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OTT primary school graduations. Are they the new trend?

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#1 Kylie Orr

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:02 AM

I completed grade six in 1986. We had an evening BBQ and disco at school which seemed awesome at the time. I presume mum dropped me off. I have no recollection of the outfit I wore or what I ate or whether I won any awards. I know I pecked Adam H. on the cheek. In the dark behind the play equipment. Risqué.

It’s now my my twelve-year-old’s turn to “graduate” from primary school. We didn’t use the word “graduate” when I finished grade six. We were simply closing one chapter and opening the next.

In the excitement around this year’s graduation ceremony, talk has turned to limos. Yes, limousines: the extravagant purchase many adults may have invested in for a Year 12 formal, or even a wedding. Now, grade six children are discussing that mode of transport to their primary school graduations.

To put the request into perspective, we don’t live in a wealthy area. Our home is two kilometres from the local government primary school where our children attend. The graduation dinner is being held on the school premises. Driving time would be ten minutes, maybe fifteen once children were collected from their houses. Limousine hire for an hour costs the same as a two terms of swimming lessons.

My answer to my son was a flat no. Actually it wasn’t flat. It was more like a shriek. The only way I was even willing to explore the possibility was if he wanted to pay for it himself. Kelly, mother of three agreed, “A limo trip for year six graduation is over the top, but if my child is willing to work for it, and earn the money to go in one, then that's okay with me.” My son didn’t want it badly enough to pay his own way so that conversation ended abruptly.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard of grandiose graduations where children are taken in luxury vehicles, where girls are professionally styled with hair and makeup for their ceremony. High heels and tans, gifts and fuss. Is it excessive?

Dressing up nicely for a momentous occasion is absolutely reasonable. A new outfit, a special pair of shoes they’ve had their eye on all year? Great. A dinner and ceremony that commend and congratulate the children on their seven years at primary school is lovely.

The rest, to me, is ludicrous. As Lynne, mother of three says, “Keep it simple: it’s a 12 year old’s celebration, nothing more.”

Vanessa, mother of two, says “I like that the kids have a primary school graduation, but we need to remember it’s a primary school graduation, not a wedding.”

I realise everyone comes to graduation from a different perspective. Maybe your child has worked hard all year, struggled with behaviour or academic achievement, had social or personal issues and you want to give them an extra special send off.

School teacher and mum of three, Diana, says “Grade six graduation is a celebration of the end of a phase in your child’s life, one in a long list of hopefully many more to come. Celebrate how you see fit – your family, culture, traditions, values, beliefs and don’t worry about everybody else!”

She’s right. If other families want to fork out money then that is their prerogative, I get it. My concern lies in the short-sightedness of such decisions. Have we completely ignored the joy of working hard, achieving and being rewarded, in an age-appropriate way? Have we considered the consequences of allowing our children to be privy to such extravagance, so young?

By prematurely offering grown-up indulgences we are robbing them of the fun ahead with school debutante balls, high school formals, and weddings. We will be forced to up the ante as they get older - will they expect a helicopter to their high school graduation? Not to mention the burden to fit in and keep up.

With this age group about to embark on a much bigger pond in high school, it’s inevitable they will succumb to peer pressure at some point. Vanessa adds, “I worry about the expectations of peers and society for my daughter to be more than she is; to dress in an inappropriately mature way. I don't want her to feel that she can't be the lovely young woman she is.”

Michael Grose, parenting educator and director of Parenting Ideas Club says the most important job of parents of 11-14 year olds is to make it easy for kids to be their age. And the way to do that? “Say no to them so they can blame you. It’s very difficult for a child of that age to say no to their friends. If you do it, it actually relieves the pressure for them.”

The ostentation at celebrations such as primary school graduations fits in with the notion of indulging children. Michael adds, “As parents, we don’t say to our children anymore, ‘you are a child and these are adult concepts.’ They need to learn to bide their time, wait their turn.” He says parents need to be the filter for our children. “We need to ask, is this appropriate for their age and stage of development? The easiest way to parent is to go with the crowd. The hardest is to swim against the tide.”

