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Education news

De La Salle College: Inspectors to return to assess child safeguarding

Concerned parents of De La Salle hold a protest outside the school. Picture by Mal McCann

SCHOOL inspectors are to return to De La Salle College next week to monitor progress on addressing child safeguarding issues.

An inspection report this week found that staff at the west Belfast college were absent for an average of almost 40 days last year, almost five times the average rate for post-primary schools.

The school now needs external support to improve after it received the lowest grading.

The inspection team also raised concerns about safeguarding and made recommendations.

On the basis of the evidence available at the time of the inspection, they said "the school's arrangements for safeguarding children and young people are unsatisfactory and do not adequately reflect the guidance issued by the Department of Education".

In particular, the school needed to "improve the arrangements for maintaining and recording complaints and disclosures relating to child protection/safeguarding; monitor and evaluate more closely the outworking of all policies relating to child protection/safeguarding; and raise further the staff's awareness and understanding of what constitutes appropriate and effective safeguarding practices".

The inspectorate's safeguarding team is expected to return next week to see what progress has been made.

The school is now in the `formal intervention process' during which it must work to address issues raised by inspectors.

Some staff are unhappy with the findings, with a group signed a letter critical of inspectors as well as the acting principal and vice principal.

In response, the governors wrote to teachers saying they had confidence in the objectivity and integrity of the inspection process and would accept its findings.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said it would also be working with governors and staff "to develop detailed action plans to address all the issues that have been raised".

"It is important to emphasise however that the inspection also referenced several positive aspects within the school particularly the 'motivated pupils' who 'have a positive disposition to learning' and it highlighted the work already underway by staff to engage in 'working groups to co-ordinate and progress improvement planning'," a CCMS spokeswoman said.

"CCMS recognises the capability and professionalism of the board of governors and the senior leaders and is assured of their commitment to raising standards within the school and moving on from the difficulties faced in recent times."

A group of about 50 people, meanwhile, staged a protest at the school gates yesterday. Parents were also urged to keep their children at home for the day.

"We would plead with the community to stand together in this and support children's right for education," a parents' group said.

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