Twelve months ago, on the day in between my final GCSE exam and the ‘prom’ ball, my classmates and I donned academic gowns and mortarboard caps to formally ‘graduate’ from Furze Platt. For many, it was an entirely trivial affair: the vast majority of the yeargroup returned in September, to join the Sixth Form. But for others, it marked their last hours on the school site, at the end of five happy years at the Senior School.
Since last June, time – as I’ve occasionally stopped to remark – has flown by with shocking speed. Now Head Boy, in a year’s time I myself will have left Furze Platt. Again. Except this time it’ll have been for good.
But today I was able to pause to watch as, a year on from the start of my own glorious summer of Year 11, my younger schoolmates took their turn at wearing the formalwear.
If yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) Graduation Ceremony was the pomp and ceremony, last night’s Graduation Ball (School Prom) was set to be the true celebration for the end of GCSEs, Year 11, and compulsory school education.
Louis, who I’ve really only got to know over the last two years of GCSE German lessons, invited about a dozen of us around to his house for pre-prom drinks. With the heat of the baking sun, which was making one of its first appearances in this wettest of Junes, I wasn’t sure whether to go dressed or to take my dinner-jacket, dress shirt, and trousers to change into there. In the end, I decided to go ‘suited-and-booted’, making sure to bring a handful of handkerchiefs ready to mop my unpleasantly inevitable damp forehead.
After playing on his console and trying our hand at games of pool, his mother took photographs of the group of us and then we walked down the hill to school. There, Chloe had meticulously arranged for an old Routemaster bus to meet us and about 45 of our fellow Year 11s, before taking us to the venue of the prom, Court Garden in Marlow.
Of course, one of the great pressures during the run-up to a school prom is finding a ‘prom date’; someone to arrive with, talk with, and dance with throughout the evening. Fortunately for me, I’d long been sorted: my friend Lorna – who’s been a source of fun, compassion at times, and consistent friendship throughout the five years we’ve known each other – texted me in early October with the message “I’ve shot gunned you for prom x”. Stepping out of the car she’d come in, she looked incredible; elegant in a vivid scarlet dress, wearing delicate silver diamante heels, her hair perfectly curled and pinned into a side bun.
All of us stood and smiled as emotional mothers, proud fathers, and knowing elder siblings looked on, some with cameras photographing this pinnacle of our school careers, delighted both in us and for us.
Over the last fortnight, each of the eight houses at Furze Platt (all named after nearby towns which lie on the Thames) has organised charity fundraiser events. From bake sales to magic shows, car washes to concerts, hundreds of pounds has been made for each house’s chosen charity.
Today, it was the turn of Windsor House to raise precious pennies for their nominated organisation, as what seemed like half the school gathered during second break on one of the top playing fields to find out which teacher had been voted to be gunged.