Parents have blasted a Swindon school's decision to send out letters to some Year 11 pupils telling them they aren't invited to their school prom just a week before their GCSE exams as "appalling" and "cruel".

Abbey Park School has confirmed that letters have been sent to students who have not achieved 96 per cent attendance - this equates to missing more than seven days across the school year.

And invitations have also been "witheld" from some GCSE students at Dorcan Academy. 

Headteacher Sheryl Bareham says that Dorcan's criteria for the prom passport is not based on attainment or attendance but on how hard students are working.

She added: "The prom is a reward for that hard work.

"Where this is not currently the case, we have withheld prom tickets to encourage students to make more effort.

"There are still invitations going out and we would love to have everyone in attendance."

But parents have criticised the various prom policies, citing the mental health of struggling pupils and the "terrible time" they've had as a result of the pandemic.

One mum of a child at Abbey Park said: "The timing is apalling. To send a letter out the week before their exams is irresponsible."

This Is Wiltshire:

But Sandy Jonsson has decided to come up with a "positive solution" to the problem by suggesting those children who are not invited could attend an 'alternative prom'.

She said: "I can only imagine the impact on the children's self-esteem and the timing is cruel to say the least. 

"This news about the prom has hit me hard because this cohort has suffered the worst impact of lockdown.

"I am looking at finding a venue to host an event so these children can know they matter."

Another mum revealed that her child won't be going - even though he met the criteria -because his friends aren't.

One parent suggested the needs of neurodivergent children had not been considered.

The letter from Abbey Park school sent out reads: "It is with regret that your child will not be invited to the Year 11 Leavers Prom. I understand this may be upsetting for you and your child.

"However, your child has not met the criteria for going to Prom which all students agreed to in September 2021."

Charlotte Gould claims that prom passports have always been a problem.

She joined a Swindon school after Year 11 had already started when her family moved to Swindon.

Because of this late start, she had not collected enough 'stamps' to go to prom and even though one of her friends dropped out, Charlotte was not allowed her space.

"No prom for me, no last party with my friends and a fond farewell to my teachers.

"It's a right of passage into adulthood, a celebration of many years of schooling.

"It shouldn't be means tested." 

The full responses from the schools

Abbey Park School's principal Mr Jon Young said: "A Prom Passport, or similar, is an initiative we and many other schools use with our Year 11 pupils.  Prom Passports, with their targets, were given to all year 11 pupils in September 2021, along with a letter of explanation, on their return to school at the start of this very important year for them.

"We set our pupils challenging, but achievable targets, however we have been mindful of the impact of Covid-19 and have excluded Covid-19 absences from the attendance calculations.

"96 per cent attendance is the target we have set in previous years and equates to a child missing over seven days of school in their final exam year, important teaching time given how much their schooling has been impacted due to the pandemic. 

"We have also considered individual circumstances where appropriate when making final decisions on invitations to the Prom.  

This Is Wiltshire:

"We are proud very of our students in how they have adapted throughout their GCSE courses and we wish them the very best in their exams."

Dorcan Academy's Ms Bareham said: "We have Attitude to Learning criteria at school – Criteria 1 or 2 means that you have a positive attitude to learning and are attempting to work hard in lessons.

"The students know and understand the criteria as we use it on reports and the criteria for the prom was explained to students some time ago to give everyone maximum opportunity to meet the criteria. 

"Those that have been invited so far have an average score of 2 or above; this is because we want students to do their best in their examinations and the prom is a reward for that hard work.

"We will send out final invites before May half term.

"All our students have the opportunity to attend the prom – all we ask for is a positive attitude to learning across all subjects.

"We have not taken into account attendance or attainment, as we felt this would be unfair due to the pandemic, so there is no reason why everyone couldn’t come if they choose to work hard in lessons.

"Our staff give up their own time to run the prom, therefore we think it is important that students show their gratitude by working with us.'"

How to get involved in an 'alternative prom'

Sandy Jonsson has asked any concerned parents to send her an email on by the end of this weekend if their children want to be involved in a separate event.