Department report reveals problems at Dublin school


A SOUTH Dublin school has been forced to seek outside assistance from a facilitator after conflict and resistance emerged and issues became personalised between management and staff.

Details of serious problems in the running of St Laurence College, Loughlinstown, are revealed in a report by Department of Education inspectors. The report – published today – is one of the most critical yet circulated by the department.

The school evaluation, completed in October 2011, details how the acting principal has sought to implement a programme of change but inspectors conclude “that change has not been well managed”.

“A pattern of conflict and resistance has emerged and issues have become personalised. This militates against the implementation of an improvement agenda that would be beneficial for students and would create a more positive working environment for all.”

The inspectors say the over-arching issue facing the school is one of leadership. It concludes the manner in which decisions were taken led to a “real perception that changes have been imposed rather than being undertaken as a collaborative enterprise . . . The perception that staff concerns have not been attended to has, unhappily, undermined trust in school management as a whole”.

The report also states:

* The school needs to build expertise in maths, as few members of the mathematics department have the subject to degree level;

* There was a wide variation in the quality of teaching, from exemplary to fair, with some instances of significant weakness;

* There was limited evidence of strategic planning of a collaborative and reflective nature;

* Admissions procedures should be reviewed as prospective students in 2011 underwent an assessment process prior to being offered places in the school – contrary to the school’s stated policy;

* The high level of suspensions in 2010/2011 merit urgent action;

* Not all the hours allocated for learning support and special educational needs could be accounted for during the evaluation.

St Laurence College was established in 1967 by the Marianist Order. It is the order’s only Irish school. It has a current enrolment of 464 pupils.

Inspectors report how concern was expressed to them during the evaluation that the Marianist commitment to family spirit was lacking in recent interactions between school management and others in the school community.

It also reports how correspondence directed to the chairman of the board concerning relations between staff and management within the school has not been brought to the attention of the board as a whole.

“While it is right that the board takes seriously its duty to support senior management in the school, the perception that staff concerns have not been attended to has, unhappily, undermined trust in school management as a whole.”

The report details how the senior management team comprises an acting principal, appointed in September 2009, and a deputy principal, appointed in 2002. The school principal is currently on secondment.

The report says the incoming board of management should commit itself to addressing the difficulties in management and leadership in the school. It says school management needs to demonstrate willingness to change its practices where the report indicates it is necessary to do so.

In its response, the school board of management says it takes seriously the report findings and will work strenuously towards implementing the recommendations.

The school did not have a comment yesterday.