Drawn to the bright lights of Holy Rood

24th November 2000 at 00:00
Emma is a first year pupil of Holy Rood High School, whose report shows that she has made no progress whatever. She arrived in the school for the first time in summer 1997, and she will experience the same seamless transition from primary to secondary in August 2001. Already we are making preparations for her fifth coming.

Emma is like a guideline on environmental studies. Her advent has been predicted for years, but expectations of her final incarnation are invariably disappointed. There is even some doubt as to whether she really exists, or is conjured by some malevolent power as a figment of a fertile imagination.

Emma is portrayed as a model pupil who wears her uniform, does her work and never loses her bus pass. She is an example and an inspiration to her peers and an encouragement to the staff, whom she has seen steadily grow in number and decrease in age. She dismisses contemptuously any malicious rumours that the youthful vigour of the Holy Rood staff is the result of an insidious plot by the school management to vaporise everyone here over the age of 25.

The name Emma was chosen for this notional pupil as this was the commonest forename attributed to female babies in The Scotsman births column of 1996, the male equivalent being David.

A distinguished visitor at the time cynically suggested that Emma Goes to Holy Rood, the title of our booklet, really meant "well-behaved, middle-class girls go to Holy Rood". This credited us with a level of Machiavellian intent beyond our merits.

The diverse character of our current population testifies to the inclusive nature of the school. The roll of Holy Rood has increased by 88 per cent since 1991, and every available creed, colour and social background is represented among our 950 pupils.

Emma Goes to Holy Rood contains every item of information required by the education authority for information to parents in an attractive, readable form. Even the gripping statistics from Victoria Quay on exam results andstaying-on rates have their allotted place. Whether these reveal much to parents about a school whose constituency is so variable from year to year is a question for another day.

Emma Goes to Holy Rood has particular importance for a school whose intake tends to encompass pupils from more than 30 primary schools. Parents of many of these young people may have very little experience of Holy Rood until the day of their arrival. We work closely and harmoniously with our six associated primary schools, but for the remainder, the quality of written information is paramount.

Publication is financed with support from companies and organisations linked to the school, ranging from the Bank of Scotland to Blindcraft. We do not delude sponsors into believing that this investment represents a world-beating marketing scoop. It is debatable whether heating engineers Gilhooley and Rowse fit many additional boilers as a result of the booklet, but their generosity is welcomed and valued by our pupils and staff, not least by Jennifer Rowse, our Olympic-class office receptionist.

Keeping photographs up to date and consistent in style is an annual challenge. The Kwik-Fit helicopter pilot provided a unique colour aerial shot of the school and its splendid surroundings. This has dominated the cover of Emma since day one, while council photographer Lloyd Smith readily responds to our plaintive calls for assistance.

In spite of her studious nature and exemplary behaviour, Emma remains steadfastly in first year. She noticed with interest that the 2001 publication includes information on the 30th anniversary of the opening of the school. She has an innate premonition not to complete her first year of secondary schooling until Higher Still is safely delivered and the Scottish Qualifications Authority has overcome its teething problems. On that basis, she reckons that she may remain in first year for some time to come.

Pat Sweeney is headteacher at Holy Rood High, Edinburgh

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