Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Friday, 25 April 2008
Venue: Room 135, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.37am in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 18 April 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 11 April 2008.
Agreed – Members will notify the Clerk of any amendments or additions to the Notes of the Discussions on Transfer to Post Primary Education on 7 March and 11 April 2008. If necessary, revised drafts will be circulated for agreement by the Committee.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted the correspondence providing financial information from the Scout Association NI.
(b) The Committee noted the response from the Minister of Education regarding the Proposed School Workforce Review.
Agreed – the Committee will ask the Department to consider including ‘Staff Health and Well Being’ within the scope of the Review.
(c) The Committee noted the copy of the response from the Minister of Education to Ms J Stewart regarding funding for the Reading Recovery Programme.
(d) The Committee noted Advice NI’s submission regarding Free School Meals and Clothing Allowance Uptake.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.
(e) The Committee noted the response from the Minister of Education regarding outstanding issues raised by the Committee in relation to transfer to post-primary education and area-based planning.
Agreed – based on the agreed Notes of the Discussions on Transfer of 7 March and 11 April 2008, the Clerk will draft a letter outlining the Committee’s views on transfer arrangements to post-primary education for consideration by the Committee at its meeting on 9 May 2008, in advance of issue to the Minister of Education.
(f) The Committee noted the response from the Minister of Education regarding area-based planning and sustainable schools policies.
Agreed – the Committee will ask the Department for an urgent response to its request for the terms of reference and membership of the Area-based Planning Groups.
(g) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding the commencement of Article 28(2) of the Education (NI) Order 2006 and the number and percentage of pupils opting out of the Dickson system at transfer stage.
(a) The Committee noted the copy response from the Minister of Education to Ms J McLoughlin regarding Physical Education in primary schools.
(b) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding Love for Life.
Agreed – the Committee will seek further information from the Department and Education and Library Boards (ELBs) regarding the provision of and funding for comparable services to those provided for schools by Love for Life.
(c) The Committee noted the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland’s Business Plan 2008-09.
(d) The Committee noted the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland’s Strategic Plan 2008-11.
(e) The Committee noted the copy correspondence from Bees Nees Early Years Centre regarding its inspection by the Education and Training Inspectorate.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.
(f) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding funding for the Lifestart Foundation.
Agreed – the Committee will forward a copy of the response to the Lifestart Foundation.
(g) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding the Forum of Nursery Teachers (FONT).
Agreed – the Committee will forward a copy of the response to FONT.
(h) The Committee noted the invitation from the Ulster Wildlife Trust and WWF Northern Ireland to the launch of the Northern Ireland Marine Protected Areas Project Report on Thursday 1 May 2008 in Belfast.
(i) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding the development of an educational village in Moy.
Agreed – the Committee will forward a copy of the response to a representative of the Moy Schools.
(j) The Committee noted the invitation from Equality 2000 Ltd in Dungannon to the launch of its DVD on the Bill of Rights for NI, ‘The Rights and Wrongs’, in Dungannon on 9 May 2008.
(k) The Committee noted the correspondence from Ms S Cairns regarding payments for classroom assistants working in Integrated Schools.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Department for clarification regarding this matter.
(l) The Committee noted the report from the National Autistic Society NI, ‘A Strategy for the Delivery of Autism Services in Northern Ireland – January 2008.’
(m) The Committee noted three Departmental press releases: ‘More Capital Money Available for Youth Clubs – Says Caitríona Ruane’; ‘Local Accountability is Best – Education Minister’; and ‘All Children Should Have the Same Educational Rights – Ruane.’
5. Committee Motion
Agreed – the Committee approved the revised draft Committee motion ‘Education and the Economy’ to be tabled for debate in the Assembly.
6. Departmental Briefing on the Outcome of the Consultation on the Careers Education, Information, Advise & Guidance Strategy (CEIAG)
Katrina Godfrey, Head of Raising Standards; and Jim McConnell, Business Education Strategy Unit, Department of Education, joined the meeting at 10.50am. The officials gave a presentation on the outcome of the consultation on the CEIAG and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the need for detailed and impartial careers advice in schools; links between schools, local businesses and the local economy; the need to increase awareness of opportunities available relating to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, rather than focussing on public sector jobs and university courses; careers advice and employment for pupils with Special Educational Needs and the need to overcome barriers such as health and safety and insurance issues.
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 10.52am.
Ms O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 10.54am.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.19am.
7. Departmental Update Briefing on the Establishment of the Education and Skills Authority (ESA)
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary; Chris Stewart, Head of RPA; and Gavin Boyd, ESA Chief Executive (Designate), Department of Education, joined the meeting at 11.20am. The Chairperson stated with regard to the overall proposal to establish the ESA by April 2009, that he wished to put on record that there has been no deal agreed between the DUP and Sinn Fein or the DUP and other parties to bring the necessary legislation through the Assembly.
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 11.28am.
The meeting moved to closed session at 11.28am.
The officials gave a presentation on the role of the ESA and the proposed contents of the draft first Bill and timescale for its introduction, and answered questions on a number of policy issues, including: the ESA Board and sub-regional accountability; policy issues and decisions still to be addressed on the content of the second Bill; supported autonomy for schools; benchmarking the ESA against similar organisations; the ESA as a single employing authority; sectoral support and the role of school Boards of Governors in maintaining the ethos of a school; and ongoing consultation with Trade Unions.
Ms O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 11.36am.
The officials agreed to provide more information on the agreement currently in place between ELBs and Trade Unions regarding a neutral working environment.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Stewart and he left the meeting at 12.04pm.
Dr Mark Browne, Programme Director; and Shane McCurdy, Financial Planning Project Manager, ESA Implementation Team (ESAIT) joined the meeting at 12.04pm. The officials gave a presentation on the costs and savings associated with the establishment of the ESA, and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the need to increase the percentage of the budget delegated directly to schools; the projected level of savings in comparison to the cost of change; the potential to increase the level of savings achieved in the medium to longer term; and the need to consult on the projected costs and savings analysis undertaken by the ESAIT.
Mr Storey left the meeting at 12.37pm.
Mr Storey rejoined the meeting at 12.40pm.
The officials gave a presentation on the senior structure within the ESA and links to sub-regional structures and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the role of proposed Area Support Teams; the potential conflict of interest for ESA as both “supporter” of schools and “challenger” of schools; and the appropriateness and timeliness of support available to schools.
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 12.50pm.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 12.50pm.
Agreed – officials from ESAIT and the Department will continue and give a further update briefing at the Committee’s meeting on 9 May 2008.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 1.00pm.
8.Forward Work Programme
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft work programme up to and including 23 May 2008.
9. Any Other Business
Agreed – the Committee will give consideration to conducting an Inquiry into primary school funding should there be any delay in the introduction to the Assembly of the forthcoming Education Reform legislation.
10. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Friday 2 May 2008 at 10.30am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.14pm.
Mr Sammy Wilson
Chairperson, Committee for Education