School Formal Season

22 November 2017
End of Year Formal. Image: Supplied.

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

It seems that the days of renting a suit, borrowing the family car and heading off to the school hall or local club for the Year 12 school formal are well and truly over. In some instances, the Year 12 school formal has become a major expense with students (and their parents!) forking out many hundreds of dollars for a one-night-only event.

The Year 12 formal has always been an important event in the school calendar for students as well as teachers and parents. It marks the transition from formal schooling to the next chapter of study or work, and from teenage years to early adulthood. When I was at school, the formal was the reward for crossing the finish line in Year 12. Nowadays, there are graduation ceremonies for pre-schoolers and ‘formals’ at the end of Year 6. Aside from the costs involved, which can be significant, parents can really feel the pressure to ensure that the experience is a memorable one for their son or daughter.

Something else that makes the current Year 12 formal experience different than from previous years is the role played by social media in sharing pictures and information about every aspect of the event. Many young people feel the pressure to look their best online. Sadly, it can all get a bit competitive. No-one wants to spoil the delights of growing up or the rewards of finishing the long journey of formal schooling but sometimes I do think that it all becomes a bit extravagant, with the really importance of the night easily lost.

Rites of passage are important for us all. We all should have the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the big milestones in our lives, and finishing school is a big milestone for young people. At the same time it is important that we keep things in perspective and not make the event a fashion showcase.

If your son or daughter is about to have his or her formal celebrations, perhaps you could remind him or her that what makes these events memorable is not the dress or suit worn, where the event is held or size of the limousine. It should instead be all about having a fantastic time with those who have been important parts of their school journey.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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