It was an absolute joy to be back in school last week, especially as it was at Quilters Junior School in Billericay, Essex for their 4th Annual Paralympic Week!  Run across the whole week the pupils:

·       played inclusive activities

·       heard inspiring stories from para-sports stars

·       practised resilience, teamwork, and perseverance, and

·       competed in fun games against the other class in their year group.

Talan Skeels-Piggins led the week off with a storming start.  An alpine sit-skier, paralysed from the chest down from a motorbike accident, he is the epitome of resilience.  Defying the odds he learnt to mono-ski after a week of falling over every 3 metres.  His mantra is: “Have one more go”, because it was his final run down the mountain that proved he could do it.  He went on to represent GB at the Winter Paralympics and at other championships.

Jan Helmich, para-rower and Cambridge student, told of his different journey into disability sport as he started in the mainstream world.  He is now aiming for Paris 2024.

Each day a different year group took centre stage in the Quilters main hall.  Four activities were played showcasing different abilities, learning, adaption and fun.  New age kurling – similar to curling on ice but with ball bearings on the underside of the stones – requires teamwork, skill, tactics and support as the stones become ever more pressurised.  Sitting volleyball challenges participants to keep their bottoms attached to the floor, a major challenge indeed to some of the young boys!  Sitting netball, a game I claim to have invented, is way harder physically than it looks as scooting around on your bottom (when you do not have the ball) is hard work.  It also rewards those that move away from the scrum between the low nets, teaching the children to find space.  Goalball, a Paralympic sport, the way we play it, teaches communication – a child standing behind the bench (which we use as a goal) gives directions to the blindfolded child in front of them.  It also requires resilience and teamwork.

In the afternoons the classes played against each other in each sport, winning points for a game victory, for teamwork, for resilience and for caring and respect.  I shall never forget the joy a young pupil, with extra needs, scoring the winning goal for her class in sitting netball.  And the joy it gave to her classmates, her teachers and everyone in the hall!

After wheelchair basketball on the Wednesday – I was given a welcome day off – I faced Rachel Morgan across an improvised net in a playground demonstration of tennis.  Rachel, a double world champion at blind tennis, thrashed me!  Her superior power and remarkable ability to know where the ball was, overcame my prosthetic racket and short steps, but the children loved it.  Rachel was ecstatic to announce this as the biggest crowd she had ever played in front of.

I rounded off the week with an assembly on resilience and how I had never given up.  The children listed what they had learnt before I put up my slide:

  • Practice makes progress
  • Never give up
  • Have one more go; and (chanted along with a pause)
  • I can’t do it…..YET!

It was another fabulous week at Quilters.  We are already planning a special one for the Fifth Paralympic Week next year.  I am looking forward to it already.

As Mike Wade, the head teacher says:

This is my favourite week of the school year, and all schools should have one!”

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CEO & Founder, Power2Inspire