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What message does prom for 11-year-olds give out?

I have been thinking, once again, about the values we are promoting when we hold our annual "prom night" for Year 6 pupils (aged 10-11).

In fact, I have recently found myself questioning the whole event. Should we run it at all? If we do, how can we make sure it is appropriate for the age group?

The reason for my reluctance is not that I object to a celebration of Year 6 leaving, but rather the notion of a "prom" as the best way of doing this.

Attaching that word to the occasion prompts pupils to purchase exorbitantly expensive dresses that they can barely walk in. They get fake tans and nails, book hair appointments and hire big limousines. They argue about what to wear and who to go with. Should we really be encouraging such behaviour among 11-year-olds?

I did some research into approaches at other schools: it appears that many hold a barbecue or disco, with headteachers feeling that a prom-style celebration for younger children would get out of hand. In fact, my school seems to be alone in thinking that celebrity culture is something we wish to encourage.

As an interim headteacher, I could change things. But I raised the issue in a recent staff meeting and was told that there would be a riot - from both students and parents - if we dared to do something different.

I could go ahead and change the plans anyway, of course, but as I am leaving at the end of the summer term, is it fair to cause mayhem for my successor by doing something different? Or should I just bite the bullet and go ahead with it?

I want the children to leave with values that may not be the same as the ones they experience outside the school environment.

My gut instinct is that a prom should be for when they finish school at 18 (if they must have one at all, that is).

But maybe I am just being curmudgeonly. To prom or not to prom? I just don't know.

The writer is a headteacher in the West Midlands

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Email jon.severs@tesglobal.com

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