Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 01 April 2009

Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.02am in closed session.

1. Legal Advice

The Committee discussed legal advice.

Agreed – the Committee would invite Legal Services to attend the next meeting of the Committee to discuss the legal advice in further detail.

The meeting moved into public session.

2. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

3. Minutes of the Meeting of 25 March 2009

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 25 March 2009.

4. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 March 2009 from the GBA on their evidence session to the Committee on 11 March and the Department’s response session and paper.

Agreed – the Committee would advise the GBA that it has a right of reply and is welcome to respond to the Committee on the Department’s paper.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 23 March 2009 from NAHT on future funding of support and training services for schools as set out in the Education Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this letter to the Department of Education to request a response to the issues raised.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 March 2009 from the Committee for Employment and Learning on work shadowing placements during Learning Disability Week.

(d) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 20 March 2009 from the Department of Education to Grove Nursery School on Nursery School Principal release days.

(e)The Committee noted correspondence of 27 March 2009 from the Department of Education on the statutory assessment of Mr William Haughan’s son.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s letter to Mr Haughan and also write to the Department seeking a response on Mr Haughan’s request for information under the Data Protection Act.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 March 2009 from the Department of Education on the Supporting Newcomer Pupils policy and enclosing copies of the Toolkit for Diversity in Primary Schools.

(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 31 March 2009 from the Department of Education on Lagan College classrooms and school building programme.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s letter to Lagan College.

Agreed – that any Members who would be available to visit Lagan College should advise Committee staff. It was further agreed that if members are unavailable to visit Lagan College, representatives from the school would be invited to an informal event in the Long Gallery in June 2009.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 31 March 2009 from the Department of Education regarding the provision of accommodation for Home Economics at Coleraine Academical Institution.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s letter to Coleraine Academical Institution.

5. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted an invitation of 23 March 2009 from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) to hold a committee meeting in the NICCY offices.

Agreed –That due to the current workload demands on the Committee – in particular its scrutiny of the Education Bill - it would be a more effective use of the Committee’s time to ask NICCY to attend a meeting of the Committee in Parliament Buildings after Easter recess.

Mr Elliott joined the meeting at 10.17am.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 March 2009 from Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) requesting that some young people from their group make a presentation to the Committee.

Agreed - that any Members who would be available to meet with NIYF to advise Committee staff. It was further agreed that if members are unavailable to meet with NIYF, representatives from the Forum would be invited to an informal event in the Long Gallery in June 2009.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 March 2009 from Mr William Irwin MLA on the development proposal to close Aghavilly Primary School.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this letter to the Department of Education to request a response to the issues raised and advise Mr Irwin MLA and Aghavilly Primary School of this accordingly.

(d)The Committee noted two Press Releases of 27 March 2009 from the Department of Education entitled Education Minister Looks Forward to Changing Times and Special Educational Provision must meet Children’s Needs – Ruane.

(e) The Committee noted a Press Release of 31 March 2009 from the Department of Education entitled Education Minister Attends Opening of Lisneal College.

(f)The Committee noted correspondence of 30 March 2009 from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Minister of Education on Review of Community Relations Policy – Cultural Traditions Programme.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this letter to the Minister of Education as requested.

6. Education Bill – Evidence Sessions
(a) Education and Library Boards

Gordon Topping OBE, Chief Executive of NEE&LB, David Cargo, Chief Executive of BE&LB, Stanton Sloan, Chief Executive of SEE&LB, Barry Mulholland, Chief Executive of WE&LB, Gregory Butler, Acting Head of Property Services at SE&LB joined the meeting at 10.20am.

The Chairperson welcomed the Education and Library Boards’ representatives and paid tribute to, and appreciation of the work of Mrs Helen McCleneghan, who had very recently retired as Chief Executive of SE&LB. He also paid tribute in general terms to the work of the Education and Library Boards, pending their dissolution with the setting up of the ESA.

Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 10.27am.

