Scarlett Rickwood has been awarded Panathlon’s Southend Outstanding Primary Achiever award in association with Woodland Group for her amazing progress in sport.

Scarlett is a pupil at Greenways Primary School in Southend and has used sport – and Panathlon competitions in particular – to gain confidence and learn skills that benefit her in the sporting arena, in the classroom and in life. 

Nine-year-old Scarlett, who has autism, was presented with her award at Panathlon’s Southend Primary Discovery Swimming Gala on Tuesday (29 November) at the London 2012 Aquatics Centre. 

Her beaming parents Natasha and Paul were there to watch her receive the trophy and couldn’t disguise their pride. 

Natasha said: “Scarlett won her first ever medal at Panathlon and that meant so much to her, because she had worked hard for so long and always tries her hardest. 

“Although she finds it tough academically, the hard work she puts in here gets rewarded with a medal and a sense of achievement. She is so proud of herself – and we are so proud of her. We have loved her taking part in it. 

“This is such a wonderful platform for children with additional needs. Everyone is treated equally and no-one is excluded. It’s a much more level playing field than an academic exam where she is at a disadvantage form the start.” 

She added: “Sport is something she can participate in and be free. We’ve always been a swimming family and she loves the sensory effect of the water. We couldn’t go swimming in lockdown and Scarlett was so eager to get back in the water. The fact she can do it competitively with Panathlon is just amazing.” 

Scarlett has competed in two Panathlon swimming galas, as well as our 10-pin bowling and multisport events. Last year’s swimming gala at the Olympic Park was the furthest she had ever been on a school trip. It has helped her build confidence to such an extent she now wants to join Greenway Primary’s extra-curricular football club and start gymnastics out of school. 

Asked how she felt as she clutched her Outstanding Achiever trophy, Scarlett said: “I’m the greatest in the universe! I tried my best, did all the work and I’m very excited.” 

Laura Woodman, SEN teacher at Greenways Primary, revealed how Scarlett’s hard work has raised her performance level to such an extent that she now attends both SEN and mainstream PE and sport sessions at school. 

She explained: “Our SEN group have their own PE lessons, but we felt Scarlett was missing out a bit because she now has the capability to access PE with her mainstream peers.

“If you’d met her when she was in Reception class, that certainly wouldn’t have been the case, but she has come on so much since then. That’s because she always gives 100%, listens to instructions and follows rules. That’s why she now has the same opportunities as everybody else across school.” 

Mrs Woodman revealed how Scarlett has been driven on by the prospect of representing school in competition through the opportunities Panathlon provide. 

“Wearing the Greenways kit meant a lot to her at the Panathlon multisports competition. They were all so proud to put it on. 

“Scarlett fulfils all of our school values. When she goes to PE lessons or a Panathlon competition, she gives 100% and gets behind her peers. She is so proud of herself – and rightly so. 

“When she comes back to school with a Panathlon medal, she goes into mainstream class in the afternoon wearing it. That feeling for her is indescribable. 

“These experiences makes her want to try more things. She wants to get out there and do it again. It really drives her on to be better, keep working hard and take new opportunities.” 

Mum Natasha paid tribute to Greenways for the personalised learning Scarlett has experienced which has enabled her to flourish. 

“We’re so lucky Greenways have created a special needs class within a mainstream school and she spends half the day with SEN peers and half in mainstream class. She used to struggle massively, but she has progressed so much; academically, with her speech and language, in every area of her life – and sport has played a massive part in that.” 

Panathlon’s pathway of events for Scarlett and hundreds of other children with SEND across Southend is ever-expanding. We have run swimming galas and multisport competitions for primary and secondary age groups, 10-pin bowling and cricket competitions, with further expansion including football planned before the end of the academic year. 

Southend School Games Organiser Kirk Edwards, who helps Panathlon coordinate competitions in the area, said: “Panathlon has given SEN pupils across the town the confidence to get involved in mainstream sports at school, such as football, tennis or cricket clubs. That’s just one of the impacts it’s had. 

“These competitions send them back to school with so much experience and confidence. They are getting so many opportunities. It has been a massive eye-opener for new schools who come on board. A whole new world opens up for them.” 

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, commented: “Due to the number of entries for our annual Woodland Group Essex Outstanding Achievement awards, we decided to offer an award for Southend schools alone – and Scarlett is a very worthy winner.

“Thank you to Woodland Group for investing in our pathway of events across Essex and helping us increase the number of SEND children who benefit. We look forward to further growth and wider impact on schools and individual pupils like Scarlett.”