THEY cleaned every window last summer at Inverness High for the first time in recent memory. Old lags at the school reckoned it might have been 20 years since the last wash.
The principal teacher of physical education certainly noticed the difference. For the first time in years the gym could be used without putting on the lights.
Ritchie Cunningham, Inverness High's headteacher, says the ability to spend on school priorities has been vital after years of cuts. Devolved school management cleaned the windows.
"We have had a cut every year for the last six years, although the past year was more static. You have to add inflation to that as well. We have had diminishing budgets, a little at a time," Mr Cunningham said.
The main problem in the past two years has been a cut in staffing to 2 per cent below the national recommendation. "With a member of staff down, it is very tight in terms of development work and timetabling. But we hope to have this reinstated this year. We want to put more into language and mathematics in the first and second years and the flexibility would enable us to do that," he said.
Mr Cunningham is also hoping departmental budgets will be improved. Under devolved management savings elsewhere have paid for books and materials. But there is no heading for replacement furniture and other budgets have to be raided to pay for chairs and desks.
In the coming year, the target is more investment for Higher Still. New courses, new materials.
Ian Topping, head of Wilton School, Hawick, said: "Last year at this time I was worried sick. This year I am far more relaxed. I am not anticipating the major difficulties we have had in the past. We tucked our shirts in as far as we could go."
Mr Topping predicts a standstill budget with developments ring-fenced by the Scottish Office's excellence fund.
Duncan Clark, head of Burntisland primary, Fife, said the outcome was "looking reasonable", although hard figures have yet to reach schools. "There are not likely to be cuts this year and we have been well supported in Fife," Mr Clark said.
Last year, a "well received" windfall from the council of pound;8,000 was spent largely on books and materials.
This coming year, plans under the excellence fund include technician support for the National Grid for Learning, enhancing IT provision, early intervention and classroom assistants.
Sue Walker, head of Castlehead High, Paisley, is "reasonably optimistic" about funding and hopes to benefit from excellence fund allocations in Renfrewshire. "It's good people are now listening to heads, where they have identified needs and matching resources," she said.
Like other heads, Mrs Walker hopes new technology will be given extra support and her plans include a school network. Computer-assisted learning, notably through the Successmaker software package in English and maths, has already proved popular and "might have quite an effect", she says.
A further target is extra resources to tackle underachievement, particularly among boys in S2 and S4.
"Things are not quite in tablets of stone but if we get the additional funds it will be a big help," Mrs Walker said.
HOW THE FIGURES ARE RISING
COUNCIL 1998-1999 1999-2000
Aberdeen pound;91.9m pound;95.7m
Aberdeenshire pound;113.7m pound;115.6m
Angus pound;50.2m pound;52.4m
Argyll pound;49m pound;55m
Clackmannan pound;24m pound;26m
Dumfries and Galloway pound;68m pound;73m
Dundee pound;65m pound;68m
East Ayrshire pound;57m pound;62m
East Dunbartonshire NA NA
East Lothian pound;35.5m pound;36.9m
East Renfrewshire pound;54m pound;58m
Edinburgh pound;178.5m pound;196.3m
Falkirk pound;84.6m pound;90.3m
Fife pound;154.8m pound;161.3m
Glasgow pound;309m pound;346m
Highland pound;113m pound;120m
Inverclyde pound;42.3m pound;44m
Midlothian pound;47.6m pound;50m
Moray pound;46.1m pound;47.6m
North Ayrshire pound;80.5m pound;86.3m
North Lanarkshire pound;189m pound;197.7m
Orkney pound;16m pound;15.3m
Perth and Kinross pound;57.6m pound;58.9m
Renfrewshire pound;80.7m pound;88.9m
Scottish Borders pound;53.6m pound;57.2m
Shetland pound;28.1m pound;29.7m
South Ayrshire pound;52.3m pound;57.9m
South Lanarkshire pound;166m pound;174m
Stirling pound;40m pound;44.1m
West Dunbartonshire pound;49.7m pound;52.4m
West Lothian pound;82.6m pound;86.6m
Western Isles pound;28.5m pound;29m
SCOTLAND pound;2508.8m pound;2676.1m