Thu, 25 Jan 2018
GIRLS from a Newbury-based cheerleading squad have been told they will be banned from attending their school prom if they compete in “once in a lifetime” world finals.
Five members of the Crimson Heat Tigers were issued the ultimatum by The Willink School in Burghfield Common, which said that the absence cannot be authorised.
The squad has qualified for the senior world championships in Orlando, which clashes with their GCSE revision.
Club founder Gareth Green said: “The parents are very angry and frustrated.
“It’s just a really odd thing to do. They have been working towards this for eight years.
“Every girl wants to go to their prom. Why you would use that as a punishment, I don’t know.”
Mr Green had asked schools last July for information on exams so that he could draw up a strict training and revision programme for the 25-strong squad.
He said: “Every school has come back saying it’s brilliant, anything we can do to help them, apart from The Willink who have said ‘if your athletes go to world championships they can’t go to prom.’”
“It’s had a really negative affect on the children. They are some of the hardest working kids at the school. They are only allowed to train if they follow our rules on schooling.
“The first priority is that our athletes should focus on their schooling and not talk about this.
“I contacted the school and governors and asked them to really think about what they are doing. Restricting these girls going to prom when they are representing the country doesn’t look good.
“This is a once in a lifetime event. They might not qualify for this level ever again.
“I’m hoping it was a rash decision and not thought through. To be the one school in the whole of the UK seems almost embarrasing.”
The competition will be screened on ESPN and more than six million people watched the junior contest.
Team members raised £1,300 to attend the contest, being held at Disney World in Florida.
The Crimson Heat Tigers were the first non-american team to win the Summit World Championships in Orlando last year.
Olympic gold medallist Chris Mears has appealed to his former school to reverse its decision.
Dear Willink school... you supported me through all my competitions as a young and aspiring high performance athlete. PLEASE reconsider this amazing opportunity for these cheerleaders. They have earned the right to compete for their country!— Chris Mears (@ChrisMears93) January 24, 2018
Headteacher at the Willink School Peter Fry said: “The cheerleading trip to the USA is organised by an independent company, Crimson Heat.
“As this event happens every year in term time, we authorise absence for a child to go once as we see it as a valuable experience.
“This year, we have had two requests from parents of Year 11 students asking us to authorise absence to go on this trip once again.
“However, in this instance, these students would miss seven school days and return only a couple of days before they are due to sit their GCSE exams.
“The school’s priority must be to help students pass the examinations they need to help them on their career path. Therefore, we felt duty bound to refuse the requests on this occasion, for this very valid reason.
“Of course, parents are entitled to remove their child from school, but on this occasion the absence cannot be authorised.”