Barking & Dagenham, representing London, won the inaugural Panathlon South Divisional Final at Basildon Sports Village in October.
Essex were represented by Thurrock schools Beacon Hill Academy, Treetops, Harris Academy Chafford Hundred and Ockendon Academy, while Arbour Vale flew Berkshire’s colours and Trinity, Robert Clark, Eastbrook All Saints represented barking & Dagenham in a range of sports, including boccia, table cricket, kurling, polybat and athletics.
This was the highest-level event ever staged by Panathlon, whose nationwide programme in the last academic year saw a record 10,083 disabled children from 563 schools across 27 counties engage in competitive sport opportunities that they are so often denied.
Thurrock, who retained the Essex title in June, were backed by Active Essex and Woodland Group, and managed by Brandon Mullin, head of PE at Beacon Hill Academy.
He said: “For us, the Panathlon is our biggest event of the year, as many of the other things we do are more focused on fun and not competition. This is our main one in terms of out-of-school competition.
“We have been part of Panathlon for about seven years. The biggest thing our youngsters get out of it is a lot of confidence and the experience of achieving success as a team.
“There is also the self-confidence aspect of meeting and competing against new people in these big venues.
“We really welcome the competitive element of this event. Whether they are winning or losing, it is a great experience and teaches them what they need to practise, and the importance of it.”
Brandon Morris, 17, from South Ockendon, wowed everyone with his incredible javelin and seated shot putt throws which came close to a Panathlon county record.
He commented: “I am pleased with how today has gone. I felt I had done well and it was great to be cheered on by all the other teams as well as my own team-mates. It was a really nice atmosphere and a great day to be part of.”
The event, which was supported by St James Place Foundation and Active Essex, was overseen by young leaders from Great Baddow High School in Chelmsford pictured;
Jess Ferguson, head of PE at Great Baddow, said: “We are delighted to play our part in this fantastic event. We have been involved in the Panathlon for a few years and all our leaders have been trained to help run these events.
“All the pupils are either taking part in a Level 3 sports qualification or a Level 3 in health and social care. It gives them fantastic leadership experience and also adaptability and being pro-active. I think they are inspired by what they see and the high level of competition on show.
“Some of our students have attended the Panathlon and then got more involved in sports and disability in further education.”