Northern Ireland

De La Salle College, Belfast: Parents protest over teacher absences

Parents of De La Salle College pupils met on Tuesday to express their concerns about the school
Image caption Parents of De La Salle College pupils met on Tuesday to express their concerns about the school

About 20 parents of pupils at De La Salle College in west Belfast have met to express their concerns about ongoing incidents at the school.

They gathered at the Andersonstown school's entrance on Tuesday morning.

Many expressed concerns about the high level of staff absence in the school.

At least 24 teachers were absent on Monday out of a teaching staff of about 70. Some parents said the staff absences were affecting pupils about to sit GCSE and A-Level exams.

On Tuesday, over a third of the teaching staff in the school were off for a second day in a row.

Around 50 pupils from the school's sixth form also walked out of the school at about 10.30 GMT.

They joined parents at the school's gates.

Media captionAround 50 pupils from the school's sixth form also walked out of the school at about 10.30 GMT

Two parents subsequently held a meeting with the school principal.

There have been ongoing industrial problems at the school over the past few months.

Its principal said the school was "dealing with some internal issues".

There were a number of days when significant numbers of staff were absent in early November 2015.

Meetings

Following that, several meetings were held involving school staff, governors, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and the teaching unions.

Sixth former Niall Burns said pupils were afraid the situation could affect their future academic prospects.

"We're all falling behind, every one of us. It's taking its toll now," he said.

Image caption Sixth former Niall Burns said pupils are falling behind in their studies because of the situation

"It's not just the past week - it's been over a good few months and we need something done about it now.

"With the teachers not being in, we're not getting the work done and it's going to affect us in the long run when we go to open our results and don't get the results we want."

In January 2016, a "strategic plan for renewal" was drawn up and a "strategy group" was established "to address a range of issues raised by staff relating to the operation of the school".

Education Minister John O'Dowd said he was "very concerned about the ongoing issues at the school and the impact on its pupils".

He added: "I understand the school, employing authority and unions are working together to resolve the situation and I would urge all involved to bring this to a resolution as soon as possible.

"I will be keeping the situation under close review."

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said that when issues first arose, a strategic group was set up, comprising the board of governors, the CCMS, and unions.

"A strategic plan for renewal was devised by the group and work began immediately to implement this plan," it said.

"The intention was, and remains, to resolve any internal issues within the school through the implementation of this plan.

"The immediate priority remains the full educational provision for all students in the school."

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