A COUNTY Durham school returned triumphant from the regional final of a national chemistry competition.

Top of the Bench is organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and featured eight schools battling it out for the Durham and Teesside regional title.

The competition was staged over six rounds, which included a practical task and two buzzer rounds.

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The practical task involved a CSI-style analytical challenge, in which students had to use their chemical knowledge and investigative skills to identify and name some mystery compounds.

The competition was won by Wolsingham, who finished ahead of Barnard Castle School.

It was something of an upset, as the boffins from Barnard Castle have made to the London final for the past two years. Other schools competing in the regional event included Durham Johnston and Red House.

Wolsingham will now take part in the final of the competition, which is aimed at youngsters aged 14-16, which is expected to be staged in March or April.

It will comprise a short test of factual chemistry knowledge followed by a practical chemical problem solving challenge.

Prizes are awarded for the best overall school and the five runners up. A special award is also made to the outstanding individual on the day.