School pupils from Northamptonshire are celebrating success after winning silver for the county at a national mini paralympics event.
Pupils from Billing Brook School in Lumbertubs and Corby Business Academy represented the county during the first ever central region final of the Panathlon Challenge.
The team of 20 children with a range of physical impairments and learning difficulties, took part in the event at Stoke Mandeville Stadium - the birthplace of the Paralympic Games - after winning an invitation during a competition at the same venue earlier this year.
Billing Brook pupil and table-cricket player Kieran Randall enjoyed the step up in competition despite the tough opposition. He said: “It’s been good, but we’ve played some hard teams. It’s like the Champions League - you’re playing the best teams.”
The 13-year-old, who finished the day helping to secure second place in the athletics relay races, said: “It’s been great. We’re all happy to be here. It was lots of fun on the bus on the way down. It’s definitely better than being in school.”
Billing Brook School teacher, Liam Welch, added: “The kids love it. Winning is nice, but just taking part is great.
“They’ve been absolutely buzzing about the day, talking about it for weeks in advance and they’ll be talking about it for weeks afterwards as well. They are so excited to be here.”
During the competition, the Northants team faced three county champions in one of a new series of ‘best of the best’ Panathlon regional finals that raises the standard for all participants.
The Northants team started well, winning the boccia and taking second place in polybat - a Panathlon version of table tennis played with adaptive equipment - and went into the afternoon session in third place behind eventual winners Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. As the Bucks team won both the athletics field events and relay races to secure the title, Northants fought back to finish level on points with Oxfordshire, while a better head-to-head record in the multi-sport event saw them clinch second place and send everyone home in high spirits.
Mr Welch added: “For schools to come together like this is great and you don’t get that luxury very often.
“Social skills are some of the most important things we try and teach them at our school so to see them interact, celebrate when they win and shake hands at the end is spot on.
“We’ve been here once before and it was great to be invited back, but we changed the students that we’ve bought because it’s so inclusive. We’ve got kids with physical disabilities, some in wheelchairs, autistic children and kids with learning difficulties. It’s a very inclusive event, which is exactly what we’re looking for.”
Panathlon is a national charity which provides sporting opportunities for over 4,000 disabled young people across the country each year. Over 400 schools took part in Panathlon’s 84 ‘mini Paralympic’ competitions in 2013/14, with 35,000 active hours of sport provided to disabled children.