Independent investigation ordered into troubled school

Press Eye - Northern Ireland -6th April 2016
Photograph: Stephen Hamilton /Presseye

Parents and friends of children continue their protest at De La Salle school in West Belfast against the current management.
Press Eye - Northern Ireland -6th April 2016 Photograph: Stephen Hamilton /Presseye Parents and friends of children continue their protest at De La Salle school in West Belfast against the current management.

Education Minister John O’Dowd has ordered an independent investigation into events at troubled De La Salle College in Belfast.

The school – which has 1,100 pupils – has been in turmoil for several months after a breakdown in relations between some of the 70-strong teaching staff and principal Claire White.

News of the investigation comes as some teachers are expected to begin industrial action next week.

In a statement, Mr O’Dowd said pupils, parents, staff and their representatives, and all those involved with the governance of the school, will have an opportunity to express their views in the investigation.

The Sinn Fein man said: “Following a recent meeting with the Concerned Parents of De La Salle Group, further information being provided to me earlier this week, and other important issues that have come to light in recent days from official sources, I have decided to take forward an investigation regarding the current situation at the school.”

The investigation will cover the following areas:

• Implementation of key policies, programmes and procedures;

• Staff welfare and work relationships;

• Role of senior leadership and senior management;

• The operation of the governance arrangements in respect of the school;

• The impact on teaching and learning and pupils’ attainment and general well-being.

Mr O’Dowd said his “priority remains the education of these young people, in particular those due to sit examinations soon”.

He said it was “important to independently review all the circumstances that gave rise to this serious situation in the school and to come up with recommendations that will ensure the schools success going forward”.

Mr O’Dowd added that the Department will finalise the arrangements for who will independently undertake the investigation as soon as possible, and the outcome will be reported to the Department by early summer.

News of the investigation has been welcomed by ‘Concerned Parents of de La Salle’ Facebook group, who said: “The Concerned Parents Committee have worked tirelessly over many, many weeks now calling for this investigation. We have spent many hours compiling a dossier and can proudly say our efforts have paid off.

“We believe that the investigation will answer all our questions, clarify any confusion and will get to the core of what has been going on in our school.”