The witnesses gave a presentation on the Education Bill and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: responsibility for planning school provision; strengthening within legislation the role of ESA of ‘co-ordinator’ to intervene; the role of Boards of Governors as ‘sub-committees of the ESA’; centralisation, fragmentation and localised autonomy; clarifying the differences between ‘employer’ and ‘employing authority’; the relationship between the employing authority and Boards of Governors in employment terms and legal liability on employment matters;

Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 10.40am 
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 10.58am

potential financial savings resulting from the formation of ESA; current staffing position in E&LBs; transfer of staff and location of the ESA central body; the status of the Education and Library Boards (E&LBs) after 1 January 2010, if ESA is not established until April 2010; utilisation of the E&LBs expertise in the development of the ESA; powers of Departmental intervention within Article 158 and Article 101; role of ESA to monitor accountable autonomy of schools and powers to intervene; developing supported autonomy; absence of educationalist representative(s) within ESA implementation team; potential for fragmentation within the education service; capacity of Boards of Governors; the recruitment, training and support for future Boards of Governors; need for schemes of management to be in place for 1 January 2010; whether sectoral support bodies weakens future structures; ethos within the controlled sector; representation of councillors on ESA and the need for a larger ESA Board; clarity in the Bill on sub regional structures, how they should be constituted and the influence and powers of sub regional bodies and local committees; the role and impartiality of the Education and Training Inspectorate.

Mr McCaulsand rejoined the meeting at 11.20am. 
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 11.22am. 
Mr Elliott left the meeting at 11.32am. 
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 12.15pm.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.35pm.

(b) Department of Education’s Response Education and Library Boards comments/concerns

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration, and Eve Stewart, Review of Public Administration joined the meeting at 12.36pm.

The officials responded to the written submissions of, and presentation given by, the five Education and Library Boards representatives and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: ambiguity regarding who will be in control of the contract of employment; clarification on differing views on ‘employer’ and ‘employing authority’powers; delegation of autonomous role; addressing employment concerns and the requirement for clarity and more detail within the primary and possible subordinate legislation; deregulated oversight or centralised model; the independence of the Education and Training Inspectorate; consideration of retaining an element of the Education and Library Boards (and legislation) to become the ‘submitting authority’ for the controlled sector.

Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 12.44pm.

Officials were reminded to provide a response to the Committee’s letter of 19 March 2009 detailing the Committee concerns & information requests on the Education Bill to date, and the paper requested at the meeting on 25 March 2009 on other examples of faith based schools placed in public ownership and the provisions made within legislation to protect the ethos of such schools.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.59pm.

Agreed – the Committee would provide copies of the Department of Education’s response paper to each of Education and Library Boards. The Chairperson advised that the E&LBs will have a right to reply and are welcome to respond to the Committee on the Department’s paper.

Agreed – the Committee would seek legal advice on the definition of, and relationship between the ‘employer’ and ‘employing authority’ as set out in the Education Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education highlighting some of the key issues raised and information requests by the Committee to date on the Education Bill, and to remind officials to provide the following information requested during the course of this Committee meeting discussions:

  • Clarification on the status of the Boards after 1 January 2010, if ESA is not established until April 2010;
  • Further information on the Department’s powers of intervention within Article 158 and Article 101;
  • Details of the terms of draft subordinate legislation to govern the content of employment schemes at the earliest opportunity;
  • More detailed comment on the suggestion to retain an element of the Education and Library Boards (and legislation) to become the ‘ownership body’ for controlled/public schools.
7. Forward Work Programme

The Committee agreed the updated forward work programme.

8. Any Other Business

The Chairperson advised members that the Deputy Chairperson, Mr Dominic Bradley would be meeting with Mr Krzysztof Stanowski, the Polish Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of National Education at 10.45 am on Thursday 2 April and asked that if other members were available to join the Deputy Chairperson at this meeting, to inform Committee staff.

9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The Committee agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Wednesday 22 April 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.04 pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
22 April 2009

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