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Staying Safe at Schoolies

29 November 2017

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

For most Year 12 students across NSW, Victoria and Queensland, schoolies week has become a rite of passage. Traditionally, school-leavers have flocked to the Gold Gold coast and a few other popular venues for a week of sun, surf and fun with friends. However, we now are seeing more students seeking out alternative destinations or experiences.

As a parent, I understand that schoolies can be a balancing act between ensuring your child’s well-being and safety and allowing them to develop their independence. For many young people, schoolies week may be the first time they’ve ever been away from home without adult supervision. For some, it can also mean heading off overseas where local laws and customs are different to ours.

While I think that it is important for young people to be able to experience the end of an important chapter in their lives typically by celebrating with friends, the focus needs to be on finding the most appropriate way of marking this milestone for each young person. Some students choose to devote their time and energy into outreach projects among disadvantaged communities. Others find value in starting work once exams are over in order to save for a car or to cover the costs associated with further study or future travel.

If students are keen on heading away with friends, then planning needs to happen early and parents should be involved. For many families, the cost of schoolies, particularly if it involves overseas travel, can be a significant expense. That leads to the question of whether parents should meet the cost or whether students should pay themselves, or at the least contribute in some way. Cost, location, who else is attending, expectations around behaviours, what to do in the case of emergencies and how to stay safe all need to be part of the discussions between young people and their parents.

It’s also just as important for young people to hear and acknowledge their parents’ concerns and to recognise that with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. Watching out for friends, having a ‘Plan B’ if someone gets separated from the group and maintaining regular contact with home all need to be part of the non-negotiables.

Schoolies week won’t be for everyone and it can be a huge leap of faith for parents. The best way to make it a memorable experience for the young people who wish to go is plan well, stay focused on being safe and make sure everyone is looking out for each other.

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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