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Northern lights out

And they say Tony Blair's education reforms stop at the border. Anyone who wants to see a virtual "commissioning" local authority may want to look at Aberdeen City, where half the council's education officials are leaving, either at the end of this month or during the summer.

On their way out of the new corporate structure are leading officials Charles Muir, Alex Hunter, Ann Landels and Jean Bell. Former director John Stodter has already taken his package and run.

As senior staff take their "Paterson shilling" (so-called because of the reforms of council chief executive, Douglas Paterson, once education director in Grampian), schools are being asked collectively to cough up pound;1 million and hand it back to the cash-strapped centre.

This is obviously going down well with the troops, who have complained bitterly about the lack of education experience in the top management tiers.

But one footsoldier saw the bright side. "There's nobody to ask, but that might be an advantage. At least we'll get a couple of years of peace and quiet."

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