Mid Wales

Aberystwyth indoor skydiving pupil Sian Spence sits GCSE

A schoolgirl has turned skydiver - for her GCSE exams.

Sian Spence, 15, of Penglais School in Aberystwyth, has passed a practical exam in indoor skydiving as part of her physical education course.

In what is thought to be a first in the UK, Sian has needed special permission from her teachers and the Welsh examination board, WJEC.

Her parents are both skydivers, and her father once coached the parachute display team the Red Devils.

As part of the GCSE PE course, pupils have to complete four practical activities, including two done "off-site". Sian selected skiing as well.

Her father, Sandy, said she passed her exam with flying colours on Wednesday, achieving a mark of 93%.

A special criteria was drawn up by her parents, her school and Airkix, the owners of the skydiving tunnel in Manchester where Sian has been training.

Indoor skydiving is described as a high adrenalin hobby, where participants feel the buzz of free fall without having to leap out of an aircraft with a parachute.

Wind speed in the indoor tunnels can reach 120mph (193kph), and children as young as four can take part.

There are only three skydiving tunnels in the UK, at Manchester, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

Sian's father, who also served in the Parachute Regiment as a volunteer reserve, met his wife while they were skydiving.

Meanwhile, Sian's 83-year-old grandmother performed an indoor sky dive for her 80th birthday.

Sian first tried indoor skydiving when she was 12.

"I immediately loved it, but I hadn't been for a couple of years because the indoor skydiving centres are too far away," said Sian, before her exam.

Shocked

"It wasn't until I had to choose an off-site activity that my dad suggested indoor sky diving and I thought it made sense."

Sian said her plan came as a surprise to staff at the school.

"When I told my PE teacher she was shocked, but she thought my idea was exciting," Sian added.

"School friends who knew me weren't surprised by my idea, but others were shocked and questioned whether I'd be able to do it."

Sian had to perform several movements while flying flat on her stomach in the huge 39ft (12m) high tunnel in Manchester.

"The professionals at Airkix and others around the country have been working with Dad and Mum and my school on the criteria for the exam," she said.

"In the meantime, I've been able to get some practice in."

Sian explained what she loved about indoor skydiving.

"I love the feeling of weightlessness and the feeling of the air pressure pushing against you," she said.

"Being able to move around wherever you like is a great feeling. You think to yourself: 'I shouldn't be able to do this but you can.' It's magic in some way."

One of Sian's PE teachers, Caren Phillips, said: "This was certainly a new one for us and for the examining board as well."

Ms Phillips said Sian's examiner would be a one of the members of the British sky diving team.

An Airkix spokeswoman said Sian's dedication and determination had seen her progress rapidly.

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