The traditional Year 11 prom for 300 students on a London river-boat was cancelled at the last minute due to rising cases of Covid-19.
But with the teenagers’ prom dresses and suits purchased; hair and make-up appointments booked, and limousines on order, senior staff at the secondary school were determined to celebrate a GCSE cohort who have already suffered severe disruption to their schooling for the past 18 months.
With a disco in a wedding marquee, hay-bale seating, local food vans, and ‘mocktails’ made by school canteen staff, the evening was an electrifying success due to the generosity of local businesses and parents.
The highlight of the evening was the surprise appearance by former headteacher, Peter Woodman, who led the dancefloor to his favourite song, Billy Ocean’s When The Going Gets Tough.
There was even a red carpet (an offcut kindly donated by Goring Road carpets in the High Street) and Oscars style red roped walkway supplied by Slinkies Events.
“We had to make very last minute changes to our plans for our Year 11 Prom this year due to Covid, but were desperate not to have to cancel completely and disappoint our students,” said headteacher Sarah Edwards, who took on the leadership role in March at the Ofsted-rated Outstanding school.
“Instead of our customary trip down the Thames, we decided to put on a prom with a festival atmosphere on our school site – and all in the space of six days.
“It’s actually been quite overwhelming how people offered to help,” she added. “It would simply not have been possible otherwise.”
The school took on the festival feel as parents worked to decorate the top-of-the-range wedding marquee supplied by Charlie Tullett, managing director of Arundel Marquees and a parent at the school.
Village icecream parlour Moo Scoops supplied delicious iced desserts – perfect for a sweltering evening.
Meanwhile, family-owned Whipley Manor Farm - suppliers of hay-bale seating to Wisborough Green pub-in-a-field Brolly Brewing - custom cut the hay for 60 hay bales the previous week after a parent made an SOS call to them. They slotted delivery to the school from their 300-acre family run farm in Bramley, Surrey, into an already frenetic summer diary.
Completing the festival feel were lanterns on shepherds’ crooks with ribbons to catch the wind and large hoops decorated with swathes of fabric draped from the marquee roof. Balloons came from a staff contact at The Balloon Boutique and from Laura at Twinkle and Sparkle, a local party business that helped for free.
The teenagers enjoyed wood-fired pizzas from Sussex and Surrey-based Pizza Oven, which employs a Weald student at the weekends. A hog roast was supplied by Billingshurst Butchers, in Jengers Mead.
Parent Clare Francis, of bespoke cake-makers Scrumptious Cupcakes, donated a 20-inch tall ganache surprise topped with ostrich feathers. Candyfloss came from Petworth Disco and Karaoke, while fire performer Jessica from Alive Network wowed the crowd.
Former student Ben Collins of bencollinsmedia.com was the man behind the music in the marquee.
Said Sarah Edwards: “There is an African saying, ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ and on this occasion it is our whole surrounding area who helped put on this special event. At the Weald we are truly blessed to have an incredibly supportive community who are willing to step in and help us serve our young people, and we are extremely grateful.
“Our heartfelt thanks go to all of the businesses, parents and carers who have helped us.”
To find out more about the school see theweald.org.uk