FOLLOWING on from the previous blog on what’s been happening at De La Salle School in Andersonstown, I have been in frequent contact with a sixth form student who has applied to Queen’s University next year. He describes being petrified about the situation at the school because he doesn’t want to fail his exams.
The student who quite obviously doesn’t want to be named is due to sit four A-Levels in June of this year. Three of his four teachers are absent and he has been taught by a number of different substitutes since September 2015.
He has suffered stress and anxiety as a result of the upheaval and has been advised by his GP to take time off from his part time job. He says that he feels that the high level of absenteeism within the teaching staff at the school is rippling down to the A-Level students and having a detrimental effect on them.
The students have discussed writing an open letter to all those standing as MLA’s in the upcoming Stormont election. It will be published on this blog when it has been agreed by the students. As young men who are coming of age, they are fully aware of the position they hold as first time voters.
The option of an A-Level student walk out has also been explored but as they fear for the repercussions of such action, this will take place on the final day of school. Again this blog and the student’s social media accounts will be used to publicise it.
Morale among the students has been very low as there are no extra curricular activities because the teachers that are in school are having union meetings every day. An educational trip to Krakow was sold to the A-Level students but then changed as an invitation to all year groups as the industrial action and long term sickness by teaching staff took hold. Some of the students found it difficult to get their deposits refunded as they were unhappy with the terms being changed.
My source said he feels that the students are being blamed for what’s going on in the school. A cover letter attached to his most recent school report finished with a paragraph “we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continuous support and to ask that you do everything possible to ensure your son is fully focused on his work.” He said that he just wants his teachers back and ready to teach and that he would be fully focused if he had structure and stability in his lessons.
Today, De La Salle School has hit the headlines for the fifth time. Again for low staffing levels with one third of the workforce being absent from work.
In a statement made to the BBC tonight, Principal Claire White claimed to take serious the welfare of the students. She said: “De La Salle College is committed to providing the highest levels of education provision to its pupils and it takes the wellbeing of its pupils and staff extremely seriously,” she said.
“The college will continue to work closely with the relevant bodies, including the trade unions, to resolve these issues in as timely a manner as possible.”