Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Friday, 30 May 2008
Venue: Room 135, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.03am in closed session.
Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 10.10am.
The meeting moved to public session at 10.14am.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 23 May 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 23 May 2008.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted the response from the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) regarding Love for Life.
(b) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding the Together 4 All Project.
(c) The Committee noted the letter from Mr O’Dowd MLA regarding pre-school education admissions criteria. The Committee also noted the response from the Department regarding nursery school provision.
Agreed – the Committee will consider issues regarding pre-school education, including statutory admissions criteria and the geographical availability of places, in more detail at a later stage in its work programme.
(d) The Committee noted the response from the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) regarding a specific nursery school placement.
Agreed – the Committee will forward a copy of the response to Mr C Simpson.
(e) The Committee noted the request from the Southern and Western Education and Library Boards to give a presentation to the Committee on collaborative working between the two Boards.
Agreed – the Committee will invite the Boards to give a presentation to the Committee at a later date.
(a) The Committee noted the Addendum to the SEELB’s Annual Report and Accounts 2006/07.
(b) The Committee noted the press release from the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, ‘NI must confront the issues in education.’
(c) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning, ‘Diversity Works.’
(d) The Committee noted the official report of Department of Education officials’ evidence to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister’s Inquiry into Child Poverty in Northern Ireland.
(e) The Committee noted the correspondence from Oakgrove Integrated College.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Minister of Education for comment on the issues raised.
(f) Agreed – the Committee approved draft letters to the Governing Bodies Association and the Department regarding appeal processes for Voluntary Grammar Schools.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence regarding the Groundwork NI Schools Event at W5 Discovery Centre on 5 June 2008.
(h) The Committee noted seven Departmental Press Releases: ‘Bonjour, Dia Duit, Hola, Guten Tag – Ruane Welcomes Foreign Language Classroom Assistants’; ‘Publication of Attendance Statistics’; ‘Ruane Chairs First NSMC Education Meeting to be Held in the North’; ‘Ruane Welcomes Irish Language Educational Resource’; ‘Qualifications and Destinations of NI School Leavers 2006/07’; ‘Minister Comments on Educational Statistics’; and ‘Think of Children – not Institutions – Ruane.’
Mrs Bradley joined the meeting at 10.28am.
5. Presentation by Towerview Primary School on New School Build
Henry Cowan, Principal; and Ron English, Chairman of the Board of Governors, Towerview Primary School, joined the meeting at 10.29am. The witnesses gave a presentation on their concerns regarding the planned accommodation for the new school build for Towerview and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the shortfall in the number of planned classrooms; the resulting increase in the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) and the position on composite classes; the impact on the school’s staffing profile; surplus places in Bangor East; and the current status of the construction of the new school and the process regarding alterations at this stage.
The Committee noted a number of items of correspondence in support of Towerview Primary School from concerned parents and individuals.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.07am.
6. Briefing from Department of Education and SEELB officials on Towerview Primary School New School Build and the School Buildings Handbook
Eugene Rooney, Head of Development and Infrastructure; and Brian McLawrence, School Building Project Section, Department of Education; and Tom Walsh, Head of Capital Management Section; and Tim Neeson, Senior Architect, SEELB, joined the meeting at 11.07am. The officials gave a presentation on the Buildings Handbook and classroom entitlement and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the calculation of long term enrolment figures; the need for flexibility in the determination of classroom and facility entitlement; the need for a comprehensive revision of the Handbook; concerns regarding multi-purpose halls; the potential for the use of modern building materials and techniques; the impact of the planned new building on the PTR in Towerview; and the number of surplus primary school places in Bangor East.
Officials agreed to write to the Committee with further information on a number of points raised, including advice from Education & Training Inspectorate colleagues on the impact of increasing PTR and composite classes.
The Chairperson thanked the officials and they left the meeting at 12.12pm.
7. June In-year Monitoring Expenditure Proposals
The Committee noted the correspondence from the Department advising that officials were unable to provide a briefing paper on the Department’s June in-year Monitoring Expenditure proposals or give a presentation at today’s meeting as requested.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the Minister to express concern that the Committee will not have an opportunity to scrutinise or have input to the Department’s proposals in advance of its submission to the Department of Finance and Personnel. The Committee will also highlight its concerns to both the Committee of and the Minister for Finance and Personnel.
8. Forward Work Programme
Agreed – the Committee will invite Department of Education officials to give a presentation on the Review of Alternative Education Provision (AEP) at a Committee meeting before the summer recess if possible and representatives from AEP to give a presentation to the Committee after summer recess.
The Committee noted that representatives from the Middletown Centre for Autism are unable to give a presentation as requested until after the summer recess.
Agreed – the draft Work Programme up to and including 26 June 2008 was approved.
9. Any Other Business
Agreed – the Committee will request details of the outcome of the Pre-consultation on the Future of Controlled/Voluntary Post-Primary Education in Fermanagh from the WELB.
10. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Friday 6 June 2008 at 10.00am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.21pm.
Mr S Wilson
Chairperson, Committee for Education
6 June 2008