So amongst the possible tide of limos (or perhaps just one), my son and his mates will be arriving in our people mover. With tinted windows and auto sliding doors, it has B-grade celebrity value. Well, that might be generous. It definitely seems appropriate for a grade six celebration. As Vanessa wisely says, “we are a long time grown up, but only a short time a child.”

What I hope my son, and his siblings to come, take away from their primary school years is a quest for knowledge, a self-confidence and self-worth that will help them through the tough times and a warm feeling of family and friends who love them.

And a photo of them in a cool outfit stepping out of the family wagon.

Has your child's graduation been a simple affair? Or did you have to fight battles with your children about hair, makeup, luxury transport etc?


Edited by Kylie Orr, 20 November 2015 - 09:08 AM.

#2 Feral Grey Mare

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:14 AM

My two finished Year 6 in 2006 and 2010. The end of the year was marked by a farewell dinner and disco in the school hall. There were a few girls who took the day off school to get ready (hair, make-up, spray tan etc.) despite the school actively discouraging anyone going over the top. There was no mention of graduation, just a farewell to their friends and from the teachers they had spent the last seven years with. As they were all going to a whole range of high schools it was a nice chance to have a last celebration together. The final dance was the parent's polka where we got to prance around with our child and embarrass them in public after we arrived to collect them.

#3 Soontobegran

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:18 AM

All our children had pretty OTT Grade 6 graduations which were organised by the PCA.
The kids chose a theme and we obliged.
We hired a venue and we prepared and served food for the children and the teachers. Parents were invited to attend for the last hour when certificates were given out.
We had music of some sort, usually a DJ.

Some children hired a limo between half a dozen of them, most took a lot of trouble with hair and outfit and we organised a photographer to take a group photo.

This was in the 90s, and all local schools went to the same effort.
I guess it will be seen OTT to some extent but all our children have very fond memories of the night as for many it was the last time they'd see some of their friends who'd they'd made over the previous 7 years.
There were tears. :)

ETA...There were no battles nor did it create an appetite for the high life either ;)

Edited by Soontobegran, 20 November 2015 - 09:35 AM.

#4 ~Kestrel~

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:28 AM

No one fails primary school, there is no official certificate of completion, therefore it is not a graduation.

When I finished primary we had a year 6 party in the classroom, and special cards to get signatures and to stick in friends school photos.

#5 namie

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:39 AM

In 1989 when I finished Grade 6, they held an end of year social in the school hall. Most of us were continuing our schooling together at the the High School across the road so there wasn't so much a farewell to each other as to the teachers and the school itself.

I remember we had designated seating and ate a sit down dinner with proper place settings, but I can't remember what we ate. Then a disco/social followed.

Some girls went OTT in big pink flouncy dresses with puff sleeves and big hair, some boys wore ties with a jacket and nice pants. Most kids just wore their 'best' clothes and looked smart. I don't recall there being any limos.

My mum took me shopping for a whole new outfit, all of which was then worn again at nice occasions over the following year. I got a new skirt, shirt, singlet top (the shirt was open and tied at the waist), colour co-ordinated ankle socks, and new slip-on moccasins with a bow on the front - all in purple (my favourite colour) and white. She also let me have my hair braided at the local hair salon with a purple ribbon woven through
:blush: :wub:
It was all age appropriate and you can see in the photos how totally chuffed I was to have it all. New clothes at all were an excitement to us back then, to have a whole new outfit at once was bloody amazing!

I'd like to hope that my boys have something similarly low-key but exciting and fun to look forward to when the time comes. I'll happily pay towards a limo for year 12, but not year 6!

