Friday, September 23, 2011

School's out in Sydney

Hurrah, today’s the end of the third term of the Australian school year, and there’s nothing like the joy of chucking winter uniforms into a large heap. In a slightly bizarre twist to schooling that I am still struggling to get my head round, students in their last year of school in Australia actually leave school at this point. Unlike the UK or US system, all the graduation ceremonies, prizegivings and dinners happen before they sit their exams and they then wander back into school in a strange state of limbo to sit their final exams in about a month’s time. As a consequence of this system, Drama Queen No. 1 will go back to school in a couple of weeks as part of the new top year of school and will start her last year of study which based on parental rumour is going to be a testing year for one and all and I am anticipating that even the dog will be on tranquillisers by the time she picks up her pen in her first exam in 2012.

Drama Queen No.3 is in her last year of the fabulous state primary school that all the Drama Queens attended since the day we marched them more or less straight off the plane from America and into the school gates, with only a quick pause for a detour to the school uniform shop. Anyone who has had to kit out three children in complete school uniform without benefit of sibling hand me downs will sympathise with the sudden choking fit that overcame me when the lady in the shop gaily added up the numbers and handed me the bill. All thoughts of ensuring they fitted in at their new school went out of my head as I handed back bits of kit that in the face of the enormous total I now deemed as completely surplus to requirements - I mean how many sports shirts could 3 girls of wildly different sizes need anyway? 6 years later I look at the uniform rail in the laundry – (am I contender for the Martha Stewart award for neatness or what?) and the answer is that I could now stock the uniform shop almost single handed such is the kit and clobber we’ve collected over time.

As part of the finale of this term, the primary school puts on a school show. The word Show doesn’t seem to quite cover it; Extravaganza would be a better description with every one of the 510 children in the school, from Kindy to Year 6 performing, in full costume. Each of the 21 classes has an individually choreographed dance that they perform with aplomb. I can’t begin to get my head round how you even start with a project of this size – and I’m sure even Cameron Mackintosh would be calling for a stiff gin and tonic if handed the task, but somehow the staff pull it off every year. From a parental perspective I love the fact that every child, from small to tall, tousle headed to impeccably groomed, has a part and is in effect a star. Based on the children’s expressions and the parental bodies in the audience that almost visibly swell with pride, the show is something that really provides that magical word of enrichment that is bandied around in educational circles, to every single child in the school. There is also the additional benefit that the videos that are produced every year are an invaluable source of entertainment and I can already see are going to have a major role in any 21st or wedding celebration – after all Drama Queen No 3 started her career as a dancing banana in Kindergarten and finished year 6 this week as a performing Penguin and how many people can boast that kind of track record?

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