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Sibling success and history-making feats at National School Championships

Reading School made history at the weekend after they became the first outfit to ever win both boys competitions at the National School Championships – with headteacher Ashley Robson highlighting the impact of three brothers in their side.

The Berkshire side finished top of their pools in both the KS3 and KS4 competitions, before going on to take narrow victories in both events.

The girls’ competitions saw a second successive win for Arden Academy in the KS3 event, with The Westgate School easing to victory in the KS4 category.

Merlin Dillingham helped the Reading School to victory in the KS4 category, with his two younger brothers – Alex and Toby – both contributing to the KS3 success.


And Robson was delighted with their efforts.

“We’re very pleased that we’ve become the first school in the history of the tournament to win both events,” he said.

“There’s been some excellent coaching by Steve Pedlow and he’s been a great inspiration to the students.

“We’ve got three brothers who have been in the winning teams so there’s some very proud parents there. It was a great team effort, we won 3-2 in both the final matches so it really went down to the wire.

“It was a mixture of skill and effort that won the day so we’re really proud of the boys.”

Reading’s success in the KS3 event came after beating both Wilsons School and Gosforth Academy 5-0 in Group 1.

They did not have things all their own way in the medal group, but two 3-2 wins over The Manchester Grammar School and Tapton School were enough to seal victory.

In the KS4 category a 4-1 win over Devonport High School was followed by a 3-2 success over Birkdale High School, leading to more close encounters in their medal group.

But 3-2 wins over Clayton Hall Academy and Tapton School saw them prevail to ensure a double victory for Reading.

In the girls’ competition Arden Academy began with a 5-0 win over Sheffield Girls High School, before edging past Kendrick School 3-2 to set up a place in the medal group.

Queens Elizabeth’s Academy Trust were beaten 4-1 in the first match of the final stage, with a 3-2 victory over Chelmsford County High School ensuring Francesca Barbieri left Milton Keynes proud of her performances.


“It’s a great achievement because we’ve won a national competition, which feels great,” said the pupil. “I felt like I was going to throw up the whole way through it but I actually really enjoyed it. Everyone’s been really nice and it’s been great playing in this environment.”

And for Robert Hunt, head of PE at the school, it was further evidence of their investment made into the sport in recent years.

“We thought that the competition this year was even stronger,” he admitted.

“It’s had a massive impact on the school. We’ve put more clubs on in badminton and we’ve got more kids playing badminton.

“The girls are big role models now and the boys will have to step it up over the next couple of years. The girls have absolutely loved it.

“They’ve had smiles on their faces all day, even when results haven’t gone our way. The teamwork they’ve shown helping each other along has been absolutely superb.”

In the KS4 event The Westgate School beat both Ecclesbourne School and Polam High School 5-0 in Group 1, before going on to do the same to Hymers College in the medal group and sealing their overall win with a 4-1 triumph over Truro School.

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