The SPAR Lancashire School Games annual disability swimming gala took place on Tuesday, April 2 at Salt Ayre Leisure Centre, bringing together 15 special educational schools from across the county.
Over 150 pupils took part, all requiring additional learning support and aged between 11 and 18 years.
Races were tailored accordingly to ability and age, with additional inclusion events such as push and glide, ball relay and races with arm bands taking place in the small pool, to allow pupils with varying levels of confidence and mobility to take part.
In the main pool, races were held for Key stage 3, 4 and 5, at 25m and 50m distances, and a fun run took place on the outside running track for those who did not want to enter the pool.
The gala was officially opened by Peter Dodding, sales and marketing director at James Hall & Co (SPAR UK wholesaler for the North of England), who sponsor the SPAR Lancashire School Games, alongside inspirational speaker and professional paraplegic adventurer, Shaun Gash.
Shaun Gash delivered wise words of encouragement and inspiration to the children, having scaled Kilimanjaro, completed 100km of obstacle course racing and skydived at 15,000ft.
Also in attendance were the Mayor of Preston, Trevor Hart, and the Mayor of Lancaster, Andrew Kay, alongside members of Lancaster City Council.
Year 9 pupil, Dylan Johnson (Our Lady’s Catholic College), proved a star-in-the-making with his commentary of the event and pupils from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Morecambe opened the gala with a beautiful dance routine to Coldplay’s ‘Something just like this’.
As part of the SPAR Lancashire School Games, pupils from colleges across Lancashire have been trained as young leaders, helping to judge, facilitate and support events throughout the competition.
Twenty-five young leaders from Lancaster and Morecambe College and Our Lady’s Catholic College attended the gala, and they were instrumental in supporting both the pupils and the Lancashire school games organisers in facilitating the event. The young leaders also introduced SPAR’s brand new mascots, Spartan and Sparkle, who were named through a SPAR Lancashire School Games social media competition.
Stuart Johnson, head of PE at Park Community Academy in Blackpool said: “The young leaders have been fantastic, especially in entertaining the children with the mascot suits.
“The swimming gala is a fantastic event to attend because of its inclusive nature and supportive atmosphere – the events are tailored to accommodate a range of abilities and it’s great to see the children enjoying being part of a large, competitive event.”