De La Salle College: Teachers face misconduct hearings

De La Salle College in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

A TROUBLED west Belfast school is to investigate "potential serious or gross misconduct" involving almost half its teaching staff.

De La Salle College is to hold preliminary disciplinary investigations relating to a letter signed by 31 teachers which criticised the school.

The letter is understood to have been critical of inspectors as well as the acting-principal and vice-principal.

Governors responded earlier this year by writing to teachers asking them to consider their positions.

Now, the governors have established an investigation panel "to investigate matters relating to potential serious or gross misconduct".

In the first instance, the panel is seeking to establish whether there are potential allegations of misconduct against any individual members of staff.

These allegations may include "behaviour that brings the school into disrepute unprofessional conduct (and) bullying and harassment".

An inspection report published in January found that staff at the west Belfast college were absent an average of almost 40 days. This is almost five times the average absence rate for post-primary schools.

The school was told it needed external support to improve after it received the lowest inspection grading. Inspectors also raised concerns about achievements and standards and leadership and management.

Last year, an independent panel found that a serious breakdown of working relationships impacted substantially on pupils. It said some staff "described a culture of fear" and made claims of "bullying and intimidating behaviour".

The school had been in turmoil over a breakdown in relations between some of the teaching staff and principal Claire White. Many staff were involved in a rolling sick day protest.

Parents have, meanwhile, expressed concerns that the situation at the school has affected the numbers of children seeking places.

About 180 pupils have been admitted into Year 8 in each of the last four years.

The Education Authority said 103 pupils had been so far admitted to Year 8 for September 2017 and added that the process was continuing.

The Concerned Parents of De La Salle group said this was "devastating given this school used to be well over subscribed".

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