Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.02am in public session. He welcomed students from Strangford College and Bangor College viewing the meeting from the Public Gallery.
Apologies are detailed above .
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 28 January 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 28 January 2009 .
Mr O’Dowd joined the meeting at 10.03am .
3. Matters Arising
- (a) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 26 January 2009 from CCMS Primary Principals’ Group, Derry City Council Area, to the Minister of Education requesting a response to issues raised in earlier correspondence on the establishment of the ESA.
- (b) The Committee noted consultation papers from the Department of Education on the Draft Education (Pupil Records and Reporting) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009.
- (c) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 January 2009 from the Department of Education regarding non attendance at school.
- (d) The Committee noted a response of 27 January 2009 from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety on the consultation on the Education Bill.
- (e) The Committee noted a research report from the South Armagh Childcare Consortium entitled ‘Childcare Provision in the South Armagh Area’.
- (f) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 29 January 2009 from the Governing Bodies Association NI to the Minister of Education regarding the proposed ESA.
Agreed – the Committee would write to GBA to advise them that the issues they have raised will be considered by the Committee as part of its ongoing scrutiny of the Education Bill.
- (g) The Committee noted the Chief Inspector’s Report 2006-2008 from the Education and Training Inspectorate.
Agreed – the Committee would schedule a briefing from the Chief Inspector into its Forward Work Programme.
- (h) The Committee noted correspondence of 23 and 29 January 2009 from the Holy Family Primary and Nursery School enclosing 175 and 20 letters (respectively) from parents of children attending the school expressing their dissatisfaction about transfer arrangements from primary to post primary school.
Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 10.06am
- (a) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 January 2009 from the Clerk of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure inviting the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Committee for Education to meet with the Convenor of the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament.
Agreed – that any Member of the Committee wishing to attend would advise the Clerk.
- (b) The Committee noted a report from the Community Relations Council entitled ‘Shared Space: A research journal on peace, conflict and community relations in Northern Ireland’.
Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 10.09am
- (c) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 January 2009 from the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Minister of Education on its inquiry on the funding of the Arts in Northern Ireland.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Minister of Education as requested.
- (d) The Committee noted correspondence of 3 February 2009 from Steelstown Primary School and Nursery Unit enclosing a sample copy of 160 letters forwarded to the Minister of Education by parents of children attending the school, expressing dissatisfaction with transfer arrangements from primary to post primary school .
- (e) The Committee noted the Play and Leisure Policy Statement for Northern Ireland from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
- (f) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 January 2009 from the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Minister of Education on the funding of the Cultural Traditions Programme.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Minister of Education as requested. The Committee would also seek further information about the Cultural Traditions Programmes funded by the Department of Education.
Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 10.11am
5. Forward Work Programme
The Committee reviewed the Forward Work Programme (Agenda Item 7).
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister of Education requesting that she provide the Committee with the legal advice she received in relation to ‘Transfer 2010 Guidance’ and come to the Committee as soon as possible to discuss the Guidance.
Agreed – the Committee agreed to schedule an Education Bill session with Departmental officials on 18 February 2009 to cover: the main provisions from the underlying Education Primary Orders which impact on the Education Bill; the secondary legislation making powers in the Education Bill; and the proposed provisions in the Education Bill for commencement.
Agreed –the Committee agreed to schedule a briefing session with DE and DEL officials to discuss the implications of the recommendations contained in the Committee for Employment and Learning’s Report on the Review of Teacher Education.
Mr O’Dowd rejoined the meeting at 10.14am
The Committee considered a paper from the Committee Clerk on new proposals for responding to visit and meeting requests from schools and other interested organisations.
Agreed – the Committee would adopt the new procedure when considering such requests on a case-by-case basis; however informal receptions to facilitate meeting with a larger number of groups would still be considered, if appropriate.
Agreed – the Clerk would draft an information paper on the role and remit of the Committee for Committee Members to refer to when approached by interested groups.
6. Education Bill - Departmental Briefing – Ownership of Controlled Schools Estate
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, and Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration joined the meeting at 10.14am.
The officials gave a presentation on ownership of controlled schools estate and answered questions on a number of issues, including: inequalities between the school sectors in the arrangement for the disposal of assets; the mechanisms in place to protect public investment, including clawback arrangements; representation on, and appointments to, the working groups to establish the controlled sector bodies; VAT exemption status transfer from E&LBs to the new ownership body; potential conflict of interests if ESA has ownership of the controlled school estate for a period of time; promoting ‘accountable autonomy’ of schools and consideration of area based planning; role, status, membership and powers of controlled sector ownership body;; ensuring that appointments, particularly public appointments, to the ownership body are representative and reflective of the school population; creating potential pathways for schools to attain ownership of own estates.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 11.23am
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and the officials left the meeting at 11.26am.
Agreed – that the Committee would write to the Department of Education:
- requesting a more detailed account of the arrangements for the ‘clawback’ of any public monies from school properties disposed of by the owners and how the disposal of assets, in both the maintained and controlled sectors, has worked in practice in recent years.
- seeking the Department’s proposals to address concerns on how the membership of the Ownership Body might be made reflective and representative of the school population and whether the independence of the Representative Body would be affected by a potential overlap of membership with the Ownership Body.
- Requesting provision of further information on the theme of ‘Accountable Autonomy’ and transformation pathways to ‘community schools’.
Mr McCrea left the meeting at 11.27am
7. Budget Briefing Update – February DE Monitoring Proposals
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Catherine Daly, Head of Finance Division, Eugene Rooney, Head of Development and Infrastructure and Gillian Uprichard, Financial Planning and Control joined the meeting at 11.28am.
The officials gave a Budget Briefing Update and short presentation on February Monitoring proposals and answered questions on a number of issues, including: monitoring arrangements to avoid underspends; costs associated with the Department’s current court case; delays to smaller approved capital projects to meet budget constraints and what priority would be given to delayed projects in the new financial year; the number of teachers employed this year compared to last year; the bid process; £60 million pressures in 2009/10; identifying the savings to be made from the abolition of the CCEA transfer test and associated costs.
Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 11.50am
Mr Poots joined the meeting at 12.04am
Agreed – that the Committee would write to the Department of Education requesting the following information:
- The number of teachers employed year on year,
- How the Department will deal with the pressures/bids in the Strategic Stocktake for 2009/2010 of £60 million,
- Projected savings to be gained by the abolition of the CCEA transfer test and associated activities, and
- Requesting provision of further information on disabled access to schools and the funding of ‘Nurture’ classes.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and the officials left the meeting at 12.21am.
8. Any Other Business
The Committee noted the declaration of interests from Mr Tom Elliott following his appointment as a Member of the Committee for Education.
9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The Committee agreed that the next meeting will be held on Wednesday 11 February 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.25pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
11 February 2009