As the end of Term 3 approaches, Principals across NSW are always filled with mixed feelings. On one hand you see amazing young people who you and your staff have worked hard with- sometimes for many years- graduating from secondary school. The pride you feel and the back stories you know are endless and you enjoy their mood as they anticipate their future selves. At the same time you are balancing the needs of the rest of the school and as you do this, rising to the forefront of your mind in the myriad of end of term meetings and reports, is a very different feeling- anxiety. It’s the 17 and 18 year olds who again push your thoughts their way. How will young people with driving licenses and access to technology behave as they leave school? This time presents as a complex mix of fun, rites of passage, friendship and dips into a sense of adulthood. Leaving school is a moment in the lives of our students that is filled with anticipation, pressure, release and high spirits.
The news of scavenger hunts in Sydney and Newcastle with malicious, degrading, criminal and dangerous challenges has been met with a great degree of discomfort. Have we failed our young people or have they failed us? Sadly, these events have been going on for years and it’s not appropriate to apportion blame. When young people think they are adults but don’t have the brain development to judge situations maturely or consider consequences, we are always likely to find we have problems as they leave school.
It takes time to change cultures in schools. Five years after banning student participation in the Newcastle Scavenger Hunt and working hard with students to provide a fun, engaging and safe end to their schooling, I am relieved we tackled this head on when we did at NGS. This has been a team effort from a group of wonderful staff, parents and students. We want our young people to enter the next stage of their lives in a position of strength- not finding their future is restricted by decisions they made in the last week of school.