BACKGROUND ON THE ISSUE

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Fact – The state government considers “Minors” to be the most “vulnerable members of society”. There is no differentiation between newborns and P-platers.

Fact – The state government considers “Licensed Premises” to be the “scariest imaginable environment” for those minors. There is no differentiation between a 5-star hotel and a bikies bar.

Fact – The state government considers the placing of the “most vulnerable members of society in the scariest imaginable environment”, without loco-parentis, to be the riskiest possible activity.

Have I captured your curiosity?

Three decades ago, the “School Formal” was largely feared as a drunken, lawless free-for-all. School administrators were right to run the other way. There was little to gain and much to lose from getting involved with the events. Schools & venues knew little about how to organise and run these events, and the kids themselves knew even less. Alcoholism was rampant among minors, as was the unsavoury forms of behaviour that often followed along with it.

It wasn’t considered “Good Policy” to condone formals, let alone run them or attend them.

So what’s changed? Actually – pretty much everything.

Today, the school formal phenomenon is a bona-fide national industry turning over an estimated $3.5 Billion annually with an average 5 – 9% increase annually, free of any outside fiscal influences.

The formal-going avatar is a well-defined creature and his or her features may initially surprise you.

  • 15 to 18 year old demographic
  • Consumer Savvy – understanding the advantages of collective buying power and comparative shopping
  • Fashion conscious and on-trend
  • Communications natural. Grown up with internet, software and mobile devices
  • Relatively “Straight-Edge”, which means as far as the formal is concerned, mostly uninterested in alcohol or anything else that will blur or adversely affect the experience of the event

They formulate a mental image of what they want and they’re unwavering and uncompromising on their quest to obtain it. They seek permission, guidance and assistance to achieve this goal, and they’ll get there one way or another, with or without that approval or guidance if it’s withdrawn.

Price is no issue, social media driving the “Hollywood” image of glamour, fame, magnificence and announcement of their identity to the world. Statistically, over 90% of surveyed year 12 students confessed that their plans for the formal were more immediate, more important and more emotionally dominant in their lives than their final exams or the results they achieve. The fact is, at least in the young minds of senior secondary students, the formal has become the most significant social event of their lives up to this point.

The events industry was quick to catch on to the school formal trends, then the media, and eventually the government regulators. By the time we’d turned the millennial corner, the school formal had become the most highly regulated and scrutinised sector of the events market, and rightly so considering it has long-since overtaken the bridal event market in commercial success. Over 150,000 teenagers in Sydney alone will spend over $200 Million on formals this year.

So what are some of those recently recognised regulations?

Some you already know such as the “Working With Children Check”, where others need to be sought out with greater diligence, such as the “Minor’s Functions Authorisation”, which is a permit required by many of the most popular formal venues before they’re legally permitted to host a formal, “Workplace Safety Certification” and “Responsible Service of Alcohol Accreditation” and of course “Security & Protection Industry Licensing”. Then there are the self-imposed regulations, which can be more appropriately described as “policies” by those involved in delivering formal events such as “Child Protection Awareness Certification”, “Anaphylaxis (Epipen / Anapen) Administration Certification” and “Senior First Aid Certification”.

Yes! It’s a veritable Mount-Everest of compliance. It is however, a great thing in favour of the safety and security of all involved, whether attending the event or remotely invested.

The formal, as a bona-fide industry, is no longer a “tin-pot” operation. It’s no longer an unimportant hindrance to study. It’s no longer an ignorable annoyance to school administrators. Unlike the old days, it’s now fully legitimate, fully loaded and full-steam ahead. It’s now culturally essential and with both mainstream and social media covering it 24/7, it’s not going to decline in our lifetime. It also means that there are more eyes on it from every particular angle.

elliot-web-logo1Continuing our series on “School Formals, Myths, Facts and the “Ostrich Mentality” by Elliot D I Kleiner