Berkshire

Olympic diver Chris Mears supports cheerleaders stopped from competing

Chris Mears Image copyright David Gregory
Image caption Local postmaster Raj Odedra installed the cardboard postbox after Royal Mail refused to paint it gold

A Olympic gold medallist has dived into a row at his former school over pupils being banned from their prom if they attend a world championships.

British diver Chris Mears called on Willink School in Burghfield Common to grant a team of cheerleaders the "amazing opportunity" of attending the tournament in Orlando, Florida.

Two pupils have been told the trip clashes with exam revision.

The school said it was "duty bound" to refuse unauthorised absences.

Mears, who won Great Britain's first Olympic diving gold medal with Jack Laugher at Rio 2016, tweeted saying the cheerleaders "earned the right to compete for their country" and asked for the school to reconsider.

Despite his call, the school told the BBC there had been no change in stance on the issue.

Image copyright Twitter screenshot
Image caption Mears tweeted saying the cheerleaders "earned the right to compete for their country".

Gareth Green, who formed cheerleading squad Crimson Heat Tigers in 2009, said team members at "the pinnacle of their sporting career, cannot be treated in that way" by not being allowed to attend their prom.

Willink School's headteacher Peter Fry said it was "duty bound" to refuse the absence, adding nobody had received a prom ban.

In a letter to parents, seen by the BBC, he said "attendance at the Year 11 prom was dependent on good school attendance and no unauthorised absences".

He added: "Should you choose to take [the pupil] out of school, the absence will be marked as unauthorised."

Image caption Willink School's headteacher said it was "duty bound" to refuse the absence

Mr Green claims the other 25 pupils in the group - some from schools within the same local authority as Willink - have been allowed to go.

The tournament takes place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in the US in April.

Image caption The school says "attendance at the Year 11 prom is dependent on no unauthorised absences", which the competition has been classed as

In a statement Mr Fry said that the school has allowed three Year 10 pupils from the school to go to to the event, which it views as a "valuable experience".

He added two Year 11 students "would miss seven school days and return only a couple of days before they are due to sit their GCSE exams".

Therefore, he claims: "On this occasion the absence cannot be authorised."

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