The school formal doesn’t need to be a negative experience. In fact there are some really significant positives to be derived from this.

Although the formal isn’t recognised by the government as an official part of the state curriculum, that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. The fact remains that it is entrenched in our culture and it’s happening no matter whether we close our eyes or not.

If your school has always (or even recently) adopted a policy of ignoring, shunning, banning or turning away from the formal experience, this is extremely outdated thinking and you are in the vast minority.

Smart Principals recognise that steering the plans in the right direction and offering advice and assistance is a far more intelligent way to avoid anything going wrong. If you don’t support formals, it’s time to review that thinking for your own sake. The formal will happen anyway, it’s just a matter of what’s going to come back and bite you later.

The formal isn’t going away – it’s getting bigger. If you think it’s not happening, you’re mistaken. If you think it’s limited to Year 12, you are again mistaken.

Of all Sydney metropolitan secondary schools, roughly 100% will conduct (with or without the school’s knowledge or participation) some form of Year 12 event, 52% will have a Year 10 event and 22% will have a Year 11 event. This happens every year.

With roughly 420 registered secondary schools in the Greater Sydney area, that’s around 740 formals annually. With the average formal attendee going to 2.3 formals per season of Years 10, 11 and 12 (one of their own formals and as a partner for 1 or 2 others), that means that over 150,000 teenagers will turn up at a formal every year somewhere in the city.

These events may be proper sit-down, a-la-carte banquet events, they may take the form of stand-up, finger-food socials on boats, they may be buffet dinners at restaurants or clubs. They may be valedictory dinners with parents or they may be completely illegal dance parties in unauthorised venues but one way or another, they’re happening with or without you. Whether you know it or not, they’re subject to the rules, and you’re involved, even if you don’t know it or want it.

Metaphorically, as a Principal, you’re headed out the door of an air-plane whether you like it or not. You can pack a parachute, jump with confidence and steer yourself to a soft and perfect landing, or you can fall out, close your eyes and pretend it’s not happening until you crash. Personally I recommend the parachute option.

I can almost guarantee from the chair I’m writing this, and please don’t view this statement as in any way arrogant, that you’re probably under-prepared at this precise moment. Don’t panic! There is plenty of help out there but you should definitely create or amend your game plan to get this right. If you do it once properly, that template exists for you to roll out every year with little adjustment and you’ll be covered effortlessly.