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De La Salle College trustees in 'unity and stability' plea

By David Young

Published 02/04/2016

Plea: Fr Timothy Bartlett
Plea: Fr Timothy Bartlett

The trustees of troubled De La Salle College in west Belfast last night issued an appeal for a "stable and supportive" environment at the crisis-hit school.

The call - signed by Dr Timothy Bartlett, the episcopal vicar for education in the Diocese of Down and Connor - came as pupils were preparing to return on Monday following the Easter break to begin preparation for their exams.

"On behalf of the Diocesan trustees, I encourage everyone associated with the school to work collaboratively to ensure a stable and supportive teaching and learning environment both within and around the school as young people prepare for their examinations.

"This includes dealing with any recently publicised issues regarding the school in a calm, constructive manner that does not impinge on the operation of the school or distract pupils, families, staff and management from providing the best possible support to pupils in this critical final term," Fr Bartlett's statement said. Last week De La Salle appointed an associate principal to help address problems which have affected the school, and led to its head boy issuing an open letter to the board of governors about the impact the disruption was having on him.

Peter Heenan said in his open letter that he had suffered anxiety, panic attacks and was in counselling because of staff absences and the ongoing situation.

Parents of pupils have organised demonstrations outside the gates to vent their anger. The Concerned Parents Committee is on record as saying that the positions of the principal, vice-principal and board of governors were "untenable".

It added that there had been a "breakdown of confidence, trust, respect and communication" at the west Belfast school.

Northern Ireland Children's Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma has expressed concern about the situation at the school and its potential impact on pupils' education, as well as their mental health and well-being.

Sinn Fein Education Minister John O'Dowd has also made public his disquiet.

He said: "I am very concerned about the ongoing issues at the school and the impact on its pupils.

"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."

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