The Year 10 formal’s been called off. The dancefloor’s dead. The afterparty’s not happening, and not because your mate’s neighbour has called the cops.

Not everyone got to take Erin McNaught to their Year 10 formal. Picture: Katrina Tepper

Once a rite of passage heralding the end of school, high schools have been slowly whittling them away in the past few decades since most kids stay on much later. With the school age bumped up to 17 in NSW, lights are being switched off for the last time in the state’s school halls and golf clubs.

And good riddance, because it was a pretty mediocre institution anyway.

Sure, the formals had some fun parts. It’s an opportunity to get dressed up in your dad’s suit or your Supre dress and ride in a flash car… or your sibling’s van decorated with Go-Lo streamers and balloons. The afterparty? A way to get familiar with all the downsides of alcohol consumption in one short night.

But Year 10 is the age of Peak Gawkiness. Parts of the body are out of proportion to other parts of the body. Puberty’s ravages have taken a terrible toll and in many cases it hasn’t gone into remission yet. You’re still a boy or a girl, not yet a man or a woman.

It’s also the year where you’re maxing out on being an annoying teenager. 15 or 16 is the age where you think you’re really grown up (after all, you can get a job and drive a car while being berated for constantly stalling by a nervy parent). But you’re not. Common sense still has many, many years to fester.

The only great thing about the whole experience: photos capturing the sheer awkwardness of the night years later… and there’s already plenty of awkwardness to go around at that age, anyway.

What do you remember from your school formal(s)?

Most commented


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    • amy says:

      12:42pm | 06/07/12

      what about the year 12 formal?....I never want to do that again

    • M says:

      12:53pm | 06/07/12

      I sooo want to do mine again. It was a blast.

    • Audra Blue says:

      12:54pm | 06/07/12

      I’m with you Amy.  My experience was something out of a bad teen movie.

      I was not popular with the boys in high school.  In fact most of them didn’t know I existed.

      But then my dream came true.  One guy, Donald, was part of the in crowd.  He played lots of sports, was tall and handsome and suddenly and inexplicably developed an interest in me a few months before the end of year 12, much to the amusement of his fellow in-crowders.

      So he flirted with me, complimented me at every turn, talked to me regularly regardless of who was around.  Then he asked me to the formal.  I was beside myself with happiness.  I had an abusive home life at the hands of my violent alcoholic stepfather and indifferent mother.  So a popular guy paying me attention was like winning the lotto.

      He said he’d meet me there and on the night of the formal, I showed up looking amazing and when I said hello to him, he pretty much ignored me.  Then I found out he’d brought one of the popular girls instead and they both laughed at me.  I was never so humiliated in my life.  When I asked him why he did that, he just shrugged, smirked at me and wandered away.

      It took me a long time after that to recover my self esteem.  I wish I could remember his surname so I could look him up on Facebook and see how he turned out.

    • miloinacup says:

      01:11pm | 06/07/12

      Audra - you totally should have gone all Carrie on his ass.

      I didn’t take a date to my year 12 formal. The only people who did were those who were in relationships, and the rest of us just rocked up stag. We were a fairly small year size though (only about 50 of us) so everyone was pretty much friends with everyone else and it was a lot of fun. We were allowed to drink (our formal was a mixed graduation ceremony & dance party afterwards, which I think worked well) so my parents bought me booze from across the road and we had dinner/drinks & then the parents left and we got our grooves on.

      Except no one organised an after party and instead opted to go to the pub afterwards. A few of us were only 17 and the bouncers were going tough because they knew about the formal. I’m pretty sure I got rejected from every pub in town before I admitted defeat and walked home via the spud van.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:23pm | 06/07/12

      Mine was pretty fun also. I’ve never understood the Year 10 formal though, as though completing Year 10 is some sort of achievement. Maybe it’s just a celebration of all the stupid people leaving, it’s not like Years 11 and 12 were difficult.

