Proms vs school discos: How the times have changed

With prom season well underway, Femail looks at how the US-style party had replaced the humble school disco.

According to one estimate, the total spend on proms in this country has now reached as much as Ј90m. And in Yorkshire and Humber alone, the average cost for a daughter to attend the end-of-school rite of passage is Ј263 or Ј251 for a son, so says the research by

But just how did this US event, a centre piece of movies like Grease and Back to the Future, become such an ingrained part of British education?

Janelle Perry is a teacher and head of Year 11 at St Mary's College in Hull. She is also helping to organise the prom for her year group, which takes place at the Mercure Hull Grange Park Hotel in Willerby on Saturday.

"We have held proms for our Year 11 and sixth form for a number of years," she said.

"We have got the most that we have ever had coming on Saturday, with 233 tickets sold.

"We have been planning it for a year. The kids really look after it and get involved. We talk about what they want for their meal, for example, and each year seems to be better and better. They love it."

South Hunsley School Prom at the KCAmong the plans for this year are a sweet stall, a photo booth, a three-course meal and a disco. As is tradition, a prom king and queen will also be chosen by vote.

"It's quite nice. They don't just vote for their friends, it is for someone who has done something for the group or for the school," said Mrs Perry

"Every school says it and every head of year does, too, but this year are just so special.

A lot has happened over the past five years.

"One of the kids said that we started as individuals and we've left as a family.

"It's just lovely. They are quite close as a year group and they have very well-mixed friendship groups."

Mrs Perry has also arranged for a projector showing photographs and memories of the pupils' time at the school to be at the prom and some have asked to give speeches thanking school staff.

"It's a real celebration," she said.

So, as hundreds of youngsters across East Yorkshire prepare for their prom, we look back at how things have changed from the days of the humble school disco.


For a start, back in the disco days, the word was "trendy". And what was "trendy" was decided by your mum.

You might have had an opinion on what you wanted to wear, but it was more than likely mum's money you were spending, so what she said had to go.

Fashion was something for magazines, while style was a term used in history lessons when discussing architecture.

The more daring, however, might have worn something that mum said was "snazzy" but this was rare.

Unless fancy dress was called for, only jeans and a T-shirt was required by the boys and the girls.

Frocks then were worn only when on bridesmaid duty and were not considered practical. After all, you'd be mad to scramble on the school hall floor for Oops Upside Your Head in anything other than denim.


One of most perplexing things about the modern-day prom is the fact that how you get there matters a lot.

Transport is an issue and we don't mean congested roads, over-populated public transport and environmental harm.

From helicopters to horse and carriages, limos to land trains, it's all about getting noticed. In the past, just the opposite was the case.

You would happily walk a mile to avoid being seen getting out of Dad's Ford Cortina.

The alternatives were getting the bus, which you could likely board for a half-fare, yet get served in that one pub for a sneaky post-disco snakebite, or by bike.

Another reason why suits and sparkly dresses were not a la mode.


One minute you're in assembly, the next you're singing Agadoo, that's how versatile the school hall used to be.

But now, these spaces are simply not good enough for the prom. Barely smart enough for today's groomed and glossy teens to sit their exams in, the hall is shunned in favour of hotels, which are seen as more grown-up and glam.

Sir Henry Cooper High School disco 1967


To really push the boat out, the class of the school disco era might have got together to paint a "goodbye" sign. Perhaps the caretaker might even have turned off a couple of rows of the hall's strip lighting to add atmosphere. And, of course, the tape machine used in French would be wheeled out and the Now That's What I Call Music Seven cassette inserted.

Now, there are chocolate fountains, decorations, balloons, flowers, fireworks and more. All to mark the little darlings reaching the age limit to which education is legally required. Next, there will be carnivals for the first wobbly tooth or a parade every time they go up a shoe size.


Hula Hoops, Skips, French Fries, sandwiches made out of sliced bread, cocktail sausages, cheese and pineapple on sticks – if it was beige, it went on the buffet.

But for prom-goers, paper plates have been replaced with porcelain and knifes and forks for a more elegant evening.

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