A look at the rise of the school leavers’ balls in the UK from year 6 leavers marking their first educational milestone to A level graduation.
Celebrate a significant educational milestone in style with a party
The American-style ‘prom’ – a school leavers’ party where the accent is on dressing up formally and glamorously as if attending a function such as the Oscars – has caught on in a big way throughout the UK.
More than 85% of UK schools now hold proms – or school leavers’ ball as they’re also known as here – each year with some approaching high levels of grandeur with five-star hotel venues and some attendees arriving not just by limo, but helicopter!
The prom for all ages
When proms started catching on in the UK, they tended to be restricted to older school leavers such as those around age 16 completing their GCSE exams and those around age 18 after their A levels.
In more recent times the prom has extended to younger age ranges such as the 10 to 11 year olds in year 6. These proms tend to be more ‘fun filled’ than the more formal style events of their older peers, and are often organised by specialists such as this children’s entertainer in Kent.
A significant educational marker
Young people reaching the end of year 6 are at their first major educational milestone; they may leave their primary school and move onto a high or middle school, or could be about to sit an eleven-plus examination for entry to grammar school.
Whatever their situation, a prom is a way of marking this change and creating something they’ll remember for many years to come. For some, they may be saying goodbye to the first proper friends they’ve made.
The chance to ‘glam up’ in a posh party dress for girls or, for boys, maybe the first time they’ve worn formal attire (apart from perhaps their school uniform) and have fun with their school friends is more popular than ever.
Proms for younger people
A prom for youngsters in the 10 to 11 age bracket will likely have a different slant than one for 16 year olds and above. While the older age group will have ‘adult like’ formal dining and possibly presentations, a year 6 affair will have the accent more on having fun with games, contests and often a disco with an up to date sound system and lighting perhaps including lasers.
The event will likely include various games, contests and coordinated ‘party dancing’ with maybe a competition included.
Some prom organisers will ensure adults get involved rather than just sitting around while their offspring enjoy themselves. The childrens’ teachers are often encouraged to attend – after several years in a classroom environment it’s a good way for the young leavers to say goodbye to teachers who have played an important part in helping them develop and learn in their formative years.
A lucrative business
The prom market has mushroomed in the UK as proms have caught on; although it’s a short season lasting barely four weeks from usually mid June to mid July, it’s an £80 million-plus per annum market.
Various services and fully fledged businesses such as prom organising specialists have appeared to meet the ever-rising demand, and major clothing retailers such as Debenhams offer specific prom-related lines.
Gentlemen’s outfitters Moss Bros have seen their fortunes revitalised by the prom market; thanks to sales and hires of formal wear for proms they’ve turned losses of approaching £3 million in around 2010 to profit in the subsequent years.
Counting the cost
A downside of increased prom popularity is the eye watering costs some parents are subject to.
For some events the costs of kitting out their youngster in formal dress such as glamorous frocks and suits, make-up, hairdressing and then transporting them to the venue in a limo or similar can run to hundreds of pounds.
Then again, it’s possible for parents to spend less but still treat their youngster to a fabulous way of commemorating the end of year 6.
Some websites sell used but ‘as new’ dresses for a fraction of buying a new one; it may be possible to ask a suitably skilled friend or relative to come and do hair and make-up for less than it would cost at a hair salon; and if there are enough sharing then even hiring a limo might not be too expensive per head.
Also, companies who are experienced in organising proms and other children’s activities can put an event together as a package that won’t break the bank.