An outstanding performance from St Clere’s School ensured their first Panathlon title at the Southern England Deaf Boccia Championship at the Copper Box Arena in London. 

Fourteen teams from seven secondary schools competed at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Thursday (April 4) with St Clere’s ‘B’ team defeating the Essex All-Stars in the final 4-1.  

Paul Newbury, an instructor from the Thurrock-based school, was thrilled with the pupils’ efforts and cannot wait to return and defend their title next year. 

“We have been coming to Boccia events for the last three years and have had a mixed bag of results,” admitted Paul. “But today, we have brought two teams and I’m really proud of winning. Everyone has had a really good day. 

“When we first came to these events they were nervous, but they now feel part of a community. They can come here and socialise with people their age and with the same communication difficulties.  We will be back. I will be making sure our children are playing boccia every week.” 

Sheryl Davis and Sally Woods, education communicators from Essex’s Sweyne Park School – who finished fifth – were extremely pleased to see the pupils embracing fellow pupils in the deaf community.

“We can embrace the deaf community here. They love meeting up with pupils from other schools, who they met at previous Panathlon  events,” said Davis.

“They love boccia and getting involved,” added Woods. “We’ve been to quite a few events and the kids love getting involved. They all get to go and meet the headteacher with their medals.” 

Jessica, 14, is a student at Sweyne Park and admitted her competitive side can come out when taking part. “I really enjoy it and it’s great fun getting to know other schools. I will hang my medal on my wall at home but at school we have a trophy cabinet which is full up!” 

One of our deaf ambassadors, Jessica Oaten, who swims for in the GB Deaf junior squad, was competing as part of the Sweyne Park team. She was taking a rare break from training ahead of the World Deaf Swimming Championships in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in August.

It was a battle between two teams from Knightsfield School for the Deaf for the bronze medal in the day’s penultimate game, with team ‘C’ prevailing 2-1 in an incredibly tight encounter.

Knightsfield PE Lead Iwona Pniewska said: “The day was amazing and we really enjoyed the time and the opportunity to compete in another Olympic venue.”

Today’s competition was run by Young Leaders from Cambridge Regional School, who performed their duties excellently to help ensure the event ran smoothly.

The school’s Level 3 course leader, Andrew Blackmore, reflected: “What a great opportunity for our leaders to be able to come to London and play their part in such a big event. We’ve done local boccia events but nothing on this scale. We hope to be able to strengthen our partnership with Panathlon to do many more.”

Thank you to Ovingdean Hall Foundation for making the day possible and for their support for our entire deaf programme. Thanks also to GLL for hosting the event.