CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Hold the limo! School cancels prom after police warning

Text message just hours before leavers’ party states event has been cancelled

25 July, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

A SECONDARY school has cancelled its prom night after police warned that the traditional leaving event was a “risk”.

Students in their final year at Hampstead School had bought outfits and ordered a limo to take them before officers contacted staff.

The school, in Westbere Road, West Hampstead, said it had to put its pupils’ safety first when deciding to abandon the party. Police are not commenting on the case or what the possible risks were around the event.

One student’s grandmother told the New Journal: “Approximately two hours before it started, the parents and young people got text messages from the school to say, on police advice, they had to cancel it because they were expecting some trouble.”

With no detailed explanation, speculation among parents has surfaced, including the theory that pupils from another school from outside of the borough had planned to gatecrash.

The event for Year 11 pupils had been scheduled for a hotel in Barnet, with tickets costing £31 each.

Proms are a traditional rites-of-passage event for teenagers in the United States, but in recent years they have become increasingly popular in UK schools.

The grandmother added: “The young people were all excited – limo ordered, prom dress, suits, shoes, hair, make-up all done and ready to go enjoy themselves with their school friends one last time. I’m not complaining about the school or the teachers as they do a wonderful job. [It’s] just a sad feeling for the teenagers that could not go to their prom.”

She said: “As a grandparent I felt really sad for all the teenagers who had prepared for this event at some expense and excitement all dressed in the finery, hair done, nails done, make-up done [and] boys looking dapper in the meticulous suits.”

Hampstead School is rated “good” by Ofsted. Its alumni includes the actress Sadie Frost and acclaimed novellist Zadie Smith. The school is now working on providing refunds to families who had bought tickets.

Several have waived the right to ask for their money back.

Headteacher Jacques Szemalikowski said the school chose to cancel the celebration last month following a call from police about a “specific external risk”. He said that, while the decision was regrettable, student safety was paramount.

In a statement provided to the New Journal, Mr Szemalikowski said: “We were called on the Friday of our Year 11 prom by a senior police officer – Detective Inspector – about a specific external risk concerning our Y11 prom. After further detailed discussions with the police and an immediate careful risk assessment, we reluctantly took the decision to cancel the prom. Whilst regrettable, the safety of our students is paramount.”

He added: “The cost of the prom ticket is being reimbursed from school funds, although many families have waived the refund.”

The police said they would not add anything further to the school’s statement.

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