Welcome to a new series looking at how Panathlon and the Sainsbury’s School Games are working together to engage more disabled young children in competitive sport.

First up, we’re looking at the Ashley School Academy Trust in Lowestoft, who have been involved with Panathlon over the past two years as a leadership school.

Their students have officiated at School Games boccia – physically-impaired and pan-disability competitions – and Panathlon multi-sport events within the School Games framework across North Suffolk.

Panathlon trained the leaders, who have moderate learning difficulties, in Panathlon Young Officials and Boccia Young Officials courses, then worked alongside these sports leaders from the school to run and officiate these competitions.

The competitions across the north of the county, run in-conjunction with Jeffrey Hoey, School Games organiser for North Suffolk, have grown over the two years, with 2016’s competition potentially providing access to national competitions.

The boccia training has also had a knock-on effect for the School Games Panathlon Challenge in North Suffolk.

Nine leaders from the school will be part of the officiating group leading the Panathlon Challenge in 2015. Some will lead the boccia section and, with further training, others will lead the new age kurling section.

School Games logoWith the help of the school, this multi-sport competition has grown each year and in 2015 will have over 80 disabled young people participating.

Speaking of the Ashley School’s involvement in 2014, Sophie Goddard, a MLD sports leader from the school, said:

“We have really enjoyed being involved with Panathlon. We started working with Panathlon last year with training on the multi-sport competition with East Point Academy leaders; we were very nervous about the award and working with mainstream students.

“This soon disappeared as we got to know each other and we really worked well together in training and then on the day. It was a lovely experience meeting new people and getting to lead activities with them. This has given me and everyone else more confidence setting up all the activities, explaining the rules, demonstrating, refereeing, officiating and scoring our activity.”

Fellow leader Stephen Holt said: “I worked with Ewan and Cullum from East Point on table cricket. We worked well as a team and I felt in control of my event I felt very proud of myself at the end of the day.

Talia Cooke said: “Following training, I had to officiate new age kurling which was a completely new sport to me. As the day progressed I felt more confident in officiating and explaining the rules on the game. Having the leaders t-shirt to wear made me feel like part of the team.”

Another young leader with a positive experience was Keely Cook, who said: “Panathlon is fantastic to be involved in. I love the event. I now feel confident to officiate all the games. I enjoyed it so much I volunteered to do the semi-final and to assist with the Suffolk finals in Bury St Edmunds.

“These experiences lead all of us to be trained again and then officiate at the boccia competitions held for North Suffolk. Again, all the leaders were trained to help, this time in the Boccia England Young Officials Award and, with all the experience gained, we have now done enough to get our National Governing Body qualification”.

IMG_6848Panathlon will extend its training with the Ashley School in 2015/16, to enable the school to deliver a Primary Panathlon and Panathlon Swim event in the area.

As part of Panathlon’s leadership programme, the school will also be invited to send leaders to the London Panathlon finals in the Copper Box Arena in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2016.

Jackie Milton, Head of PE at Ashley School Academy Trust, said “My Leaders have learnt a tremendous amount through the Panathlon Challenge: the activities, the rules, the delivery and the officiating.

“Their confidence has meant that have now also officiated again and again on Panathlon events and the boccia has seen them again greatly improve in confidence. Watching them officiate alongside mainstream leaders has made me very proud.

“As a school we have benefited from learning through training courses, the disability events they run, and the sports we can now be involved in. We have been able to have an impact also on the younger ones in school with internal competitions.”