Panathlon’s influence on SEND children in Sheffield has been described as “absolutely massive” – and it’s going to get bigger and better throughout 2021/22.

Thanks to our partnership with Sheffield’s Links School Sport Partnership, we have held Panathlon competitions in ‘the Steel city’ for many years (and we maintained provision throughout the pandemic through our Virtual Programme, face-to-face delivery in schools and camps during the holidays).

With Covid-19 regulations now allowing external competitions again, we have planned a calendar of events which will once again give local children priceless opportunities to represent their school in sporting competition.

Dawn Wood, Links SSP’s School Sports Coordinator, said: “The thing about Panathlon is they are fully inclusive of everybody. Not many people can actually say that. They say it blithely but they don’t really know what it truly means to include every single person. Panathlon can look you in the eye and say they definitely do that.

“We’ve been connected to Panathlon for many years and we really value what they do. Here in Sheffield, there’s no-one else quite like them. They are a really great service provider. What they do is fantastic, we absolutely love it.”

Panathlon and Links SSP collaborate to organise a calendar of activities for SEND pupils in the city at mainstream schools and special schools.

Over the summer we held SEND sports camps hosted by Young Leaders whom we had specially trained in schools beforehand. “The children and young people got so much out of the camps, especially as they had been denied an outlet for physical activity for a long time,” said Dawn.

In September, Panathlon participated in a multi-sport disability sport showcase at the giant England Institute of Sport in Sheffield. Held to coincide with the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, adults and children with disabilities and special needs came along to try out specially modified versions of football, rugby, wheelchair basketball, karate, cycling, dancing and more, with Panathlon having its own designated area for people to try out our activities.

There are now big plans for events over the coming academic year, including swimming galas (for secondary age children and ‘discovery’ galas for younger pupils), ten-pin bowling, multi-skills competitions for primary and secondary age pupils and Christmas holiday camps.

“We are driven by the activities the schools want them to try,” explains Dawn. “It’s our aim to be inclusive for all children, so we put on activities for mainstream children and those from special needs schools. Panathlon’s expertise is absolutely vital to ensure all abilities are catered for, including those with the most challenging physical and learning issues.

“They provide a service that others don’t because they can modify and adapt their activities so that children with PMLD and the most challenging disabilities can still thrive. What’s more, they train Young Leaders so the events run smoothly and older pupils benefit from leadership experience.

“The impact is absolutely massive in terms of enjoyment, social skills, communication and all the benefits that physical activity brings.

“To see children with severe learning and communication difficulties given independence, enjoying movement and getting a sense of achievement is priceless. Panathlon are a brilliant organisation and we love working with them.”

Panathlon Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Dawn and Craig Malkin from Links SSP over many years. We’re now working collaboratively to evolve our programmes, adapting the content and delivery methods to maintain the momentum we’ve built up so far. As partners, we are giving as many children as possible opportunities to participate, represent their schools and have access to provision during school holidays.”