News National Ballots, wait lists and no dancing – this is what Year 12 formals will look like in the age of COVID-19
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Ballots, wait lists and no dancing – this is what Year 12 formals will look like in the age of COVID-19

All dressed up, but some students have nowhere to go. Photo: Unsplash
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School formals have become a rite of passage for many year 12 students, but the class of 2020 is being confronted with everything from cancellations to bans on dancing and even a ballot system to see who can attend.

Each state has slightly different regulations that govern end-of-year formals, with Victoria flatly forbidding any events.

Yet schools in NSW, Queensland and even Tasmania are charting a tricky path to hosting end-of-year celebrations.

For students, it means a somewhat strange end to a tumultuous year.

‘We’re not being selfish’

Lucy Castelletti is seriously excited about this year’s formal for her school in Sydney.

After all, the NSW government first banned them and only overturned that decision last month.

Lucy says it’s important to take a moment to mark the achievement. Photo: Lucy Castelletti

“I think everyone’s been really grateful to still have this opportunity … because it was quite unexpected,” she said.

Here’s the rundown: There can be 10 people per table. Dancing is allowed, but singing isn’t, and students are urged to stay seated for as much of the night as possible.

There is no cap on the number of students who can come, but not every teacher will be allowed to attend, Lucy said.

She admitted to being a little unsure how people would react to the push for school formals to go ahead.

You don’t have to look far to find detractors who say things like, ‘It’s too risky’, or, ‘We didn’t have one in my day’.

“We weren’t sure if people were going to look at it and go, ‘Oh they’re just being really selfish and they’re whining’,” she said.

“But we’ve had quite a lot of people who have really listened to what we’re trying to say and really heard.”

For Lucy, the reasoning is simple: They have been through a lot and want to take a moment to acknowledge that.

“I realised how important it was to have that final evening, where we could kind of say goodbye and have that final moment together to celebrate our achievements and our hard work,” she said.

“I think that’s why it’s quite important.”

The ballot system

Further north, Harry Pollard is preparing for his school formal in a couple of weeks in Brisbane.

Except, not all his mates will be joining him.

Due to a combination of government restrictions and the size of the venue, attendance is capped at 160, he said, which includes teachers.

That’s tough, given there are about 200 year 12 students at Harry’s school.

So, a ballot was made.

“We have this form that we write down every class we have, and then we have to get it ticked off by every teacher on our effort, behaviour and completion of assessments,” Harry said.

“Then we check that we’ve done all our payments and been to school every day … then they approve it.

“The quicker you put it in, the earlier you get a spot.”

Harry has secured a seat at a table, but said some of his friends were now on the waiting list and will only be moved up if another student drops out or doesn’t pay on time.

The rules there are stricter than in NSW.

It is also limited to 10 people a table, but dancing is not allowed.

This will be strictly off limits under Queensland restrictions. Photo: ABC

Harry said despite all this, he was looking forward to sharing the night with those who could make it as they reached the final stretch of a year that had taken a toll.

“I was feeling good coming into grade 12,” he said.

“And then I got a little bit discouraged about all the coronavirus stuff that is happening, especially learning at home,” he said.

“But when we got back to school, it was much better. And I had a great time.”

As for life beyond school: “I’m excited. I can’t wait.”

No time to worry about dancing

As for Victoria, which is still living under strict rules that limit travelling and gathering, school formals have been entirely cancelled.

For students like Hayden Seerup, who goes to school in Melbourne, that’s fallen down the list of things to be concerned about.

“I guess I’m more worried about everything that’s going on and the stress of getting through and just doing the stuff that’s necessary,” he said.

“It’s been pretty full on. We all have our different ways of adapting to things.

“Me and my mates keep in touch by playing games and chatting every other night.

“Just having those outlets, that’s the way we’re getting through it.”

Hayden said his teachers had been supportive throughout the year and he had tried to set routines for himself to stay on track.

He did things like sticking to a 9-5 workday, and putting his phone on aeroplane mode when studying.