.