Panathlon’s expansion into Wales is already having a major impact west of the border, with pupils’ experience of PE and sport revolutionised in Pen Coch Specialist Primary School in Flint.
Pen Coch pupils competed in Panathlon’s first ever competition in Wales in November 2018 and then took home gold medals from the North Wales boccia competition at Llandrillo College, Rhos-on-Sea, in February – a title they will seek to defend early in 2020.
Pen Coch pupils benefited hugely from the experience of competing outside of Wales, as they along with Ysgol Pendalar represented North Wales against teams from all over the north west in a primary competition at Ellesmere Port in July. In November, Pen Coch were thrilled to finish in joint-first place at the North Wales Special Schools Primary Final at Llandrillo College.
Pen Coch’s focus now is to compete in Panathlon’s swimming gala in Llandudno in June 2020, which the school sees as an important step in children’s development beyond their regular swimming lessons.
As a result of these successes, Rebecca Roberts, who teaches PE to Key Stage 2 pupils at the school, has been inspired to base lessons entirely around Panathlon’s activities. Using the school’s existing PE equipment, she has set up games in PE lessons based on Panathlon’s traditional boccia, new-age kurling, precision beanbag, ten-pin topple and flight path events.
The school’s motto is ‘Every child, every chance, every day’ and Rebecca feels that ethos is now reflected in the PE and sport opportunities they offer the children.
She said: “Every child, regardless of disability, is now getting a chance to access a sport. Each class I have is so varied in age, disability and need, but all of the events and games can be adapted ever so slightly, or indeed significantly, to meet the need of every child who comes into the PE session.
“Going to that first Panathlon event gave me so many ideas to bring back to the school and implement. It’s been exciting.
“The children are learning so much more than just the physical side of it – waiting skills, working with a peer or groups of three or four, the social interaction. All this learning is from us incorporating Panathlon-style events into PE.
“The impact has been so big in such a short time. They’re absolutely loving it. We hadn’t seen many of these sports before and the children can’t wait to come back each week and see which games we’ve set up in the hall. They get so much out of it.”
The 98 pupils at Pen Coch have a mix of disabilities, including autism, Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and physical disabilities. Thirty-two children in Key Stage 2 have revelled in the new Panathlon-style PE lessons and taken part in the two competitions.
“The sense of pride they had going to the first event was amazing,” reflected Rebecca. “I was thrilled there was another event so soon afterwards, because what the kids got out of it that day.
“Getting them off-site and giving them an experience they might never get at home or outside of school was so valuable. To be able to give them that opportunity in their school day as a teacher was just massive for me.”
Before Rebecca started at the school in September 2018, competitive sport was limited to cheerleading, but there were activities such as bike and scooter riding, yoga and Sherborne Developmental Movement.
Now, having won gold medals and got in plenty of valuable practice in the weekly PE sessions, they can’t wait for Panathlon events to continue in 2020 and beyond.
“When I came back from Panathlon and explained it to the head teacher, she was thrilled that the school was involved in sporting competition again,” said Rebecca.
“We’ve had things like boccia kits in the cupboard and now the impetus is really there to get all the equipment out every week and make the most of it, because these events are fun, exciting and engaging for the children.”
Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “The feedback and engagement from teachers and young competitors have been absolutely fantastic since we started delivering in North Wales. We already have demand for more competitions and across 2019-2020 we have doubled the number of events. New schools have become involved and South Wales are now looking to join the Panathlon programmes having witnessed the North’s great success.”
To find out how Panathlon could benefit pupils with disabilities and special needs in your area of England or Wales, contact Tony Waymouth at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07807 984103