Education news

De La Salle: Department of Education responds to parents' concerns

Some parents have moved their children away from De La Salle College in west Belfast

SOME parents of pupils at a troubled west Belfast secondary school have moved their children elsewhere, a senior education official has confirmed.

De La Salle College is also still experiencing spikes in teacher sickness absences.

Last year, an independent panel found that a serious breakdown of working relationships had impacted substantially on pupils.

It said some staff "described a culture of fear" and made claims of "bullying and intimidating behaviour".

Inspectors later raised concerns about standards and management and the school was placed into the `formal intervention process'.

The Concerned Parents Committee wrote to the Department of Education to raise issues including teacher absences.

Inspectors had found that staff at the west Belfast college, which includes 70 teachers, were absent an average of almost 40 days during the 2015/16 year. This is almost five times the average rate for post-primary schools.

Parents said they were concerned about "a significant number of free periods, teachers on sick leave, allegations of bullying, intimidation and harassment of some staff within the school, pupils leaving the school and teacher redundancies".

The department also received a letter from West Belfast MP Paul Maskey.

Replying to Mr Maskey, deputy director Fiona Hepper addressed some of the issues raised.

"The Department of Education considers bullying, harassment and intimidation to be very serious issues," she wrote.

"It is difficult to respond to unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations. The department would, therefore, urge all staff who may feel they are being bullied, harassed or intimidated to immediately report their concerns through the appropriate channels so that a formal investigation, in line with the agreed procedure, can take place."

Ms Hepper added: "The department understands that a number of parents have moved their pupils to other schools but also recognises that parents and guardians have significant rights and responsibilities when it comes to the education of their children."

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