Bright outlook for a brave new era

7th January 2000 at 00:00
On returning from holiday, I found that my humble office had been transformed by my fairy godmother, alias bursar.

The lavatorial green walls were replaced by a bright and optimistic shade of sky blue, presaging the distant horizons to which we will aspire in the new millennium. The carpet had been removed and safely entrusted to the care of Rentokil. In its place a deep red material, attesting to the janitor's allegiance to Heart of Midlothian, covered the floor.

The skip was the final resting place of the groaning filing cabinets, which held the secrets of 30 years of Holy Rood High, its peaks and troughs, its joys and sorrows. The yellowing personnel files had aged with their human counterparts, and were far outnumbered by the crisp, fresh documents of latter-day recruits.

The curtains, judiciously selected in a past era to blend with the verdant hue of the walls, had opened for the last time on a panorama of Duddingston and the hills beyond, to be replaced by vertical blinds, which lend the premises a deceptive impression of modernity and efficiency.

Box files, labelled meticulously with impressive legends such as attainment, quality assurance and departmental links adorn the newly installed shelves. Their destined contents remain heaped high in the corner, but the streamlined filing system is a powerful statement of intent.

Eileen Duvall, librarian and embellisher extraordinaire of the Holy Rood environment, offers to supply and tend a botanic extravaganza of fresh foliage. When Janice Watson, from home economics, asks what has become of the straggly old specimen that used to sit in the corne, I innocently point out that he has gone off to work on the timetable.

Even my very drawers are not spared from intrusion when refurbishment is in progress. Multiple packets of confiscated cigarettes, catapults and a tin of trick slime have been banished from the premises. The paraphernalia of adolescent felony have been replaced by more fitting items, including a pristine example of How Good is Our School? and a glossy copy of Edinburgh's strategic plan.

The gold-rimmed china tea-set, purchased by my predecessor, recalls an era of taste and elegance, before the mugs arrived. The glistening white crockery is disappearing by the day, and occasionally a cup reappears, neatly filled with compost and ready to serve a second lifetime in a new horticultural role.

The fittings are all in place for the Internet, the intranet and the information superhighway. Only the skills of the headteacher to access them are lacking, and the time to acquire these.

Lesley Carroll, assistant headteacher, accomplished in the sacred mysteries of information technology, has become my unofficial tutor in this wonderful world of gadgetry and speaks a quasi-masonic technological language unknown to many. Supported study and individual mentoring are prescribed as remedies to my situation of non-inclusion.

A handbell in the cupboard in the corner will defiantly peal out to call the troops to order when all the electronic wizardry of the new cyber-age fails us in a power cut. It still has the voice of authority which comes with age and long service.

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

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