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Judiciary advance and family retreat

The judiciary has cast grave doubt on the legality of negotiating committees for conditions of service at school and authority level. This could blow a huge hole in machinery set up to take forward McCrone recommendations.

Of course, it did seem a spurious concept that a teacher's conditions of service could vary with their location. Staff shared between schools could be subject to different dispensations between mornings and afternoons.

The learned judges have declared unequivocally that we are all subject to the provisions of the yellow book of national conditions of service. Most of us resist the attractions of this copious volume, except when a remedy is required for insomnia.

Local decision-making also blights the holiday arrangements of families where a multiplicity of employment allegiances exist within a single household. It is not uncommon for teaching couples to serve different authorities, while their children attend school in a third.

Edinburgh's predilection for a week's holiday in February may reflect the local fondness for skiing. As we went off on holiday, Heather the Weather was liberally dishing out storm warnings and snow-ploughs were busy on the upper reaches of the M9.

As Stirling Council has limited this freezing frolic to two days, the Sweeneys are restricted to accessible destinations, so we made for the ancient city of York.

It is bizarre that neither of us has ever visited York, although we have sampled New York on several occasions. We have flown together to Addis Ababa but have never glimpsed the Roman town of Eboracum on our doorstep.

All England can often be reduced in the Scottish mentality to a drag of motorways separating Scots from European sun.

York Castle Museum graphically evokes the history of the town and its people from Roman times to the present day, charting its strategic importance in the English Civil War. Archive documents are combined with collections of human interest.

We also called on Mike Knox, Holy Rood's assistant head, ensconced in his holiday retreat at Wooler in Northumberland, which he operates as a residential centre. Having negotiated half of Europe's lorries and endless roadworks, we reached Mike's bolt-hole, Walkerwalls, at the foot of the Cheviot Hills.

He has bought the centre, which can accommodate 25 people, in partnership with friends. It previously was owned and managed by a religious community. Bookings have poured in and the centre is full to the end of the session. I sense Wooler will often be enlisted to the service of Holy Rood in the years ahead.

The heavy homeward traffic is probably a Klondyke rush of the English lured by the blandishments of Scottish teaching in the wake of the McCrone agreement.

Pat Sweeney is headteacher at Holy Rood High School, Edinburgh

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