Mr Kirkham said the children he hosted at his club generally dressed up and took “a great deal of effort to appear more adult than they necessarily feel”.
“The young ladies appear to be in their best clothes and perhaps starting to experiment with a little bit of makeup,” he said. “The young men, many of them have got ties on and they look completely out of place but it’s very jovial and a lot of fun. I saw one young man in a top hat and tails.”
Mr Kirkham said one student arrived in a Lamborghini with two motorcycle outriders, which caused “a bit of excitement”.
More common is a trend for students to carpool with their friends in a stretch limousine or stretch Hummer.
Antony Field whose son Daniel has just finished year 6 at Mount Brown Primary School in Dapto, south of Wollongong, said his son went in with 14 schoolmates for a black stretch Hummer, which worked out at $33 a head for two hours. Meanwhile a group of girls turned up in a pink stretch Hummer.
“I never intended for Daniel to take a Hummer to his year 6 farewell but one of the parents suggested it and it was reasonably priced and he was so excited to do it,” Mr Field said. “Daniel said it was the best part of the year 6 farewell.”
Mr Field said the boys had a smoke machine, LED lights and a Bluetooth stereo system inside the Hummer and were driven down to Lake Illawarra, then up to the lighthouse near Wollongong Harbour before being dropped at school for dinner.
Ange Teulon from Birchgrove caught the bus with her husband and son to Trinity Grammar’s year 6 formal at Doltone House in Elizabeth Street, which she described as “an extravaganza”.
The event was $130 a head for adults and $75 for children and included a magician and a photo booth, while the fathers wore dinner suits, the mothers evening gowns and the boys wore chinos and linen shirts. Ms Teulon said the boys enjoyed themselves but going to a park and having a pizza party would have been more appropriate for their age.
“I’m starting to feel like I’m really old and bah humbug a bit. I think it’s a nice thing to acknowledge year 6 and transition into high school, but it feels like every year is trying to be bigger and better than before and the lesson of COVID for me was: let’s slow down a bit,” Ms Teulon said.
“I look now at the kids today and think, ‘What do they have to look forward to?’ because it’s all happening so much sooner for them.”
Catriona Daly, mother to Emily in year 6 at a public school in the Illawarra, said she let her daughter join friends in a stretch limousine because it was only $35-a-head. She knew her friend and her hairdresser had both done the same.
“Emily did ask to do her nails but I said no to that as we wanted something to look forward to when she went to her next formal in year 10 or 12,” Ms Daly said. “The trend is like kids’ birthday parties getting bigger and brighter.”
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Caitlin Fitzsimmons is a senior writer for The Sun-Herald, focusing on social affairs.