North of England Panathlon Finals at Fulford School

As part of the Alternative Curriculum Day on Thursday 19th October, Fulford School hosted the North of England Panathlon finals. Panathlon is a disability event where severely disabled students with learning difficulties take part in a team to compete in a range of adapted indoor sports.

The Joseph Rowntree School finished close runners-up in the Panathlon Northern Multisport Finals on Thursday [19 Oct], after a hard-fought competition against three other regional winners.

The team of 13 students from Year 7 to Year 11 represented North Yorkshire at the event, competing in Boccia, Polybat, New Age Kurling, Table Cricket, Field Athletics and Javelin.

Fulford School hosted the final, which was officiated by 22 of its Year 10 GCSE PE students.
Defending champions Calderdale retained their crown, with Newcastle Falcons and Tyne and Wear finishing third and fourth respectively.

Joseph Rowntree School Team Leader Barry Cornforth said although it was disappointing to be pipped to the title, the day was about so much more than the competition.

“It’s about team-building, socialising, and improving communication skills, self-esteem and confidence,” he said. “We have 13 students here, from Years 7 to 11. If they’re not competing they’re on the sidelines supporting each other, which is great to see.” 

Panathlon is a charity which gives over 10,000 children with disabilities and special needs every year the opportunity to play competitive sport that they are so often denied elsewhere.

Joseph Rowntree pupil Cohen Martin, 11, was competing in his first Panathlon and said: “I can’t wait to go back and tell my friends about it!”

He added: “I was really nervous this morning because I thought it was going to be hard. But we won all three games of New Age Kurling and I did the longest standing long jump. I want to come again next time!”

Leon Pring, 13, added: “It’s fun seeing other people from across Yorkshire. We all encourage each other – even our opponents – which is nice.”

The Joseph Rowntree team was supported by many parents and family members. Adrian Willis, watching grandson Rhys Willis, 12, compete, said: “There’s so much camaraderie between the teams. It’s particularly great to see them shaking hands after each event, and congratulating each other.

“We’ve seen a massive change in Rhys since he started at Joseph Rowntree. He has Asperger’s but has come on leaps and bounds now he has opportunities like this.”

Rhys’s dad Owen Willis said: “Rhys really struggles to socialise in school, so to see him so relaxed and enjoying himself, especially in such a noisy venue, is great.

“We’ve been to quite a few Panathlon events now and they’re very well run. Everyone has smiles on their faces; they obviously enjoy it.”   

Andy Forth, at the event to watch Joseph Rowntree’s Noah Forth, aged 13, said: “It’s great to see him competing with his peers in sports he can really achieve something in. He’s buzzing about receiving a medal; he’ll be showing it to the dog, his mum – everyone!”

Fulford School’s Head of PE James Shutt, said: “Our pupils got a huge amount out of hosting Panathalon’s regional finals, so when we were asked to host the North of England final, we were delighted to oblige.   

“Twice as many students as we needed volunteered to take part. It’s a great experience for them to connect with kids with disabilities – they get as much out of it as those competing.

“They’ve had a fabulous time and, as well as being a useful life experience, it’s valuable leadership experience which will help in their university and job applications.”

Student leaders Izzie Mills and Ben Plevey, both 14, said they had really enjoyed officiating the event. “I didn’t expect to get on so well with the people taking part,” added Izzie. Ben said: “It was good watching the smiles on everyone’s faces, especially when they won!”