Belfast Telegraph

De La Salle College parents to continue protests at crisis-hit Belfast school

By Steven Alexander

Parents at a troubled school in west Belfast have vowed to continue protesting until their demand for an independent investigation into the management of De La Salle College is carried out.

It is understood that a meeting is to take place shortly between the concerned parents and a new school 'troubleshooter' who began work yesterday.

More than 300 people - including parents, pupils, past pupils and teachers - gathered at a public rally last night.

They included West Belfast MP Paul Maskey, SDLP councillor Tim Attwood and his MLA brother Alex.

The beleaguered school has been hit by a bitter dispute between staff and management for more than a year.

In November, a third of teachers called in sick - and some are still on leave due to stress and anxiety, according to Kieran McCormick, vice chairman of the Concerned Parents of De La Salle group. "Some are complete wrecks over how they have been treated," he said.

However, Mr McCormick, whose own child attends the school, said he had been encouraged that De La Salle's new 'associate principal' met protesting parents yesterday as she started her first official day of work at the college.

Imelda Jordan, former head of St Colm's, Twinbrook, was appointed as part of a strategy to allay parents' concerns.

"We very much welcomed that she met parents," said Mr McCormick.

"She shook hands and reassured us that her priorities are to stabilise the school and the educational needs of the children.

"But the bigger message is that she was the first person to extend any kind of hand to parents."

He said Ms Jordan, who will work alongside headmistress Claire White, accepted a letter inviting her to a private meeting in a few days' time.

Mr McCormick said there were also plans to meet representatives of the Catholic Church and CCMS this week. Mr McCormick said that while outgoing Education Minister John O'Dowd hasn't refused to meet the group, it was now "day 17" since he had been asked. He said there was now "big concern" that pupils sitting public exams need to be given special consideration due to the crisis-hit school's circumstances.

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