Two pupils from Doucecroft School have been recognised in Panathlon’s Woodland Group Essex Outstanding Achievement awards for the remarkable turnaround in their attitude towards PE and sport.

Oliver (pictured above) and Bailey, both pupils at the autism-specific day school, were presented with their Essex Outstanding Achievement runner-up awards by Woodland Group’s Jac Randhawa at a special school awards ceremony.

When Oliver first joined Doucecroft he refused to attend PE, despite staff setting out Panathlon equipment outside his classroom and asking Oliver to come out and join his peers. Then one week came a breakthrough when sports co-ordinator Andrea Griffiths asked him to help set up the activity stations, then persuaded him to demonstrate how to use each one.

Each week after that, Oliver would help Andrea set up the stations and show his fellow pupils how to use them. A few months later, Doucecroft entered a Panathlon competition. Oliver took the plunge and joined the team – and he hasn’t looked back.

At our recent Essex swimming gala at the London Aquatic Centre, Doucecroft’s team was affected by illness and only three pupils were able to compete. Oliver swam every length and completed all the competitive activities twice.

Andrea said: “Oliver has had his ups and downs in PE but we have always managed to pull him back on task with reminders about the Panathlon trips and how he needs to practise. He always asks me when the next Panathlon event is and if he can join the team.”

Oliver’s mum, Claire Pollard, says Doucecroft and Panathlon have turned him into “a different child.”

She said: “Oliver’s self-esteem and confidence were really low before he started at Doucecroft, but now he is like a different child. He loves to get involved in many activities at school especially attending Panathlon events. It’s been amazing to see how happy he is when he comes home with medals and awards and I can see it gives him such a sense of achievement!”

Oliver’s fellow award-winner Bailey joined Doucecroft in October 2022, having been at mainstream school part-time for three years, during which time he had no access to PE. At first, he was reluctant to get active at Doucecroft too – but his love of swimming meant he couldn’t resist joining team-mates at the London Acquatic Centre for a Panathlon gala.

His mum Carrie said: “Bailey was so happy and proud that he had won a medal. We knew this would be the start of something wonderful.”

She added: “Every certificate and medal are now pride of place in his bedroom. Bailey has grown in confidence over the past 18 months, and he says his favourite subject at school now is PE.

“When he was awarded runner-up for Panathlon’s Woodland Group Outstanding Achievement award, it made us realise just how far he has come. The certificate sits on his windowsill for everyone to admire.

“We are so proud of how much Bailey has achieved, not only since being at Doucecroft, but his entire life. He has overcome many barriers, from his complex needs to being able to trust others. He’s a fighter, a warrior, a bright spark, a kind and generous young man with a smile that would brighten up the darkest day.”

At the Doucecroft School award ceremony, further Woodland Group prizes were handed out to pupils for achievements in school, including PE, sport and Panathlon.

Most Improved Key Stage S3-4 student:


Since joining Doucecroft, Kai has started to join in PE and compete in Panathlon events. He now asks to go on all PE trips, especially Panathlon. He always tries his best and is a team player.

Kai’s mum, Claire Giles, said: “As a SEN parent we are all too often asked to share all of the things our children can’t do. They sadly aren’t always afforded the same opportunities that others are without a battle, and this is where Doucecroft stands out.

“To have our children’s achievements awarded and praised gives parents the opportunity to share what their child can do. The most important thing it does, though, is boost our child’s confidence. The unachievable suddenly becomes achievable, the goal becomes obtainable, and their pride and trust in their own ability soars. It makes what for so long seemed impossible become a reality – and something to shout from the rooftops and celebrate!”

Leadership awards:


A key member of Panathlon team, Jacob will always follow the rules of a game and support his peers, especially the younger ones. Jacob will help adults set up PE lessons and is starting to lead sessions in school.

Joseph Parslow

Another key member of Panathlon team. He will not miss an event and always tries his best. He will support his peers by explaining how the games work. He event wants to be a PE teacher when he grows up!

Special Recognition awards:


Lucas is very new to the school and had never been on a Panathlon event before going to the recent swimming gala in London. It was a massive achievement for him. He showed excellent behaviour and he now tries every sport in PE lessons.


George is also new to the school but always supports younger students and attended the London swimming gala. At a football match, George even swapped teams to support the other team who were younger and had not played football before. This was a very kind act.


Billy is a very thoughtful young man and will attend all Panathlon events. He will always make sure his peers are happy with the sports he chooses to do in PE.


Peter is a very quiet young man but always tries his best and really enjoys attending any sporting event especially Panathlon. He will give 100% in any sport he participates in and comes up with fantastic ideas for activities.

Many thanks to our sponsors Woodland Group for supporting our Essex Outstanding Achievement awards.