The Department of Education has refused to answer enquiries around the situation at Erne Integrated College, whereby nine out of 11 members of the Board of Governors have resigned.

Amongst questions refused was confirmation as to what date the Department was informed of a PSNI investigation into alleged safeguarding concerns at the school, deeming comment “inappropriate” while this is ongoing.

Last month, the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) raised concerns over the College’s safeguarding arrangements, describing them as “unsatisfactory”.

The Inspectorate are due to return imminently to “evaluate and report on the progress in addressing the unsatisfactory arrangements for safeguarding”.

While the College also stonewalled media enquiries as news of the resignations began to surface, the principal, Jimmy Jackson-Ware, posted a statement on the school’s Facebook page on May 3, playing down what had occurred.

He confirmed the resignation of nine governors, thanking them for their support and commitment to the school, while stressing: “Contrary to media reports, I remain principal, as do my Senior Leadership Team.”

He insisted his planned intention to retire at the end of the current school year has: “Absolutely nothing to do with the governor resignations … This is a temporary situation [and] the school will function as normal.”

However, he failed to mention the PSNI had commenced an investigation into reports of non-recent inappropriate behaviour.

In a statement, a PSNI spokesperson confirmed: “We are making enquiries to establish the circumstances and will continue to work with our partners to protect and safeguard children. There are no further details at this time.”

Other agencies were reluctant to comment, referring back to the Board of Governors as the appropriate authority to address enquiries, despite this now depleted to a membership of two.

The Department of Education was asked when it was informed of the resignations, and if this includes the Chair, and if all cited the same reasons?

Also asked was on what date was the Department informed of a PSNI investigation into alleged safeguarding issues, and if the Department is conducting or planning to conduct its own inquiry, and if so, to provide the Terms of Reference?

In a response which blanked every question asked, a Department spokesperson said: “The Board of Governors of a Grant Maintained Integrated school is the managing authority, and therefore it would not be appropriate to comment on governance or operational issues.

“The principal and senior leadership team continue to manage the normal day-to-day functioning of the school, and Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education is currently offering support and guidance.”

The spokesperson concluded: “We are aware of a report which the PSNI are investigating. As this is subject to ongoing enquiries by the PSNI, we cannot comment.”

It was pointed out this amounted to a refusal to answer questions, including those specific to pupil safeguarding; however, the Department declined further comment.