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Parents of children at crisis-hit school submit a 2,000-signature petition demanding investigation

By Allan Preston

Published 19/04/2016

Parents of pupils at a west Belfast school have demanded action from the Minister for Education after handing in a 2,000-signature petition.

Gathered in just under two weeks, the signatures and 500 messages of support from parents, pupils and friends of De La Salle, formally calls for a full independent investigation into the school's management.

Copies were handed in to the Education Minister's office, Catholic Council for Maintained Schools, the Bishop's office and to the board of governors.

After months of protests, the Concerned Parents of De La Salle group have acknowledged improvements in the school's management in recent weeks, but still insist principal Claire White and the board of governors need to go.

Kieran McCormick, vice chair of the group, said they had acted "so those in authority could see the voice of the people".

He told the Belfast Telegraph they expected a response from Minister John O'Dowd this week.

"We hope he will further support our request for a full, independent investigation," he said.

He praised the recent efforts of the associate principal Imelda Jordan - who was appointed as a troubleshooter by CCMS - but said answers still needed to be given.

"Regardless of whether things get sorted or not, we need to know how this ever occurred in the first place," he said.

"We still are of the opinion that the principal, vice-principal and board of governors need to be stood down in order to independently facilitate such an investigation."

Ms Jordan has announced a daily briefing for parents to enhance communication and has also started a homework club to reassure students.

Last month De La Salle's headboy Peter Heenan said the dispute had distressed pupils in both "an emotional and educational sense".

As tensions at the school have increased, teachers have been absent and the largest of four teaching unions at the school (INTO) have voted in favour of industrial action up to and including a strike.

Mr McCormick said he believed the crucial issue was rebuilding trust between the school, pupils and parents.

He concluded: "We wait to see what the minister announces. We've just been told we'll get a response as soon as possible".

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