#6 SenatorPrissypants

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:40 AM

My thoughts exactly, SycamoreGap. It's not voluntary schooling, they don't have to work hard to pass tests and meet requirements. It's a nice right of passage to mark on their journey to adulthood but it's not a graduation, it's not an achievement. A BBQ or a disco is a nice way to mark the milestone but going OTT is, to me, congratulating kids for turning up. If your child has struggled to get there, then a family celebration or reward seems more appropriate.

#7 Soontobegran

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:42 AM

View PostSycamoreGap, on 20 November 2015 - 09:28 AM, said:

No one fails primary school, there is no official certificate of completion, therefore it is not a graduation.

When I finished primary we had a year 6 party in the classroom, and special cards to get signatures and to stick in friends school photos.

Does there have to be an exam to graduate from something ? It isn't about passing but moving on from one stage to another.

I think a grade 6 graduation is about celebrating the memories that have been made a school.

#8 EmAyEm

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:42 AM

I had a grade 6 graduation in '94 which involved a 3 course meal at a venue, and getting dressed up and being presented with a certificate etc. Some kids went to the effort of hair and makeup and limos, so it isn't just a new trend. This was a public school in not a wealthy area.

I then moved to a different state where year 7 was the last year of primary school, so I graduated again. However this only involved a morning tea on the school grounds and presentation of certificates.

#9 FloralArrangement

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:50 AM

I'm on the 3rd round with finishing primary school here. Luckily for us the limo idea has fallen through. We have a year 7 mass (SA kids start high school year 8) which we attend and have presentations and supper after. Then the next night they get dressed up, in a pretty dress or shirt and pants and go for a meal together with teachers. I'm over it. I've already had a year 12 formal with dd2 this year. Just gotten over dd1's from 2012.

At least by experience I've learnt what to spend money on and what not to. The set precedence is the problem. I would love the school/s to reel it back in. The kids will still have a great time just more homespun.

Edited by Floral Arrangement, 20 November 2015 - 09:51 AM.

#10 gravity1

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:50 AM

Our school does a graduation dinner, speech and awards. It is not a fancy affair. Definitely no limo's!

#11 Soontobegran

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:50 AM

View PostSenatorPrissypants, on 20 November 2015 - 09:40 AM, said:

My thoughts exactly, SycamoreGap. It's not voluntary schooling, they don't have to work hard to pass tests and meet requirements. It's a nice right of passage to mark on their journey to adulthood but it's not a graduation, it's not an achievement. A BBQ or a disco is a nice way to mark the milestone but going OTT is, to me, congratulating kids for turning up. If your child has struggled to get there, then a family celebration or reward seems more appropriate.

It is a graduation if the school and children wish to call it that, really it is splitting hairs to argue the 'requirements of calling it a graduation.'

None of the 5 graduations we had were compulsory so if a parent decided that it was best to have a family celebration then that was okay although I don't recall that ever happening.
The PCA helped pay for the children of those families who found it difficult to fund their child's night.

#12 Kylie Orr

Posted 20 November 2015 - 09:57 AM

Thanks for sharing your stories.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good celebration - and I'll weep like a baby at the presentation and final assembly.

Very happy to mark the occasion and I'm not precious about it being called graduation - it is saying goodbye to one phase and beginning the next which is exciting and nerve wracking and all those things.I

I'm helping set up the room they are having dinner in and we are trying our best to make it look special on a very limited budget so the kids feel great and remember their final send off from primary school.

It's the over-the-top, age-inappropriateness that bothers me.

The school has made a statement about "age appropriate dress" but that's completely open for interpretation and can be chosen to be ignored if a family wish. They're not going to refuse them entry!

One of many, many battles we will fight, no doubt, as my children branch into their teen years and learn the reality that we do not all approach the world equally.

#13 Mowzer

Posted 20 November 2015 - 10:09 AM

When I left primary in 1978, there was NOTHING.  Our kids have a dinner organized by the p&c.  Very low key. The kids are encouraged to dress nicely, that is all.

