Comprehensive team rout blue bloods and carry home polo cup

3rd August 2007 at 01:00
IT IS usually the playground of princes, but now a social revolution is taking place on the polo ground, set in motion by a group of secondary pupils.

Four teenagers from St Bartholomew's comprehensive, in Berkshire, have become the first state school pupils to win a national polo championship.

On their first competitive outing, the team beat 20 more traditional, fee paying entrants, to claim the Schools and Universities Polo Association cup. The vanquished included Cheltenham Ladies' College and Rugby School. Maureen Sims, St Bart's deputy head, said: "It just shows that it does not matter where you come from. People imagine polo is not accessible, but this proves anybody can do it."

To emphasise that this is the kind of triumph of the proletarian underdog normally reserved for musical theatre, it could not have been achieved without a Lloyd-Webber. Madeleine Lloyd-Webber, wife of the composer Andrew, offered the pupils the use of her polo ponies.

Lady Lloyd-Webber said: "We just wanted to give pupils at a local school the chance to get involved. We already had a polo club and 20 ponies, and it seemed a waste of resources that they were not being used when we were not there."

She also subsidised pupils' instruction. One of the team members, 14-year-old Tess Noll, received lessons in return for mucking out the Lloyd-Webbers' stables and exercising ponies.

"Twelve months ago, I had no idea what polo was about," Tess said. "Now I'm totally addicted."

Her fellow team member, James White, 18, has been offered a place on the Young England national team. "When we first entered, we did get some parents saying, 'Who are these people? Should they be allowed to do this?' he said. "It was quite a good feeling to take them down a peg or two."

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