It should be a time in life when even the air we breathe is alive with possibilities.
Days spent with equally excited friends planning and preparing for the rites of passage that see us transition from child to adulthood.
Instead, those fifth and sixth year leavers now robbed of their final weeks in school face a frustrating wait at home left only with the thought of what could have been.
For some there may be initial relief that those dreaded exams will no longer have to be studied for and sat. There’ll be no last-minute cramming, no fights with anxious parents reminding them endlessly why they need to knuckle down and revise harder. Instead, they wait.
For those who kept the foot off the gas in the prelims, saving their best for the real exams, there will be remorse – and anger. Their chance to shine, to prove what they can do has been taken from them. And where should that anger be directed? At the SQA stuck between a rock and hard place, or at an invisible monster that moves silently between us?
How will that time – until mere days ago earmarked for study leave ahead of the graduation celebrations – now be spent? Plans for leavers’ dances and proms lie in tatters – with thousands of expensive dresses still on order around Scotland, and with boutiques and department stores left counting the likely cost of cancellations. The hair and nail appointments, the pre-prom gatherings at friends’ houses as parents crowd around snapping pictures and struggling to contain their emotions.
It would be nice to think that at some point, somehow down the line, schools will be able to organise those graduation dances. They, above even the exams, the concerts, the final assemblies, will be the most sorely missed. It’s a rite of passage treasured equally by the pupils and mums and dads who, in watching their son or daughter appear from the bedroom in their evening wear, see their childhood flash before their eyes. It’s the moment that seals the mental leap from parenting a child to sharing in the life of a young adult.
And what will emerge in the place of these events? Our teenagers, so often accused of being snowflakes with no resilience, will surely amaze us with their creative ways of making things happen.
For now though it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Once the boredom sets in, the frustration and sense of loss will be felt all the more. Then there is the uncertainty, the loss of control over how they will be graded and what it will mean for their futures.
What was meant to be an unforgettable few months of their lives for all the right reasons will be memorable for something few could have ever predicted – though the warnings have been sounded – and none will have prepared for.
They will tell their grandchildren of this year and what they lost – and we hope, too, of what they gained amidst the chaos of 2020.
The lost night at the proms
With so many aspects of American culture adopted by the UK, proms are now big business in this country too.
While girls always loved to look their best for the leavers’ dance, prom night takes dressing up to new heights.
It’s been estimated that British parents spend more than £90 million a year, with frocks costing an average of £250 according to the most recent surveys, with some families splashing out considerably more.
Costs don’t end with the dresses and suits; shoes, accessories, bags, hair styling, manicures, makeovers, spray-tans and even limousine hire are among the most common expenses. A study by fashion retailer Simply Be found 78% of parents said their daughters visit a hair salon, with 62% having their nails professionally done.
With the cancellation of proms now likely as schools close due to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s not just the dress retailers and hire specialists that will be counting the cost, but a huge subset of other industries who have seen bookings soar in prom season.
The school leaver: Sandy Robertson, 17, Dundee
I’ve been working from home for the last few days so I was watching the news and heard Boris Johnson saying GCSEs and A Levels were cancelled, so I assumed it would happen here too.
I’m in a lucky position in that I’ve got an unconditional offer to go to Strathclyde University to study international business with Spanish so I’m not too concerned about the exams, but I do feel for those people who need to get their Highers or certain results this year to get into university. That leaves them in a really difficult situation.
I’ll look back at this time and will feel that I’ve missed out on all the traditions.
There’s a lot of disappointment too. I was looking at going to a music festival in Barcelona but that won’t be happening now. A lot of people I know had bought outfits and very expensive dresses for our leavers’ ball and it’s sad that school has come to a sudden end like this. I think I’ll look back at this time and will feel that I’ve missed out on all the traditions.
It looks like it will be a long time to fill now and there’s not a lot of prospect of getting a job over the summer with a lot of small businesses closing. So I don’t know how I’ll spend my time. We’ll have to wait and see. I enjoy going out for runs so I can still do that, and I’ll do jobs around the house for my parents. I don’t have brothers and sisters so at least there’s no one to argue with.