#14 Coffeegirl

Posted 20 November 2015 - 10:09 AM

Just about to have my second child "graduate" and I think its getting OTT.

My DD finished year 6 a few years ago.  The school traditionally had a meal in the hall (catered, but served by parent volunteers) then a dance and one of the parents is  expected to do a surprise dance with the child.    

Then they have an end of year picnic, a seperate formal 'certificate' ceremony and on the last day of school the entire school forms a guard of honour that the year 6 student walk through (quite sweet :) )   Plus they all buy signature bears and get a "graduation pack"

This year though, the year 6 students have a formal dinner at a local club and a dance after - again one of the parents is expected to participate in the 'surprise dance"  

Yes there were students that came in limos.   One student came in on a Harley which his father drove right into the school grounds :glare:  Plus a giant pink Hummer.     Was quite OTT and a majority of the students (and almost all the parents!) rolled their eyes

#15 ~Kestrel~

Posted 20 November 2015 - 10:14 AM

It's not so much the word, you can say your child has graduated from preschool, from infants, from primary, I don't care. I don't think the whole formal sit down dinner thing is age appropriate though. I know I wouldn't have been interested in that at 11 or 12 and I doubt DS will be in a couple of years. I think he would much prefer a disco or bbq or a fun day out.

#16 Lesley225

Posted 20 November 2015 - 10:17 AM

I finished 6th class in 1977.  I had moved half way through the year and ended up spending the last day back with my origonal school  The school there had a seperate infants school, then the primary next door and then teh high school across the road.  There was no big deal we had some chips and lollies in the classroom.  

Not sure what the new school did but all of were just moving to the high school half a block down the road.  Once we got there we would be graded so I didn't see a lot of the same poeple again but it was no big deal.

We we were only 11.

When my neice had her 6th class formal I would be hard put to tell teh difference between their dresses and the year 12 ones.

Edited by Lesley225, 20 November 2015 - 10:19 AM.

#17 annodam

Posted 20 November 2015 - 10:20 AM


Edited by annodam, 09 January 2017 - 11:53 AM.

#18 Soontobegran

Posted 20 November 2015 - 10:25 AM

I am sure there may be some schools that do stretch the limits.
I cringe a little when I see 4 year olds dressed up in a robes and mortar hat to graduate from pre school because I think at that age it is for the parents than the children however at age 12 it is a big step to be moving up and they have many memories that will live with them always. ( I just wish they were happy for everyone. )

I think we need to lose the worry about having a grade 6 graduation setting the bar too high for the future.
In my experience it certainly didn't. It was one night, one that was appreciated and remembered but it sure didn't set a precedent.

#19 Mistaken identity

Posted 20 November 2015 - 10:26 AM

When I was a child grade 7 was the end of primary, not grade 6 and there was no 'graduation'. There was just a break up party and one award was given out. No dressing up, or limos or anything like that. The idea of treating it like a formal is just so odd to me.

I think we watched a movie at the break up party. It was awesome.

There is no way I'm letting my children hire a limo to go to their primary 'graduation'. That is way over the top. I see grade 12 students doing that in my area at the moment, to go all of 2kms to the school hall and it seems so extravagant and pointless. Everyone wants to act like a reality tv star these days. (oh my goodness, I'm turning into a stereotypical old person 'kids today...tut, tut'.)

#20 Julie3Girls

Posted 20 November 2015 - 11:32 AM

Our school keeps it low key.

Dinner in the hall for yr6 and teachers, prepared and served by parent volunteers. The hall is decorated to a theme - the kids make the decorations as part of their art and craft during term 4.
Yr5 join them after dinner - we do stage classes, so all the kids have been in 5/6 classes. They have a bit of a disco.
Parents turn up at the end - presentation of a folder which has all the yr6 kids photos, and some good luck messages from teachers. As each child goes up, they put up two side by side photos - their kinder photo and yr 6 one. Ends with a parent/child dance.

