02/07/2014 19:26 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Leavers' Disco Or US-Style Prom? Why Primary School Show-Offs Should Be Taught Restraint

Leavers' disco or Americanised prom? Why primary school show-offs should be taught restraintRex

Heard the one about the dad who wanted to send his son to his primary school prom in a helicopter or the mum who spent hundreds of pounds on her daughter's appearance at the end of term bash?

Hilarious isn't it?

Unfortunately these aren't jokes. The punchlines are true.

I spoke to such a father around 12 months ago when my daughters were also due to attend a school prom as they left their primary school.

He was so excited, thought it would be a real treat and he wanted to ring the local paper so they could capture the moment for posterity.

I told him I didn't think it was a good idea and that I'd worked on the local paper in question many moons ago. They may take the story in a direction he didn't like much, I advised.
What a killjoy I was.

He later thought better of it after getting wind of whispers of him being a bit flash. Who would say such a thing? Only 99 per cent of the other parents, that's who. I'm not sure the headteacher would have allowed a chopper to land on the school field anyway. I hope the dad wasn't too miffed. Another identical request from a proud parent made the national news.

Teachers would be needed to make sure all the other children were safe behind a cordon when the helicopter arrived, the report said – and they'd rather be working on teaching stuff.

Still, at our school, the headteacher had seen fit to send out a flyer advertising the fact there was going to be a casino table at the event. So there was still plenty to keep the thwarted helicopter passenger happy.

It wasn't a real casino table, just a pretend one.
So slightly less ridiculous then.

Meanwhile, the girl whose mother had invested a small fortune in this rite of passage (remember I'm talking about an 11-year-old) did have a nice time by all accounts.

You may wonder what the money went on. A dress, a manicure, a pedicure, a hairdo, make up and jewellery figure on the list, as well as a ride in a limo with her mates. There were plenty more limos booked that night. Beyonce belted out from the speakers as the white monster of a vehicle turned into her cul de sac and out came Mum to video her little princess ready for the ball.

So even if her daughter has long forgotten this adventure in years to come, there will still be plenty of chances to embarrass her with the home movie.

At least she didn't look orange. Apparently some young prom goers also opt for a spray tan.

This isn't a new phenomenon. It's two years since incensed newspaper commentators reported how children as young as seven were being encouraged to preen themselves like young adults.

Of course families hit back, this was just a special night, a bit of fun, who was anyone else to judge?


But I'm not the only other mum for whom this Cinderella story leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Not everyone can afford such luxuries. And many who can find them a tasteless or even worrying development as little girls are encouraged to become swept up in a craze which began with US teenagers. Think High School Musical, or perhaps Grease, hopefully without the mooning.


Kim Ward is stepmum to Olivia, 13. She says: "It's such a shame that parents and children are subjected to this mad one-upmanship at school proms. I don't understand why schools have embraced it so enthusiastically, as well as all the competition that goes along with it.

"Competition about dresses, spray tans, limo hire and all of the rest of it is all an unnecessary cost that a lot of parents can't afford.

"It would be awful to think that some people might have to go into debt to go along with it, so that their kids didn't feel left out.

"Why should any 11-year-old want a spray tan. Who on earth must their role models be to admit
to such an ambition?

"We should be teaching our kids that some people can afford things and some can't and that it doesn't make them different or wrong if their families can't afford these stupid extravagances."

In the end my daughters didn't go to their prom. I'd love to say we boycotted it in some futile but well-meant protest at the over commercialisation of our children's worlds.

But instead they were busy bopping along to JLS at a concert in the grounds of Warwick Castle.
Me spoil my kids and treat them as young adults?

Yes now and again. You got me, bang to rights.

But at least we didn't go in a limo.

What do you think about the rise of the school prom?
Not so long ago it was just the school disco or leavers' party, wasn't it?
Have you had to fork out for expensive prom extras for your Year 6 child or have you put your foot down?