Retired Head named De La Salle ‘associate’

Will Patterson (Chairperson of Board of Governors) and John Wilkinson.
Will Patterson (Chairperson of Board of Governors) and John Wilkinson.

Former Dromore High School Head John Wilkinson has been appointed the second of two ‘associate principals’ at West Belfast’s troubled De La Salle College.

His appointment follows news that incumbent associate principal Imelda Jordan is due to depart on leave.

Mr Wilkinson is to work in tandem with Ms Jordan when she returns.

De Le Salle College has been making headlines thanks to a months-long rift between principal Claire White and some of her staff, among whom members of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation were last week making ready for industrial action, involving non co-operation with the principal rather than a strike.

The situation has seen parents and sixth-form pupils, fearful of an impact on exams, picket the school, though for now they have suspended their daily protest. Ms Jordan recently advised parents that Ms White was off work and she herself was taking leave.

A report is due in June off the back of an independent investigation into De La Salle, but it’s understood the Department of Education has not yet appointed a team to conduct the enquiry.

Working relationships, staff welfare and the role of senior management are understood to be among the issues to be covered by the investigation.

A headmaster for 20 years, two of them at Banbridge High School, the rest at Dromore High, John Wilkinson retired as Dromore principal in February last year.

At the time a sitting member of both the Southern Education and Library Board and the Council for the Curriculum, Exams and Assessment, Mr Wilkinson, who had also been assisting at the under-threat Dundonald High School, said he planned, post-retirement, to continue with other commitments within education.

His previous responsibilities have also included Curriculum 2000 and others with the Department of Education and Centre of Educational Management.

An associate of the Education Authority and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, he has been a CCEA exams board member for some 10 years and acted as chair of its audit and risk assurance committee.