The Ashley School Academy Trust in Suffolk embraced our in-school Virtual Panathlon programme so wholeheartedly that it continues to have an impact long after the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. 

The Ashley is a special school in Lowestoft who participated in external Panathlon competitions for several years before the pandemic. Once Covid-19 hit, they were one of the first schools to adopt our Virtual Panathlon offer, which gave school staff the resources to run competitive sporting activity for SEN pupils in school within the restrictions, using existing sports equipment. 

Led by PE teacher Andrew Deacon, The Ashley threw themselves into the programme, staging multiskills competitions that included every single pupil. They also used the virtual competitions to train pupils in Years 10 and 11 as part of their Level 1 and 2 Sports Leaders qualifications (with a 100% pass rate!). 

Virtual Panathlon had a galvanising effect during a turbulent period when everyone had returned to school and was adjusting to the constantly-changing restrictions back in the autumn term of 2020. 

The Ashley ran a whole-school competition with Key Stage 2, 3 and 4 teams taking turns to participate in the multiskills activities in the school hall, led by the trainee leaders. Team scores were recorded and compared at the end of an eight-week period to decide on overall winners. 

“We used it as an opportunity to enhance social interaction within school by mixing up the teams with pupils from different classes who they normally wouldn’t interact with,” explained Mr Deacon.  

“Panathlon gave us the ideas and tools and we really ran with it. It was a huge effort by staff and learners and a great success. It was particularly good for our leaders, who have now left the school for college with a certificate that will allow them to develop and prosper.” 

Even as Covid-19 restrictions have eased, The Ashley have continued the Virtual Panathlon competitions and game days (mainly for Key Stage 2 and 3 pupils) alongside their returning calendar of internal and external sporting competitions. 

Panathlon’s calendar of external competitions has also returned, of course, and The Ashley have entered several competitions near to them in Suffolk, with many more in the pipeline including swimming, multisport and 10-pin bowling. They are benefiting from using their ongoing in-school Panathlon activity as practice. 

“We now use our internal Panathlon activity to select children for inter-school competitions to enhance their skills and confidence at big events outside of school,” said Mr Deacon. 

“The Panathlon events give us so much. We want to nurture the pupils’ competitiveness as well as reap the rewards in terms of social interaction and self-esteem. 

“We love the partnership with Panathlon and really appreciate everything you guys put on for the children. It really does mean a lot. 

“The children walk around school with their Panathlon medals and we have an overflowing cabinet of Panathlon trophies and certificates.” 

Prior to Mr Deacon’s appointment as PE Lead, his predecessor Jackie Milton had worked hard to build up PE and sport provision to the extent that the school held the School Games Mark gold award. 

To be eligible for a platinum award, a school must have been awarded a gold award four years in succession in recognition of its work to promote activity, health and wellbeing for pupils. As part of the platinum application, schools must demonstrate their impact with a case study. 

Mr Deacon used the school’s successful implementation of Virtual Panathlon as its case study, and the application was successful – making it one of only four schools in the North Suffolk Sport & Health Partnership to hold platinum status. 

“We are very proud of our platinum award,” said Mr Deacon. “In making the application, it was lovely to reflect on the great things the staff and pupils – both our competitors and sports leaders – have achieved. After what the pandemic put us all through, having this award means a great deal.” 

Panathlon Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, hailed The Ashley School’s dedication to providing sporting competition and leadership opportunities for its pupils – which dates back to the start of our partnership in 2013

“Congratulations to Mr Deacon and The Ashley for continuing to develop and evolve. To see the whole school participate in Panathlon through such tough circumstances was incredible gratifying – and it’s wonderful that the school are continuing to benefit from Virtual Panathlon long after the lifting of restrictions.”