Panathlon’s positive impact in remote and socially deprived areas was evident in the East Riding of Yorkshire this term. 

Withernsea High School, situated in the coastal town 18 miles east of Hull, hosted a Panathlon competition for 60 of its pupils with special needs and disabilities (SEND). 

The school has a disproportionately high number of children with SEND (around 150) and opportunities for them to take part in competitive sport are sparse. So when Panathlon rolled into town, the reaction of teachers and staff was joyous. 

Nick Richmond, Withernsea High’s School Sports Coordinator, said: “It was an opportunity for those children to shine – to feel comfortable and confident that there’s not peer pressure from the mainstream children. 

“The Panathlon was an opportunity for them to be top of the class. The activities were all accessible and the way they were set up gave all students some form of success. It definitely lifted confidence and boosted communication skills. 

“They all got recognised with either a certificate or a medal. A couple of students said at the end, this was the only medal I’ve ever got. To be honest, it was really touching.” 

The internal competition took place in the school’s sports hall – but the next academic year will see Withernsea seek the opportunity to take part in our programme of competitions with other schools across the area. 

“This was an isolated event, but it had such a big impact,” said Nick. “The ripple effect of positivity from it lasted several weeks. The children were talking about it constantly. The support staff were all buzzing about it. 

“The PE staff got ideas for how we could start doing more things like that to increase opportunities. We’re now fully on board and want to offer as many opportunities as possible to the kids.” 

Nick explained how opportunities like Panathlon were all the more valuable in a community like Withernsea, which suffers from its isolated location and high levels of social deprivation. 

“The only provision we’ve had prior to the Panathlon is differentiation within PE lessons led by the teachers,” he said. “They haven’t received anything special outside of lessons. 

“Not many people or organisations will come out here to provide sporting activities, certainly not SEND-specific provision. Students would have to go outside of Withernsea to access that, but with it being so deprived, families can’t afford to take their children out of town. 

“As a community in general, not just a school, we need to look at how we can increase SEND provision, because there would definitely be a massive uptake on it. That’s why we were so thankful and excited about the Panathlon. 

“We would dearly like to get involved in more so we can maintain that high.” 

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “In initial discussions it was evident that Panathlon could provide a package to enable Withernsea staff to expand their knowledge and positively impact on their SEN children.

“This is precisely what we seek to achieve – effecting fundamental change which enables SEN children to have their chance to shine and take part in lifelong learning experiences.

“We now look forward to finding ways to engage Withersea in our programme of external events across Humberside and the East Riding next academic year.”