A FORMER head boy from Kirkby Stephen has moved a step closer to the semi-finals of student quiz University Challenge.

William Tams, 21, and his team-mates beat their rivals Jesus College, Oxford by 195 points to 100 - described by host Jeremy Paxman as "a terrific score".

The famously stern-faced quizmaster said Durham were "storming" during Monday night's episode on BBC Two.

William's mum Daphne Fisher, sister Bridget and brother George were cheering him on in the studio audience when the quarter-final match was filmed several months ago, at the BBC studios at Salford's MediaCity.

Meanwhile his grandparents, Anne and Geoffrey Fisher, have been following his progress from their home in Shap.

This week's questions ranged from astrophysics to Venetian art, classic music, fashion and a picture round on 1980s computer equipment.

Two of the questions correctly answered by William were:

l which geological period saw the formation of half the world's petroleum reserves and the White Cliffs of Dover, and ended with a mass extinction; Jesus College buzzed the answer "Jurassic", but William got it right with "Cretaceous"

l and, according to the RSPB, what is the most common breeding bird in the UK, described as dumpy and almost roundish; William buzzed the correct answer, "wren".

The final-year biology student said he met up with his team-mates in a college bar at Durham to watch the episode on Monday night.

"I'd forgotten exactly what had happened; it was quite nice to watch it back," said the former Kirkby Stephen Grammar School student.

"It's all a bit surreal."

William said that although quiz host Jeremy Paxman "doesn't really mill around" backstage, he was "really nice", adding: "He does come up to you afterwards and congratulates you if you've done well, or commiserates if you haven't."

The 21-year-old said he was "sworn to secrecy" about the outcome of the next quarter-final match, which will be aired in the next few weeks and will determine whether Durham make the semi-finals.

University Challenge aside, he is embarking on the remaining months of his final year at Durham, including a 24,000-word thesis on invasive plants around the world.