Getting away from that boil in the bag future

AS THE session draws to its hectic conclusion, I am nursing my very own recruitment crisis. Edinburgh was quick off the mark this year, enabling staff-hungry headteachers to make an early foray into the recruitment market.

We were delighted to sign up several of this year's top achievers from college before the end of March. This result was facilitated by university colleagues, particularly in the new faculty of education at Glasgow University.

But despite these advantages, we find ourselves toiling to fill vacancies for August. This year, for the first time, the famine in maths and computing has spread to modern languages and English.

More surprisingly, society will face a miserable boil-in-the-bag future if the current shortage of home economics teachers becomes critical.

The fixture list of planned interviews is extended this year by the coincidence of several "acting" posts, to be filled internally. One of these results from the transfer of Marie Allan from Holy Rood to St Augustine's, another Edinburgh Catholic secondary, as assistant head, for an undisclosed fee. Marie gained national prominence as president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, and has given sterling service to Holy Rood over 28 years.

The ever more complex pattern of special needs represented in the school aggravates the recruitment predicament, as we will require no fewer than nine auxiliaries to be in place for August.

The arrival of 223 wee people who will join our first year will take the school uncomfortably close to its official 1,000 ceiling. Sweatshirted and anxiously clutching pristine PE kit, they will grip a plan of the buildings in their white knuckles as they orientate around our complex of buildings.

It will take hours each day to feed this ravenous multitude, until they discover the high caloric alternatives of the chippie and the local shop.

With disconcerting rapidity, they will become our senior pupils, taking their leave of us, as the current sixth year has recently done, in the shared conviviality of the senior school dance. This is an essential rite of passage for Holy Rood pupils, and this year it has been staged in the splendid surroundings of the Roxburghe Hotel.

They have been admirably served by a dedicated staff, who now have a respite before another session begins its inexorable cycle. They will be drawn back in the final days of the holidays to check exam results and to prepare for the challenges of a new session.

The creation of 32 education authorities has led to a haphazard patchwork of school holidays across the country. It was most considerate of Edinburgh to ensure that the vacation dates in Holy Rood coincided with the holidays offered to the headteacher at Tannochbrae, with whom I share my bucket and spade.

Pat Sweeney is headteacher at Holy Rood High School, Edinburgh.

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