Panathlon has helped turn Doucecroft School pupil Joseph Parlow into “a confident, happy young man” and his progress was rewarded with our Woodland Group Essex Primary Outstanding Achiever winner’s trophy. 

Joseph was initially reluctant to take part in physical activity at school, but the expertise of Doucecroft’s sports coordinator Andrea Griffiths – using the ‘vehicle’ of Panathlon activities – has helped to gradually convert him into a capable and active competitor and leader. 

When Joseph first joined Doucecroft, a specialist school for 3-19-year-olds with autism and additional complex needs, he was cajoled into taking part in Panathlon games in the classroom with one-to-one support. 

Joseph with Panathlon’s Harry Bowtell, whose role is supported by Woodland Group

He was then asked to join Key Stage 2 PE sessions on the school’s sports pitch. Staff prepared visual guides for each activity, which were set up in the exact same way as a Panathlon multisport competition. 

Joseph gave it a go – and worked in a small group of peers. Within weeks, he had built up trust and confidence to join in with a sports trip off-site, something he had previously found too daunting. 

Over time, he developed understanding of team games and rules and started attending weekly swimming sessions. He then proudly took his place in the Doucecroft team for the Panathlon Essex primary swimming gala at the London 2012 Aquatics Centre. 

“He kept telling us he was in the Olympics!” chuckled his mum Caroline Parslow. “He’s not too interested in the winning and losing, but he loves working as a team.” 

Caroline revealed that Joseph took part in the Virtual Panathlon activities during lockdown and encouraged his younger sister to join in. 

His interest in sport has now been stoked to such an extent that he has joined a junior football group in nearby Ipswich where he plays every Saturday. 

Joseph with his mum Caroline, sister and grandparents

Andrea has also entered Joseph in the group of pupils training for their primary sports leadership awards. 

“Panathlon has helped Joseph turn into a confident young man,” said Andrea. “No matter what mood he’s in, or setback he has suffered, he will always have time for anyone.” 

Mum Caroline added: “When we look back, Joseph never used to want to go off-site, but he has now been on so many trips with the school and it has made a huge difference. 

“He has improved so much and made new friends. There has been a real improvement in his coordination and generally in his confidence. We are so delighted and must thank Doucecroft and Panathlon for the changes we’ve seen in our boy.” 

Joseph was presented with his award at a special Doucecroft School Christmas celebration by John Stubbings, Jac Randhawa and Chris Harvey from Woodland Group, Panathlon’s sponsors of primary sporting activity in Essex.