Northern Ireland

De La Salle criticised for 'culture of intimidation'

De La Salle College
Image caption More than 1,000 pupils attend De La Salle College in Andersonstown

Arrangements to safeguard pupils at a Belfast school are "unsatisfactory and do not adequately reflect guidance issued," an inspection report has said.

The Education Training Inspectorate (ETI) report also criticised staff absenteeism at De La Salle College.

The average was 40 days each during the 2015/16 academic year compared to an average of eight days per year in the post-primary sector.

De La Salle pledged "robust action plans to address the concerns".

'Culture of intimidation'

The inspection further found that aspects of teaching and leadership at the Andersonstown school required "significant improvement".

The report also said that "a culture of intimidation and bullying had existed in the school which led to staff being vulnerable and stressed".

"The working relationships between staff need to improve in order to establish a culture of trust and mutual respect across the school," it said.

The inspection was carried out in November, following an independent investigation into the school commissioned by the Department of Education.

The school has more than 1,000 pupils and was the scene of industrial disputes and protests by parents earlier in 2016.

On child safeguarding, the report said the school must:

  • Improve the arrangements for maintaining and recording complaints and disclosures relating to child protection.
  • Monitor and evaluate more closely the outworking of all policies relating to child protection.
  • Raise further the staff's awareness of understanding of what constitutes appropriate and effective safeguarding practices.

The inspectors will return to the school in six weeks to monitor progress on safeguarding arrangements.

The ETI inspection was also highly critical of a number of aspects of the provision for learning and the governance and management of the school.

It said that "planning, teaching and assessment require significant improvement".

While it acknowledged recent improvements in working relationships, it also mentioned an "unprecedented number of complex human resource issues" at De La Salle.

While the commitment of the governors "through exceptionally difficult circumstances" was mentioned, the ETI said there was "limited confidence in the aspects of governance evaluated".

As a result, the report recommended that the Department of Education (DE) uses its powers to directly appoint additional governors to the board.

Under the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, where the failure of a school is "due (in whole or in part) to the management of the school by the board of governors", DE can take action to directly appoint governors.

However, there were some positive aspects mentioned in the inspection.

"Most of the pupils are motivated and have a positive disposition to learning," it said.

It also said that staff had begun work to address the decline in standards, that they were committed to the care of the pupils and that there has been a significant reduction in staff absence since the beginning of the 2016/17 school year.

In a statement, the school said its action plans would address "in a comprehensive manner, all the issues raised in the report and a copy of these plans will be made available to all parents".

"The Board of Governors is confident that future education provision will effectively meet the needs of all pupils at the school and ensure that De La Salle College is once again a centre of excellence for the local school community," it said.

"The Education and Training Inspectorate will monitor the progress of the action plans through a programme of visits culminating in a full follow-up inspection, the outcome of which will be published."

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