This is a post that was originally an article in Australia and New Zealand magazine. I usually reprint articles about a month or so after they’ve appeared in print, but this one was featured in the magazine’s February 2012 issue. I’ve been holding back for a reason, because this week is Schoolies Week.
Now, at this point I should have a picture of schoolies frolicking around and having fun, just like the magazine did…
But if I had have driven down to the Gold Coast with a camera and taken pictures of said schoolies jumping up and down and enjoying themselves, I would have been a toolie. So instead, here’s a picture of a cuddly koala…
What do I think of schools in Australia? A lot of people tell me they are concerned about the quality of education here, believing it can’t possibly be as good as back in the UK. Not true. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a highly respected organisation which evaluates education systems worldwide, Australia is doing pretty good. They release their quite comprehensive findings every three years.
When I first wrote about them, their latest figures were from 2006. At that time, Australia beat the UK and the USA in science, mathematics and reading. I’ve just checked the 2009 reports and Australia wins all three again. Better than that, my daughter Elizabeth has now completed 3 full years at school. She goes to school smiling; she comes out of school smiling. She loves it! So, if you’re concerned about education and schools in Australia, there is nothing to worry about.
Oh, except for this. Schoolies! When your child leaves school, as in leaving for the very last time to go and join the big wide world, they celebrate. They celebrate big! The event is called ‘Schoolies Week’; those who go are called ‘schoolies’ and it’s a bit of a tradition in these parts. Kids from schools all over Australia have a one week holiday away from their homes and their parents, probably for the first time in their lives.
Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, for example, is a top destination. Thousands of school leavers descended upon that particular hotspot at the end of the last school year. Boys and girls, 17 and 18 years old, away from home; partying late into the night; drinking as much alcohol as they can get their hands on; all of them from different schools from different parts of the country.
Is this an act of madness?
For a start, 17-year-olds consuming alcohol is against the law and that law is enforced during these celebrations. So there’s one problem. But surely that’s only the beginning?
Drunken kids from hundreds of difference schools all in one place, staying up late! That can only lead to one thing; street brawls on a massive scale. But strangely, here, it doesn’t. Strangely, the kids have a great time. They are helped by an army of adult volunteers who have all been cleared under the Blue Card system.
The task of these volunteers is to “support and assist schoolies to have an enjoyable, but ultimately, safe time”. There is also a huge police presence and they genuinely want the schoolies to have a good time too. Not everyone is there to help though. Some people, who have long left school, turn up and try to join in on the fun.
They are called, amusingly, ‘toolies’.
The event isn’t trouble free; there are some arrests, but not many. The highest number I’ve seen quoted for last years event was 140, mostly for public nuisance or alcohol related offences. That’s pretty good out of an estimated 35,000! And as a rule, there are usually more toolies arrested than schoolies.
Schoolies is controversial, not everyone is a fan. Some people want it banned; they think it IS an act of madness. In some countries, it would be, but here, it seems to work.