As with anything largely unknown, human nature often compels us to fill in the blanks with myth and rumour.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones concerning formals.

That The Department of Education or the Board of Studies prohibits schools from involvement with formals


I can assure you, after lengthy discussions with the senior most policy representatives from both authorities, that there NEVER has been any such directive issued by either body. In fact quite the opposite, neither one has even the legislative authority to make such a ruling either way. Check with your District Superintendent if you want to clarify this. The choice is purely left to the Principal in every case.

That school formals are only the mainstay of elitist private schools because they cost so much


The balance of State schools to Private schools conducting formals in Sydney is almost even (see graph). As to the prices being paid, the average ticket price being paid by attendees of the Government school sector is, on average, around 12% higher. That’s unexpected I know, however the more affluent youth experience these kinds of things more often, while the socio-economically challenged view the formal as probably their first, and possibly their only, chance to experience affluence at this level, and therefore will flip burgers all year and do fundraising to achieve it.

Surveys have shown that despite recent changes to NSW Education policies concerning the ability to leave the system at the completion of the “School Certificate” in year 10, the percentages of school formals being dedicated to year groups in years 10 and 11 have not changed (see graph). This graph below showed the same exact numbers 5 and 10 years earlier.

That any local Police commander can tell me what the facts are concerning formals and the law


While I have the utmost respect for Police, school formals span and touch several complex pieces of state legislation, some of which weren’t written or intended to overlap in the real world, many of which seldom, if ever, require the intervention of Police. Police aren’t generally trained, or experienced, in the intricacies of all of the relevant legislative acts, least of all how they affect, and sometimes contradict or conflict with, each other in the school formal environment.

Some Licensing Division Commanders in the Police are reasonably well-versed in the Liquor Act and the Security & Protection Industry Act well enough to give you a very broad overview of whether or not a venue or a security provider is properly licensed to conduct a school formal, however, when it comes to anything more complex than that, they’d be taking a rather over- confident and authoritative-sounding stab in the dark about much else.

It is my strong advice that when seeking proper information, schools should consult the various government departments directly and acquire the latest Fact Sheets. Fact Sheets are great because they break down the legal jargon of Parliamentary Acts into relatively succinct plain English and remove much of the opportunity for skewed interpretation of the law normally granted by convoluted language.

That the venue is entitled to demand a “Damage Bond, which can be held over until after the event


If any venue is demanding any form of “bond” from you, view this venue with great suspicion. Such bonds are not legal and a venue that demands one is probably scamming you and there’s a chance you’ll never see that money again.

Bonds are the bastion of rental property, NOT function venues. If you take a lease on a unit, house or commercial premises for 6, 12 or 24 months to occupy permanently and continuously during that time, a bond is payable, however that bond MUST be lodged with the NSW Rental Bond Board in trust. At the conclusion of the lease, and only if you vacate, both the owner AND the tenant have equal right to claim the bond from this independent third-party authority by providing documented evidence of entitlement to it. This involves a process of the opposing side having the opportunity to challenge the claim and make counter-claim on those funds by producing their own documented evidence. The venue model of taking a few thousand dollars up front and giving all or part of it back to you after the formal is over does NOT fit this legal process and is not enforceable under the laws of this state.

When you book a function venue, there is a reasonable expectation of “reasonable wear & tear” on the property that is assumed by venue owners, and they are NOT entitled, under any act, to demand any bond amount. If they did, it would have to follow the same rules as the Rental Bond Board dictates.

Most venues do however ask for, and are entitled to, a booking deposit, which is only a down-payment on the predicted overall amount that will eventually be payable for the event, and it MUST come off that full amount. This deposit CANNOT be held until after the event. It must be taken off the final invoice. If it’s held until afterwards, it begins to resemble a bond, and again, not permitted.

That because one venue is selling alcohol at formals, that this same rule applies to all venues.


Different venue types possess different licenses and those have different regulations. If you can have a cash bar at a formal on a boat, the natural supposition is that you can have it in a 5 Star hotel ballroom. That’s not true.

Why Myths are dangerous…

“The danger aint in what I don’t know. It’s what I know for sure that just aint so” – Dr Phil

School formals are a pretty irresponsible place to assume anything. What you might reasonably assume is the case, or even what used to be the case, probably isn’t the way it is now. Check and double-check.

Then when you’re done, check again!