It's lovely - a fun night with their friends. A lot of kids spread out to different high schools, so leaving primary is a big change.

Yes, some people take it too far.  There has been the expensive cars, and girls who take the day off school to get their hair and makeup done professionally. The school has put restrictions on dresses - no strapless dresses for example.

But it's what you want to make it - I'm on my second one this year. Nice new pretty dress, hair done at home by me. Travel in our normal car.

They save their tears for the final school assembly, on the last day, where the rest of the school form an arch and clap them out.

#21 Expelliarmus

Posted 20 November 2015 - 05:11 PM

Our primary school has changed it slightly, but it's only at OTT as you want to make it. Some kids were talking limos etc and it was clear last year some girls had been to the hairdresser but mine got a new outfit and shoes. It is a nice outfit, fairly formal and it is considered a formal 'grown up' sort of evening.

For DD1 it was a meal at a local pub restaurant, with certificates and awards between main and dessert, with students showcasing a dance after dessert. Parents and siblings attended the entire event providing they paid the $20/head amount.

Last year for DD2 it was changed to be at the school Hall, I don't know how it was catered as parents no longer attend the dinner, jst the awards ceremony at the start and then come to see the Dance presentation when they collect them at the end., The students share the meal with their classmates. I think they had some disco type arrangement happening before pick up.

At work is similar with students dressing up and families witnessing the awards ceremony before students are dropped off at the local pub buffet for a meal - although some people think it should be at a cafe as a pub is not appropriate so it tends to swing between the two - IMO the pub is more comfortable with better food ... Interestingly this was the argument from moving our school graduation form the pub to the school hall. I don't ever go to pubs and don't drink alcohol but prefer the graduations at pubs ... so that's weird, really ... LOL

I preferred being part of the graduation dinner and not shoved out the door after the certificates like I dond't matter anymore.

#22 singletnshorts

Posted 20 November 2015 - 05:32 PM

My Year 7 graduation (QLD, year 2000) consisted of us doing a play, reading out a little speech for a chosen person in our group and we received at graduation certificate.

This went for 3 hours :lol:

The play was about Robin Hood and I got to "arrest" my crush who played Robin Hood and I was one of the guards. Best moment of Year 7 by far!

I got my hair done and a new dress but honestly what was more exciting was the the graduation party held at my class mates house. That was so much fun!

#23 Black Velvet

Posted 20 November 2015 - 05:56 PM

At my boys school they will be having a graduation evening where the parents attend and sit in the audience. Presumably they will receive some sort of certificate and awards etc are given out like at an assembly. The next day the kids go to school and are taken to a graduation lunch. (There is a dress code because it is at a restaurant at Crown Perth).

#24 Hellbent

Posted 20 November 2015 - 06:00 PM

Dd goes to a k to 12 school that has a middle school from years 5 to 8, so finishing year 6 is no biggy worth celebrating. With this in mind, and feeling a bit sad that her friends at public schools were all having a graduation dinner,  last year we had a celebration at end of year at our house. Dd sent out formal invitations, dress was formal, dinner was 3 courses (plus canapés on arrival ofcourse), table was set with our best linen and crystal, a red carpet was laid for arriving guests. 8 kids were invited. Girls wore beautiful dresses, boys wore suits (no one bought a new outfit, just stuff they already had). No one ate the canapés. They loved the lollies and pink lemonade in champagne flutes  however. They ate dinner, kicked off their shoes and pulled off their ties and spent the rest of the night playing nerf wars and tips. At the end they all said, can we do that again next year, but without the formal stuff. Let's just eat junk and play games. I realised then formals aren't fun for 12 year olds. They're only fun for adults.

#25 BeAwesome

Posted 20 November 2015 - 06:03 PM

I'm pretty sure mine had a square dance involved.  I don't remember much, except I was allowed to buy some coveted (low) platform shoes, and wear lipstick.  I think there was  a roast.

I probably have more of a beef with big presentation nights for Kindergarten graduation.

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