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GCSE results 'much better than feared' at crisis-hit De La Salle

By Michael McHugh

Published 27/08/2016

De La Salle College
De La Salle College

GCSE results at a school in west Belfast plagued by leadership problems and bullying were not as bad as expected, a parent said.

An independent report into De La Salle College in the city revealed allegations of a "culture of fear" among staff.

Kieran McCormick, whose son attends the school, said parents had feared for the worst ahead of results day.

"What has happened has impacted on the children's education and futures - but not to the extent that we were anticipating. We were anticipating a disaster, we think we have avoided that," he said.

Claims of bullying and intimidating behaviour were compounded by a teacher survey reporting low morale and lack of trust across the school following leadership difficulties.

A three-person panel led by educationalist Sir Robert Salisbury said it was unacceptable that broken staff working relationships were allowed to affect pupils.

Mr McCormick added: "For parents, the difficulty that we have found hard to grasp is that these are people charged with the responsibility to ensure the welfare and best possible education for our children."

He added: "We are glad that we have been vindicated.

"We knew as parents that there was something not right about that school, there were too many issues arising individually and collectively around our children's education, and the report has laid that out there."

The panel said it was disturbed that so many submissions to it had raised the issues of bullying and intimidating behaviour within the school.

A staff wellbeing survey confirmed the poor state of working relationships with very low morale and a lack of trust across the school, the review said.

Critical internal reports, temporary appointments in key leadership roles and limited support for principals and vice-principals contributed to problems like staff absences. It made 40 recommendations centred on providing stable leadership and protecting children's interests.

Education Minister Peter Weir said he accepted all the recommendations made in the report.

Earlier this year head boy Peter Heenan revealed he had suffered panic attacks and was receiving counselling because of the situation at the college.

In a letter to the school's board of governors, he wrote: "I feel let down by the school's management and am urging you to do your very best to return De La Salle College back to the outstanding school it once was."

Worried parents formed a committee to press for action to resolve the issues, mounting protests outside the building as exam deadlines loomed.

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