      I think I’ve seen that movie Audra wink  Although I bet that not hooking up with him in the end probably would have been a good thing in hindsight. Dick move on his part, maybe just best to assume that he got hit by a truck on the way to his dealers place.

    • AdamC says:

      01:24pm | 06/07/12

      Audra Blue, that was truly a horrible, nasty thing for that boy to do. One can only hope that he, and any accomplices he had, have realised their error over the years and regret their actions.

    • Meph says:

      01:27pm | 06/07/12

      @Audra Blue

      I’m going to take a wild stab and suggest that he’s a deadbeat dad to a number of kids with different mothers.

      In my experience, people rarely change. This is why I don’t have any contact with my old school “chums”.

    • Fred says:

      01:45pm | 06/07/12

      Me too. Status is based purely on being in the in crowd, and the in crowd are usually deranged.

      Sorry to hear that Audra. I was a dork too and I ended up going with one of the most popular girls, she was a stuck up bitch, wish I had gotten maggoted instead.

    • Elphaba says:

      03:01pm | 06/07/12

      About 3 weeks before the end of yr 12, all the popular girls suddenly wanted to be my friend.  I got invited to the parties, they talked to me at school, etc etc. 

      There was no ulterior motive.  I think they’d just realised that that was the last place they’d be Queens Of The World, and that they’d better make sure they were in good with everyone before school broke up.

      I played the game, but I wasn’t interested in being their friend post-school.  I was sick of it by the end and couldn’t wait to leave, move away, and go to uni.  Now THAT was fun…

    • Reality check says:

      03:45pm | 06/07/12

      Audra Blue, well I hope he is fat and unhappy.
      And I am sure you really did look beautiful, and i am sure you still do.

      People like him make a night to celebrate the end of all that hard work completely miserable, and instead, all about what a wan*^r he was and how hurt you were.

      Perhaps school’s should just focus on the reason for the celebration rather than as a date night, which is generally with a guy that 10 years later, you shudder to think that you danced with (or worse).

      No one should bring dates, and the celebration is just that, a celebration for the individual for the end of 10,11 and 12 years of hard work.

    • Audra Blue says:

      04:07pm | 06/07/12

      Aww, thanks you guys *sniff*

      I ran into a guy a few years ago who was a year ahead of me at high school.  Our families were acquaintances so we knew each other outside of school.  When I mentioned Donald to him he told me that he knew the guy and reckoned he probably ended up in jail before his 20th birthday.

      When I expressed my shock at that, my friend told me he was apparently a real prick who was always in trouble outside of school.

      So maybe karma got him after all.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      04:34pm | 06/07/12

      @Audra Blue, I am sure you are a swan now.
      Whereas the boy you refer to, is a poo-stained chicken. Say the word and I shall have his head lopped off. Ha ha, just joking! But seriously, just say the word. Joking, moderators! Or am I? Not sure myself…

    • amy says:

      04:59pm | 06/07/12

      damn thats…..damn

      wortst thing that hppned to me was being kicked off the table…aint poltics fun…

    • Daz says:

      05:45pm | 06/07/12

      Audra Blue that cool guy you gave your heart to is now probably collecting trolleys at Coles, maybe even a people smuggler. Sounds like the one in ten people who are sociopaths and who you are better off without.

      PS if he is a people smuggler now, if I was you, I’d marry him, then take him to the cleaners.

    • Dolly says:

      11:30pm | 06/07/12

      Or he could be an executive earning lots who doesnt even remember the girl who won’t let it go. I think he made the right decision

    • ProudWife says:

      12:48am | 07/07/12

      @admiral ackabar I find your comment rude.
      “a celebration for all the stupid people leaving” just because someone decided to leave school at the end of year 10 doesnt make them stupid. What about all those individuals who leave for apprenticeships! I for one can tell you my husband was the smart one who left for that exact reason. I am a university graduate and he still manages to pull in double what I do a year on his Year 10 education.  So maybe you should think before calling people stupid as all it makes you look like is a fool

    • daniel says:

      08:54pm | 08/07/12

      I’m undecided on doing my Year 12 formal again. Whilst I had a good time, I was more angry that just about every other one of my classmates (All Boys school) were ogling and trying to hit on my date, leaving their dates, many of them girlfriends sitting at the tables and looking on.

