Virtual Panathlon has reached all corners of the country with schools hundreds of miles apart singing its praises for keeping students active and engaged during lockdown.
Andrea Wylde of Valence Primary School in Dagenham, east London and Sarah Scott from Netherhall School in Maryport, Cumbria, have joined the chorus of approval for our virtual programme’s impact through a testing time for pupils and staff alike.
“It’s been a fairly grim time for a lot of our children,” said Andrea. “There were families with parents working or unable to get their kids out doing any physical exercise. We ramped up the amount of PE we were doing when kids came back in after the second lockdown and Panathlon played a key part in that. Suddenly the children didn’t take playtime or physical activity for granted any more. It was a thing of absolute joy for them.”
Up on the Cumbrian coast, Sarah agreed: “Panathlon has had a really big impact. A lot of our students thrive in extra-curricular sport, either through Panathlon or other provision, and without it they lose that morale-boosting social element and enjoyment.”
Netherhall School’s 12 SEND students have particularly embraced the Panathlon virtual cricket activities.
Sarah explained: “If you’re playing a normal game of cricket, it’s quite difficult keeping their attention on the game, but Panathlon’s programme provides drills with batting or bowling activities where they had a clear target or were being timed. They really did enjoy them, stayed fully engaged and tried their hearts out. It gave everyone much more of a chance to participate. It has been a great opportunity.
“It’s a great way of introducing skills, whether it’s batting, bowling or throwing. The guides Panathlon sent us are all very self-explanatory, so if you’ve got a member of staff who isn’t PE or sport based, it’s a good way that they can put on a quality session without as much experience. It’s given us all ideas for things we can do within lessons to add variety and competition.
“They’ve really enjoyed the virtual activities. It’s given our SEND pupils an opportunity to take part and do some competition, because otherwise they wouldn’t have had anything.”
Andrea’s school, Valence Primary, is spread across two sites, and both competed in inter-house events using the Panathlon virtual multi-skills activities during the autumn term.
“Panathlon very kindly sent us medals which we were absolutely thrilled with,” said Andrea. “Although there’s something exciting about off-site Panathlons and our children get ‘status’ within school from coming back with medals and trophies, we have been able to include a lot more children since we started holding events in school.
“We had 30 children at one site and 24 at the other, whereas if we were hopping on a minibus to an external Panathlon, we’d only be able to take 12 kids, so we’ve been able to increase participation five-fold.”
Panathlon Events Manager, James Tinney, visited Valence Primary to lead activities on-site. “It felt like a real ‘event’,” reflects Andrea. “Having an outsider doing it made it more special for them. He brought an amazing amount of equipment with him and we had a great range of activities. We were really lucky to have James visit us.”