Cancel proms and do community work says report


SCHOOLS should cancel competitive “American-style” proms to avoid stigmatising poorer pupils, a new report has claimed.

School leavers’ events have become big business in recent years – with parents lavishing hundreds of pounds on clothes, limos and tickets for the extravagant affairs.

There have been reports of students arriving at the events in helicopters – and limos or vintage cars are a regular sight – so much so that some estimate parents are spending £30m a year on the events.

But a report by Edinburgh Council has said schools should drop the events for a day at the beach, a barbecue or even community service.

Experts have made the recommendation after noting the “competitive and ostentatious” spending that often goes hand in hand with leavers’ balls.

They have claimed that this can be “stigmatising” for disadvantaged students for who struggle to meet the costs of proms.


Credit: Sean McGrath
Credit: Sean McGrath

The report – commissioned by Edinburgh Council – is titled “One in Five: Raising Awareness of Child Poverty in Edinburgh.”

The report was a general examination of poverty in Edinburgh schools, but it had some particular insights on issue of proms.

It reads: “This report found that 71% of parents said they had struggled with the cost of school.

“These costs can include, for example, buying uniforms and other essential equipment (e.g. stationery), paying for school trips and one-off events like school proms, or affording subject choices that have

material costs.”

According to the report such high costs can cause “stigma” among kids whose parents can’t meet the steep costs.

Discussing proms specifically, it adds: “Concerns were also raised about ‘end of school leaver proms’ or similar such events, and the associated competitive and ostentatious spend that often takes place amongst many pupils as a result.”

According to the authors, some schools have already toned down the costs by holding a barbeque, rather than a prom.

Offering other alternatives, it says parents, staff and children have suggested: “Instead of an ‘American-style’ prom which can become competitive, consider low cost alternatives like a day at the beach or making the event about doing something for the local community.”

One concerned mum-of-one in Edinburgh agreed that the costs were excluding pupils.

She said: “They had to pay £50 for a ticket for an upmarket city centre hotel – but on top of that probably spent twice as much on clothing and accessories.

“Some of the boys were expected to spend £20 on a corsage for the girl they were taking.

“In my day it was a flour and egg fight on the playing field and that was you in the ‘real’ world. The marketing people have triumphed but these events create a lot of worry for less well off people.”

She added: “From the pre-drinks party at the house of one of the parents you could tell it was very socially exclusive. “

The report also provides a general overview of other problems facing poorer parents and students in the capital’s schools.

It reveals that the average cost of a school year – at a free state school – is £800.

This includes the cost of uniform – at £159 – and subjects such as ICT and food technology, which require payments of up to £90 each.