HUNDREDS of schoolchildren have put their best foot forward to take part in the increasingly-popular annual Rock Challenge.

Students from The Thomas Hardye School danced their way to victory and made it through to the Southern Finals. St Peter’s School took second place while Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA) came third. 

Over 1,000 people turned out to see 10 schools from across Dorset perform at the Pavilion Theatre on Friday evening. 

Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Mr Angus Campbell, who presented first prize to The Thomas Hardye School, said: “It was an amazing and educational experience having 10 schools producing performances which just blow your mind. 

“I never fully understood until tonight, how performance can produce the emotions and get to parts in your mind and soul that you otherwise would never see and it was created time and time again tonight.”

Speaking at Friday's rehearsals, Sophia Campbell, supervising event manager, said schools came together to compete in the dance competition on a professional stage.

“It is also about the chance to experience the adrenaline high - without the use of alcohol or drugs - just from being up there with their friends,” she said.

“They have been performing these routines for months and months. Everything on stage is created by the school and their school community. And some of them are student-led teams which is great to see.”

This year saw three teams - Corfe Hills School, The Gryphon School and LeAF Academy - return from their triumphs last year. Students from The Gryphon won the Southern Open Final in 2016, while Corfe Hills came third and LeAF fourth in the Southern Premier Final.

The show, which began at 6.30pm at the Pavilion on Friday, featured performers from 10 schools including Avonbourne and Harewood Colleges, The Grange School, Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy, Queen Elizabeth’s School, The Sir John Colfox Academy, St Peter’s School and The Thomas Hardye School.

LeAF student 12-year-old Caitlin Manrique performed last year.

“It was a unique experience that I’d never taken part in before,” she said. “It was a fun atmosphere because the schools would come together and it’s a friendly competition.”

Speaking of this year’s show, based on Syrian refugees, she said: “This year we wanted to focus on drama and emotion and we’re hoping for that same emotion from the audience.”

Around 100 LeAF students were due to perform on stage in the finale with support from 20 more backstage.

See Tuesday’s Echo for the eight page Rock Challenge special.