    • AdamC says:

      12:43pm | 06/07/12

      This is so dumb. I remember the year ten formal as a unique opportunity to get drunk and party while also being dressed up. (That is rare when you are a teenager.) The reasons given for killing the institution are beyond lame. Is this a case of totalitarian wowserism strikes again?

      I really enjoyed my year 10 formal, as well as my year 11 and 12 ones. The more the merrier, I say.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:24pm | 06/07/12

      You got 3 formals? Man. Serves me right for going to a catholic school where ‘fun’ is considered the work of the devil.

    • AdamC says:

      03:55pm | 06/07/12

      Yeah, I went to a Uniting Church School, so Chapel was voluntary, actually, it was pretty much non-existent, but political correctness was compulsory. And just look how I turned out!

    • M says:

      04:40pm | 06/07/12

      I was at a Christian Brothers School, religion played a very second fiddle to sport.

    • JB says:

      12:48pm | 06/07/12

      Seriously cut the crap!! “rite of passage” what rite?
      They have finished school, big deal. Most will go on to Uni so what’s the point.
      Rites are meant to be earned not given away or assumed you automatically get them.

    • Bitten says:

      02:17pm | 06/07/12

      Oh for f*k’s sake.

      Rite. Right. Look them up.

    • JB says:

      03:41pm | 06/07/12

      a formal or ceremonial act or procedure prescribed or customary in religious or other solemn use: rites of baptism; sacrificial rites.
      2. a particular form or system of religious or other ceremonial practice: the Roman rite.
      3. ( often initial capital letter ) one of the historical versions of the Eucharistic service: the Anglican Rite.
      4. ( often initial capital letter ) liturgy.
      5. ( sometimes initial capital letter ) Eastern Church,  Western Church . a division or differentiation of churches according to liturgy.
      Please tell me how any of the above entitles someone finishing school as a rite.
      rite of passage
      1. (Social Science / Anthropology & Ethnology) a ceremony performed in some cultures at times when an individual changes his status, as at puberty and marriage
      2. a significant event in a transitional period of someone’s life

      They finished school and have not even entered adulthood.
      Change of status from what, student to drunk student because that’s all Schoolies is, One big P!SSUP!!!!

      “Oh for f*k’s sake”

    • Jason Todd says:

      04:31pm | 06/07/12

      JB - Erm, A graduation is almost the definition of a rite of passage. You are leaving your formative years behind you and moving on to the adult world as a whole.
      You’re correct in saying rites of passage are not given, but one night’s celebration for the end of your schooling certainly qualifies by my standards.

      Year 10 formals on the other hand, not so much.

    • miloinacup says:

      12:57pm | 06/07/12

      I’m picturing my year 10 formal photo now…awkwardly standing in the backyard in a floor length black shiny dress (with matching wrap) and short pink hair.

      I think I may have had a good time, although the only thing I can remember was that a girl decided to get orally introduced to a guy in a very public place.

    • Johnno says:

      01:17pm | 06/07/12

      Do you notice the pic Erin Mcnaught is 30 born in May 1982. Could you imagine if a 30 yr old man went to a school dance with a year 10 and 16 yr old the man would be called a sicko. But if a 16 yr old boy does in society it is okay talk about double standards. The legal age of consent is 16, but there would be society outrage if that happened a 28 or 30 yr old man going to a yr 10 formal full of 16 yr olds.

    • Jono says:

      02:37pm | 06/07/12

      Come on mate… you really think so? 

