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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 05:40 GMT 06:40 UK
Belles of the prom ball, aged 7
Crowds watch the limos arrive

It's the end of school term, and prom season is here.

But dressing up in ballgowns or tuxedos and hiring stretch limos is no longer the preserve of sixth-formers on the verge of college or work.

The craze for proms, apparently once confined to American high schools, has not only spread across the Atlantic, but to the youngest children.

At one in Rhondda, south Wales, seven-year-olds put on the ritz to celebrate leaving their infants school.

But is it going too far? Opinion is divided, with the children of Maerdy Infants School obviously having a lovely time, watched by proud parents.

One writer, Myfanwy Alexander, a mother-of-six, is uneasy, and believes it could make children think they need to grow up too fast, as well as put pressure on parents.

Kian
I'm so excited about the ball, I'm going to be wearing a black suit with a dickie bow. It's very exciting.
Kian, seven

But Rhys Williams, a teaching union official, said they could help bring fun into school.

In America and Canada the prom - short for promenade - has long been a feature of school life to celebrate the end of the year.

At Maerdy, it marked the children's move from infants to junior school.

Many arrived in chauffeur-driven limos, and dozens of the girls had their hair styled professionally for the dance.

"Leaving the infants has always been a big event in the village because the children have to go half a mile up the road to the junior school," explained teacher Peter Thomas who was one of the organisers.

"On their first day, they will come here first and then walk up to the juniors, so everyone knows it is a big day."

To mark the children's time at the school, the teachers wanted to give the pupils something to remember.

'Graduation'

"The children love the film High School Musical and they've been singing the songs all year.

"And we thought because we've had such good support from the parents of this year group we would reward them by holding a graduation ceremony, so on Monday the children were all in their cap and gowns.

"So then we thought we would have a graduation ball and things have really taken off," he said, adding that the ball was costing the school 250 to hold.

Children arrive at the prom
Many of the children arrived in chauffeur-driven limos

Parents scoured the internet to find the perfect outfits for their children.

"We've been on the internet and we have got a dress which came from Canada," said Adele Wilk whose daughter Ellie, aged seven, attended the ball.

"It was only 20 and we've got all the accessories to go with it.

"It's such a fab idea and we want it to be special for them."

And Louise Major's son Kian donned a black tuxedo especially for the event.

"I got it off eBay - it was only 20 and the quality is fab," she said.

"I think the whole community will be out watching it all tomorrow."

Communications officer for teaching union NUT Cymru, Rhys Williams, said anything that brought "a bit of fun" into school was a good thing.

"I don't think there's any bad thing in marking stages in children's lives," he said.

'Extra pressure'

"Happy children are much more likely to be successful children, and make good progress."

But Myfanwy Alexander, from Montgomeryshire, raised concerns about the practice, especially for younger children.

"People probably think its harmless fun, but its giving them a very strong message that the only fun they can have is by being an adult.

"It seems an extra pressure for children, and extra pressure for the parents as well."

SEE ALSO
Infant pupils stage school prom
25 Jul 06 |  Lincolnshire
School graduation for UK pupils
02 Mar 04 |  Education



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