A ‘mini Paralympian’ who is an inspiration to her peers has picked up an outstanding achievement sporting award for all London primary schools.
Sophie Wood, 11, collected the Panathlon Primary award for children taking part in the London Panathlon Primary Programme at the Barking and Dagenham event on January 27.
Sophie was persuaded to try sport through Panathlon two-and-a-half years ago and became an instant inspiration to other pupils who have a fear of trying new activities. She is now first on the list for the boccia club at school and volunteers as a young leader at a lunchtime sports club for the younger children.
Sophie said: “I couldn’t believe when I heard I had won. I like to help other people so that when they are older they can look back and see what they have done. It is great because they can try different sports and everyone can take part without feeling under pressure.
“People of different abilities can have fun and come together. Everyone wins a medal.”
Sophie, a pupil at William Bellamy School in Dagenham has two rare conditions Crouzon Syndrome and Chairi Malformation, which cause muscular-skeletal problems, weak muscles, difficulty in swallowing and some loss of hearing and sight. But this is not holding her back from her love of sport.
She was joined at the award presentation by her parents, Mandy and Geoff Wood, who say that despite suffering from severe pain, Sophie is such a happy child she is always singing at home.
“She never complains, which can cause problems if we don’t know about it,” Mandy said. “We are so proud of her winning this award.”
Geoff said: “She has always helped other children and wants to be no different from them. She wouldn’t take the last biscuit.”
William Bellamy School’s PE and Sports Lead, Donna Rose, nominated Sophie for the award. “I just had to get some recognition for Sophie and what she had achieved for herself and other children. She’s amazing and such an inspiration to others.
“Sophie was never really interested in sport and found it difficult to access, but then we heard about the Primary Panathlon event it sounded like the perfect way of allowing her to play sport in a team, and most importantly, where she could be involved in everything.
“She is now first on the list for the boccia club at school and furthermore volunteers as a young leader at a lunch time sports club for the younger children.
“We as a school have seen the massive impact Panathlon and other sporting opportunities within school have made for Sophie and she has rightfully been recognised for this. In 2015, the school had an award ceremony and she won a courage award.”
The award, which is in its second year, is presented by the Wembley National Stadium Trust, whichhas invested over £75,000 in three years of sponsoring Primary Panathlon. Its CEO Stewart Goshawk said: “Panathlon gave us a shortlist of three, who were all worthy winners.
“What was heart-warming about Sophie was overcoming her fears about sport two years ago and encouraging other pupils to take part.
“Sport has the power to bring them out of themselves and be the children they can be and then flourish.”
Sophie and more than 100 disabled schoolchildren from primary schools in Barking and Dagenham were competing at the Becontree Heath Leisure Centre in Dagenham at the Primary Panathlon – a ‘mini Paralympics’ for children.
And Sophie’s school – William Bellamy won the competition with 76 points.. The school’s Nurture Lead, Maria Playle said: “Lots of our children have never won anything in their lives. They have had a brilliant day being cheered on by other schools. We are over the moon to have won.”
In second place was Vallance School with 74 points and Southwood with 72.
The competition uses a series of team challenges to develop sporting skills in five- to 11-year-olds with a range of special educational needs. Back-to-back morning and afternoon sessions meant the pupils got an introduction to Panathlon and the chance to build foundation skills in a range of sports, including new age kurling, precision beanbag, flight path, polybat and basketball shoot.
Barking and Dagenham’s School Games Manager, Elaine Burgess said: “We now hold three Primary Panathlon Festivals a year. They are brilliant for boosting the children’s confidence.
“We also have Year 10 and Sixth Form students from Barking Abbey School who volunteer as Panathlon Leaders. We couldn’t have the festivals without them. This gives them success through inspiring the younger children as role models.”
Panathlon CEO Tony Waymouth said the Primary Panathlons had developed from the main Panathlons and were now being taken up widely by primary schools. “This is a great step forward for Barking and Dagenham and the new schools involved with an impact on existing schools and a whole borough approach to Panathlon.
“The trophy for Sophie recognises the impact Primary Panathlon can have and how an individual can embrace sport and make the most of an opportunity.”
The school which took part were Five Elms, Trinity, Beam, St Peter’s, Grafton, Ripple, James Cambell, St Margaret’s, Valence St George, Southwood and William Bellamy
Panathlon has provided disabled children with the opportunity to take part in competitive sport since 1999.
Panathlon provides sporting opportunities for over 7,500 disabled young people each year across London and 27 counties nationwide. Over 450 schools took part in Panathlon’s 115 ‘mini Paralympic’ competitions in 2014/15, with more than 50,000 active hours of sport provided to disabled children.