Tonight is my son’s “Quali” dance. For those not of Scottish origin, I probably have to explain what that is. Once upon a time children were required to gain a qualification certificate to move from primary to secondary education. That certificate showed there achievement and helped to decide which kind of secondary school the child would progress to.
In our modern, comprehensive era, where all children are entitled to the same kind of education no matter what their abilities and talents, the certificate may longer exist, but the celebration of the achievement of reaching the end of primary school education does. So the “Quali” dance is a key part of every 11/12 year old’s final few weeks in Primary education.
My son is an interesting child. He doesn’t like to push himself to the front and doesn’t like to stand out as different. So for weeks he has been telling us that he would just wear his suit ( probably best not to ask why a 12 year old boy has a suit). A fortnight ago he came home saying he wanted to wear a kilt.
Fortunately he has a kilt passed on from another young man. He’s borrowed his father’s sporran and belt, and a waistcoat that once fitted his dad. He has a highland shirt and a pair of brogues, and without too much trouble he looks the part.
The evening started early with a journey on a party bus. They’ve arrived, had their photos taken with groups of friends, and have entered the school to party with their friends and the school staff. Once this is finished they leave for a less formal disco at a local youth centre.
Parents have sobbed as they have watched their babies look like grown ups.
But how these lives are going to change within a matter of weeks. For they will go from being the oldest on a building, where little ones look at them in awe, to being the youngest and at the mercy of those with more experience.
There’s an experience we all know well. We may not know what it means to become the youngest again but in each new situation of life we find ourselves as those without experience at the mercy of others.