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Parents' petition for probe at crisis-hit De La Salle school in Belfast

By Nevin Farrell

Published 18/04/2016

Protesting parents will today hand over a 2,000-strong petition to education authorities demanding an investigation into the situation at a crisis-hit west Belfast school.

It comes as De La Salle College's recently-appointed troubleshooter begins a series of daily briefings with parents to "enhance communication".

In a statement the Concerned Parents of De La Salle said: "We have received over 2,000 signatures and a further 500 comments and messages of support.

"A copy of each will be hand delivered to each appropriate authority on Monday - CCMS, Minister for Education, Church officials and our final delivery will be to a representative of the board of governors on Monday afternoon."

They will also hold another protest at the school gates at 4pm today.

Parents have spoken of their concerns about the detrimental effect the dispute was having on pupils' education, and head boy Peter Heenan spoke out last month, saying he believes the dispute has harmed students "in both an emotional and educational sense".

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) has appointed an associate principal, Imelda Jordan, to help address the issues.

Ms Jordan sent letters to pupils' homes on Thursday informing them that as well as daily briefings being held, a homework club will be open to all pupils.

The parents have been holding protests for months, calling for an independent investigation into the running of De La Salle.

Teachers have also been absent as the dispute with school management escalated, and the largest of four teaching unions at the school (INTO) has voted for industrial action.

Recently, a leaked audit report on De La Salle by the Belfast Education and Library board concluded there had been problems with financial mismanagement including serious misappropriation of funds, inappropriate hospitality provided to staff including meals at restaurants, and purchasing of alcohol.

It is understood a criminal investigation for suspected fraud at the school in 2014 is currently ongoing.

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