Panathlon’s swimming programme moved to the Tees Valley in the North-East for the first time on Thursday and brought immediate benefits for the competitors as many conquered their fear of water.

The A team of Priory Woods School, from Middlesbrough, won the event at Billingham Forum, but the first aquatic Panathlon was also a triumph for those of the 25 children who had not swum before.

Rachael Peacock, whose son Thomas competed for Priory Woods, said: “This was excellent. Normally, Thomas is scared of getting in the water, but speaking to him [afterwards], he hasn’t enjoyed water more in his life.”

Gary Marsh, whose daughter Chloe also swam for Priory Woods, added:  “It was great to see my daughter in the pool. It is brilliant for her confidence representing her school.”

Priory Woods’ B team finished third of the four schools and teacher Lee Puckrin was full of praise for the event.

He commented: “The structure was brilliant. The format was for the kids. Usually we are tagged on to some event. Thus we don’t compete that often. This was the opposite. It was for the children and the children responded brilliantly having an event for them.”

St Joseph’s School, from Hebburn, came second, while Reid Street School, from Darlington, were fourth.

For Reid Street, though, it was all about getting the children to swim. Teacher Debbie Hancock explained: “I had two boys who said they’d thought of every way of getting out of doing this, but they volunteered for every race. One swum 10 metres unaided! He didn’t – and we didn’t – know he could do it.

“Another boy’s perception of the water was that it was frightening. He lost that perception today and found freedom.”

Killian Dunphy, a competitor from Reid Street, added: “It was great to work with other classes at my school, be in a team and support one another.”

While this was the first time the Panathlon swim programme had been rolled out to the Tees Valley, the area has previously enjoyed our Multi-Sports Programme and PMLD competitions.

Thanks to Northfield School SSP from Stockton-on-Tees for help in co-ordinating the day and to the Leaders, who came from St Michael’s Catholic Academy, also from Stockton-on-Tees (pictured).