Northern Ireland

Strabane school issues 414 suspensions in five years

A secondary school in Strabane, County Tyrone has issued 414 suspensions to pupils over the last five years.

The number of suspensions at Holy Cross College were almost eight times higher than any other school in the area.

The figures were released in a Freedom of Information request to the Strabane Chronicle newspaper.

The principal said the figure referred to the number of suspensions, including extensions, rather than the number of pupils suspended by the school.

Holy Cross College is a co-educational school which caters for 1400 students.

It was established in 2003 as a result of the amalgamation of three Catholic post-primary schools in Strabane; the Convent Grammar School, St Colman's High School and Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School.

'Verbal abuse'

Staff and pupils at the college moved into a new building on the Melmount Road in September 2008.

Last year alone, the college issued 133 suspensions to pupils.

Maria Doherty, who was appointed principal of the college in January 2009, told the newspaper that the school had implemented strategies in a bid to cut the number of suspensions.

The suspensions at Holy Cross accounted for the vast majority of the 531 school suspensions issued across the Strabane district over the last five years.

Strabane High School, which had the second highest total, issued just 56 suspensions between 2004/05 and 2008/09.

The reasons given for suspensions across the district included disruptive behaviour, persistent rule breaking, alcohol abuse, stealing, bullying and physical attacks on other pupils.

However, verbal abuse of staff accounted for the largest percentage of suspensions across all schools

Ms Doherty said her college worked "hard to promote positive behaviour and prides itself in ensuring a positive learning environment for all students".

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