      If a sixteen year old girl manages to get Brad Pitt (for lack of a better example) to go to a formal with her, which would OBVIOUSLY be a publicity stunt (as it was with Erin McNaught), do you really think there would be public outrage?  No, there wouldn’t be… the public (except you, who would assume the worst and label him a ‘sicko’) would laugh and see the good humour in the whole event.

      I am willing to bet money that this fortunate young lad didn’t ‘get lucky’, and the entire scenario was in good taste.

    • iansand says:

      01:38pm | 06/07/12

      My main memory of my formal (actually done as a deb ball) was that it was after our HSC and I was working in a shop.  For some reason it was held on Wednesday, so preceded late night closing on Thursday.  I was so tired after 0 hours sleep and 12 hours work that I remember serving someone in my bedroom before I crashed.

    • Coal Train says:

      02:22pm | 06/07/12

      My year 10 formal was good and bad, I got punched in the face because i looked at one of the footy players girls ‘funny’ and by funny it was a sudden realisation she wasn’t wearing a dress but palming off some brightly coloured rags as a dress, but the girl I took to that formal is the women I’ve spent most of my adult life with (how womantic)

    • iansand says:

      03:02pm | 06/07/12

      You mean a frockless strap.

    • Economist says:

      03:29pm | 06/07/12

      Year 10 for me was at one of the most bogan schools in the country. All boys, so we didn’t ask girls, they just turned up from another school.  Just to piss everybody off I decide to go as a chick. I got one of my Mum’s 60s mini dresses and wore a pair of f*** me boots, black, up past the knees, and a wig.

      As I was barely out of puberty, still baby faced, with a good set of legs and a tight shapely arse, most women would die for, it took a while for anyone to recognise who I was. Other than that it was shit boring. Yeah get rid of the bloody things.

      Also taking your cousin to a deb ball is crap.

    • jase says:

      02:36pm | 06/07/12

      The school ball, was pretty boring. Schoolies on the other hand, what a week that was.

    • Luthien Nienna says:

      02:43pm | 06/07/12

      I didn’t go to my Year 10 Formal, and dropped out of High School halfway through Year 12. I don’t think I missed out on anything.

    • VickiPS says:

      02:43pm | 06/07/12

      From the vantage point of my nearly 60 years, school formals seem to be a relatively recent “tradition”.  Certainly none of the schools in my city, public or private, had such a thing.  (For that matter, Schoolies Week didn’t exist back then, either). We had a school dance, a much more low key affair, that was open to all students.  I get the impression that school formals are an imported social institution, heavily influenced by American television!

    • daniel says:

      03:22pm | 06/07/12

      “good riddance” Not suprising from someone who is past school age! It’s always the older generation that wants to make rules for the younger ones. To tell them how they should be having fun. Young people having fun at a school formal!? The horror! Why don’t you leave it up to the school students to decide. If they want a school formal in year 10 they should be able to have one. No ones forcing anyone to attend. But if some young people want to go out and have a social event where they’ll start to learn to interact with others in a social setting then good for them. That’s the sort of experience that teaches you valuable and important life lessons. Anyone who says they want it gone or “good riddance” is just bitter.

    • Ginger says:

      05:06pm | 06/07/12

      In Canberra where I grew up, not having a Yr 10 formal would be a big mistake.  You leave High School in Yr 10 and everyone leaves and goes to different colleges to do Yr 11 and 12.  It’s a great way to say goodbye to one school and move on to the next.  Having said that, my daughter is doing high school in NSW and didn’t bother with the Yr 10 formal as she was staying at the same school to do 11 and 12.  She’ll be going to the Yr 12 formal though. 

      To all the older generations - you had Debutante Balls.  You had dances.  This generation doesn’t.  Let the young’uns have a formal dress up occasion.  Many of them will never have one again.

