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School in Maesteg opens pop-up shop for free prom dresses after online appeal

Credit: ITV News

A school in Maesteg is giving out free prom dresses to its pupils after an online appeal led to the donation of more than 200 gowns.

The shop opened in Maesteg Comprehensive School offers free prom gowns to Year 11 pupils after staff feared some pupils were not attending their end-of-year prom because they could not afford new outfits.

We had an event like this a few years ago because it had become apparent that the paraphernalia of the prom was taking over the event itself - to celebrate what should be seen as a huge achievement finishing formal education.

We were aware there were children perhaps who were saying: "I would rather not come than put the pressure on my parents to be able to be a fairy godmother of that night".

With one simple tweet, this has completely blossomed. It's fantastic, we're overwhelmed.

– Helen Jones, Headteacher

Nearly one in four students in the school are entitled to free school meals, which is above the Welsh average.

An appeal for donations on Facebook gained a lot of interest online and the school had donations of almost brand-new shoes, gowns and accessories.

A local dress shop in nearby Pyle donated 32 new dresses for free.

Organisers say the shop has been so successful they are hoping to open the pop-up shop to other schools in the area.

Credit: ITV News

I think to find a prom dress is really hard because you've got to get one that's suited to you and there's ones that are really expensive - a couple of hundred pounds - and people don't have that money to spend.

I don't think it's fair.

– Millie Thomas, Year 11 pupil

It's amazing because it hasn't really been done in other schools and in this area some people are quite deprived so it's encouraging people not to spend a lot of money but they can still enjoy the night and have a lovely dress.

[Choosing a dress is] full of anxiety, everyone is different shapes, sizes, everyone wants a unique style, don't want to be the same as everyone else but then you feel the pressure what will other people think of me, is this good enough and I just think this takes a lot of the pressure off because you know you won't have the same as someone else.

It's completely what's up to you and they are all lovely dresses.

– Nicole Bennett, Year 11 pupil

The shop was the idea of two of the school's PE teachers, Emily Scudamore and Annemarie Scarr.

Emily Scudamore helped organise the shop. Credit: ITV News

I think with any sort of social media platform there are these pressures for young people today and we need to try and remove that.

This is an event that happens once in a lifetime that you need to go to and yes OK if you've spent money on a dress that's fantastic and your happy with it, but you don't need to spend a million dollars to look a million dollars and that's the message we are trying to portray as a school.

– Emily Scudamore, Head of PE and Wellbeing