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Discover the joys of doing it yourself

The venue for the top-drawer event was an early Seventies establishment, with a stunning outlook towards Arthur's Seat, nestling in the conservation village of Duddingston.

The menu featured gastronomical delights with an international flavour, from pakora to tiramasu. The floor-to-ceiling tomes of literature created an ambience of gravitas. A myriad of tiny candles softened the light.

The Scottish capital, with its new parliament and burgeoning international profile, knows how to welcome a celebrity. The guest of honour was ushered in to rapturous applause as 100 diners took their seats.

This was, however, no summit for political luminaries or beanfeast of theatrical luvvies. It was the valedictory party in the school library, at which Holy Rood said farewell to one of its most outstanding servants, Mrs Pat McCarron.

A revitalised and literally rejuvenated social committee has experimented with various classy restaurants in the over-rated and pricey directory of Edinburgh eateries. Our increasingly youthful and trendy staff, led by the fashion victims of the senior management team, like to step out in style to locations befitting their sartorial sensibilities. However, when a good night of mirth, revelry and reminiscence is in demand, the favoured option is the long-established Holy Rood formula of "bring a dish".

The hard work and energy put in to the occasion is ample testimony that staff are as dedicated as ever and that they value the contribution of their colleagues. Steven McLeister, a young temporary geography teacher was chief barman. When I left around midnight, volunteers were collecting the debris of the evening for disposal.

This gathering was not monopolised by teachers. The loudest shrieks of laughter emanated, as ever, from the corner occupied by the ladies of the school office. Special needs auxiliaries, with whom Pat worked closely, were out in force. The current crop of students, who, if they are typical, give us high hopes for the teacher induction scheme, joined the revelry. The fact that the majority of staff came was an eloquent tribute in itself.

The battery of computers around the walls bore the image of our guest of honour. Even the place mats doubled as quiz sheets on the life and times of Pat McCarron. The more competitive cajoled Pat's family to part with the answers, but to no avail. It was revealed that she had a "reading knowledge of Old Norse", a handy asset in the Craigmillar area.

Marney Queen, respected doyenne of the English department for two decades, led the tributes, combining eulogy and praise with gentle teasing and leg-pulling. The headteacher did the official honours, responding to the exhortation that "brevity was recommended", although he was at a loss to discern the reason for this admonition. A quarter of a century of dedication to Holy Rood was unstintingly acknowledged.

Increasingly, schools have to help themselves in every aspect of their work. Devolved management and decentralisation have enhanced local autonomy, but have simultaneously made us more self-supporting and resourceful. This home-produced function illustrates what staff can achieve when they pull together and draw on their own resources.

Without ulterior motive, I recently mentioned to Chris Nugent, an accomplished art and design colleague, an estimate of pound;800 received for painting a heavily-used stairwell. His spontaneous response was "We'll do you a mural costing pound;80 for materials." Chris's handiwork is already visible in large-scale artwork in other areas.

Our principal teacher of computing, Donald Shaw, doubles as systems manager and IT consultant to the senior management team. The solutions he proposes often save our scarce funds.

If God helps those who help themselves, he will certainly deal favourably with Holy Rood.

Pat Sweeney is headteacher at Holy Rood High School, Edinburgh

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