    • Sarah says:

      05:35pm | 06/07/12

      My secondary school only went up to year 10, and yet we still didn’t have a year 10 formal. When I started year 11 at a different school I was amazed that girls were already planning their dresses for the year 12 formal the following year. Nuts! I look back at the photos now and we all looked super daggy anyway, what a waste of money!

    • Justin Davies says:

      06:34pm | 06/07/12

      I must have attended 10 different Deb balls, year 10 balls, year 12 formals.. loved them, even the crappy school hall ones were fun. Specifically because it gave you the opportunity to kiss girls and try touch boobs… which was pretty much my reason for existing at the time. Ahhhh school days, happy days.  Let ‘em have formals I say, we had them, they were great, why take that away from the current crop coming through.

    • Muggles says:

      07:35pm | 06/07/12

      ” opportunity to kiss girls and try touch boobs… which was pretty much my reason for existing at the time.”

      Still is my only reason.

      Touching boobs never gets old.

    • Honesty says:

      07:29pm | 06/07/12

      The year ten “formal” is to celebrate that all the bogans are leaving so you and the teachers will not have to put up with their infantile crap for any more years! It is also the school’s feeble attempt to try to teach the bogans some sort of idea about public behaviour, but as with all public school teaching, it is far too little and far too limited…This is all.

    • Loves a bogan says:

      12:56am | 07/07/12

      So everyone that leaves school at year 10 is a bogan? Get off your high horse what makes you better then anyone else just because you have 2 more years education. I bet half these “bogans” that you speak off make double the wage you do a year. One probably built the house your living in today, another probably fixes your car as your to “important” to do such tasks and another probably cuts your hair just how you like it, another probably fixes your drains when they are clogged up with all your c$&p, need I go on. Maybe next time you shouldn’t be so arrogant and tar everyone with the same brush

    • No Fancy Frock says:

      01:01am | 07/07/12

      Never had one - in Yr 10 or Yr 12 and I went to your regular garden variety high school. But then things like formals or trips to Queensland for schoolies - they were only for middle class well-heeled kids whose parents had the money to spare. So there are many of us that never had it as any part of our rites of passage or Australian cultural experience at all. I still managed a university education but I’m not sure about the assumption of this whole article that it was an experience we all can look back on. At least some acknowledgement that it was a rite of passage for part of society might have been nice - unless of course the author has never slummed it with those of us from the other side of the street.

    • Beardo says:

      10:16am | 07/07/12

      I didn’t go to my Year 10 formal because I was a bit of a social retard at the time and didn’t know of the concept of going stag (thought I had to ask a chick - yeah I know social retard - my idea of chatting to girls then was basically just a grunt).

      Went to Year 12, but all my friends ditched me because by then I was a high functioning anti-social delinquent.

      Uni/first job I changed thank goodness.

      I don’t think formals are bad and despite a rough time I don’t think the people were bad. If I had my school time again I would say I just needed to be more chilled out and friendly. People that had a hard time at school should reflect on themselves that perhaps the cool kids weren’t entirely unjustified in pointing out your foibles, so lay off the formals embittered nerds!

    • Shelly says:

      12:20pm | 07/07/12

      Me and all of my class mates, most of whom stayed on until year 12, had an absolute BLAST at both of our formals. We had an unusally large grade, and it was probably the one two events of our school life where everyone got along. I say keep the year 10 formal, if only just to give the kids something to look forward to. It’s a good time, and it shouldn’t be discounted just because it isn’t the official end of the school career anymore.

    • bigmuzz says:

      12:32pm | 07/07/12

      I feel sorry for the kids of today. Not because they miss out on the Year 10 formal, but because they now miss out on the Year 10 afterparty, one of the greatest nights of underage drinking in a person’s life….. raspberry

    • Martin says:

      01:25pm | 07/07/12

      My boys haven’t got that far yet but the dumbest thing I’ve seen is the year 7 graduation.

      One family even hired a stretch limo for their son and his girlfriend.

      Yay! He graduated from primary school!


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