On 20 March, my younger brother returned home with his shirt covered in signatures—marking his last day of secondary school. What should have been a heart-warming farewell to students and teachers had turned into a day of apprehension. That evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially announced that the UK will go on a full lockdown until further notice. As government officials pleaded for us to stay inside, people started worrying about their jobs, their grades and their prom night. How exactly is COVID-19 impacting students’ oh-so-anticipated end of year prom?
When the news broke out and the uncertainty remained still, many were concerned about the future of students. The department for education published a statement on 20 March in response to students wondering about what would happen to non-exam assessments such as GCSEs and A-levels mocks. “The calculated grade process will take into account a range of evidence including, for example, non-exam assessment and mock results and the approach will be standardised between schools and colleges,” read the statement. Luckily for my brother, he excelled in his mocks and will be able to go to Sixth Form. I guess the Saturday tutoring classes finally paid off, but the same cannot be said for everyone else.
Following the broadcast, many students worried about another cancellation that would come from the coronavirus outbreak—prom would not happen this year. “It’s obviously disappointing because I’m not getting the final goodbye everyone else had,” shared my brother, “but I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing.”
Prom is a school-sponsored formal event implemented in celebration of completing school exams after year 11 (when students are usually aged 15 or 16) and year 13 (when students are usually aged 17 or 18). This one of a kind celebration is said to give young people a chance to develop their social skills in a collective environment. Although that statement seems a little outdated to some, those who grew up in households with strict beliefs or principles still see prom night as a chance to experience something they’ve never been allowed to. Prom is an important event for young people, one that will be skipped this year.
I see this unfortunate cancellation as a necessary evil—prom needs a revamp. Film culture has glamorised how we view this ‘special night’. Don’t get me wrong, it is an exciting and memorable night but the build-up can also be daunting for many. Screen Shot spoke to primary school teacher Aaliyah about her prom experience: “I had visions of this awesome American prom from all these fairy tale movies, but mine wasn’t like that. I felt pretty miserable. I had no money to get a cool dress so I didn’t want to go. When I got there though I had fun and it felt like my first clubbing experience.”
Although it is disheartening that our current year 11s were robbed of this experience, many might agree on the fact that they’ve dodged a bullet here. Gen Zers are growing up surrounded with endless pressure, so why not save them from the myth that is prom?
Proms are enabling stereotypes that should be long gone by now. Firstly, finding a date. The biggest misconception is that you need to go to prom with a date. It’s not uncommon for teachers to see an increase of anxiety within students during the prom period. And who could blame them, we all know that finding the right partner can be terrifying as an adult, now imagine just how duplicated those emotions can be for teenagers. With this being said, this year’s attendees are (hopefully) more socially accepting of sexual preferences and understanding of how others identify, so prom could have been a real opportunity to break some of those myths.
Mike Alberton, a deputy headteacher from Essex, believes that this year’s prom had the potential of making a defining moment in time. “Last month, I overheard a student saying she was going to alter one of her traditional African attires for prom. Teenagers are getting craftier by the second and my students are very open with LGBT rights. Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing the representation I was so looking forward to.”
As I have tried to see the positives in our current situation, I have also realised the potential that new gens have in changing our society and building an improved and accepting one instead. Yesterday, I asked my brother how he felt about prom to which he replied, “I don’t care anymore, I’m just happy I got into Sixth Form.” It’s uplifting to see that the next generation keeps its priorities in check. Do you?