Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 06 May 2009
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.04am in closed session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Legal Advice
Members questioned the Assistant Legal Advisor to the Assembly on briefing he provided to the Committee at its previous week’s meeting.
Mrs Bradley joined the meeting at 10.06am.
Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 10.07am.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education on some of the issues raised - the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson would approve the letter.
Mr Elliott joined the meeting at 10.10am.
The meeting moved into public session.
3. Minutes of the Meeting of 29 April 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 29 April 2009.
4. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 April 2009 from the Department of Education on a briefing received by the Committee for the Environment from the Chief Sustainability Officer at BT.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for the Environment.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 April 2009 from the Department of Education regarding enrolment numbers in St Mary’s Primary School, Granemore for September 2009.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 May 2009 from the Department of Education enclosing consultation documents on the creation of the Education Advisory Forum (Policy Paper 19).
Agreed – the Committee would request that Department officials provide an oral briefing on this policy paper and the ongoing consultation exercise.
(d) The Committee noted a request from the Committee for Culture Arts and Leisure for copy correspondence between the Committee for Education and the Department of Education regarding funding for Traditional Arts.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the copy correspondence to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 April 2009 from the Minister of Education to the Committee for Employment and Learning on the Legislative Consent Motion for the Apprenticeships, Children, Skills and Learning Bill.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Minister’s correspondence to the Committee for Employment and Learning.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 May 2009 from the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust thanking the Committee for meeting with a delegation of their young leaders on 29 April 2009.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 May 2009 from the Department of Education regarding the timescale in which the Department can provide the Committee with a summary report of the responses received on the Transfer 2010 Guidance consultation.
(h) The Committee noted a GTCNI information pack on ‘Building Dynamic Professional Communities’.
(a) The Committee noted an invitation from St John’s Primary School, Swatragh to the official opening of a new foot and cycle bridge through Swatragh Park on 15 May 2009. The building of the footbridge has resulted from the school’s involvement in the Rural Safe Routes to Schools Project.
Agreed - Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend this event.
(b) The Committee noted an invitation to the launch of Catalyst’s research publication ‘God and Science: Essays on Theism in the Twenty-First Century’ on 11 May in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast.
Agreed - Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend the launch.
(c) The Committee noted a Press Release of 30 April 2009 from the Department of Education entitled ‘Every School Can and Should be a Good School - Ruane ’.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 April 2009 from Ms Mandy Eakins regarding a short-fall in funding for the ICAN facility in Ballynahinch Primary School.
Agreed – that the Committee would forward copies of Ms Eakin’s correspondence to the Department of Education and to SEE&LB for a response to the issues raised.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 23 April 2009 from Northern Ireland Environment Link enclosing the policy document ‘Policy Priorities for Northern Ireland’s Environment – The Way Ahead 2009’.
(f) The Committee noted The Northern Ireland Audit Office Report - ‘The Investigation of Suspected Contract Fraud’.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 April 2009 from the NEE&LB on the delay in the release for consultation the Department for Education’s ‘Review of Special Needs and Inclusion’.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 9 April 2009 from the Minister of Education to the Chief Executive of NEE&LB on the delay in the release for consultation the Department for Education’s ‘Review of Special Needs and Inclusion’.
6. Forward Work Programme
The Committee briefly discussed a letter of 5 May 2009 from the Department of Education (circulated to Members on 5 May) responding to some of the information requests from the Committee on the Education Bill and also setting out a timescale for responding to the remaining outstanding requests.
Agreed – the Committee would consider the letter plus attachments and how to respond to this at an extended meeting of the Committee on the afternoon of 13 May in Room 21 and that this meeting would be conducted in open session.
Agreed - the Clerk to prepare a first draft Committee reply in consultation with the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson.
7. Education Bill – Evidence Sessions
(a) Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE)
Michael Wardlow, Chief Executive, Frances Donnelly and Lorna McAlpine, Senior Managers, joined the meeting at 10.23am.
Mr Lunn joined the meeting at 10.28am.
The witnesses gave a presentation on the Education Bill and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: the perceived inequity in the protection and promotion of two sectors (ie Integrated and Irish-Medium) within legislation at the disadvantage of the other education sectors; equality of outcome and the requirement for positive discrimination; provision of parental choice; the transformation of schools from ‘controlled’ to ‘integrated’ sector status; lack of area based planning for integrated education; the assurances required regarding retaining Boards of Governors right to ‘hire’ and ‘fire’; lack of reference to good relations and community relations within the Bill; the retention of existing expertise and experience within ESA in areas such as training for teachers to manage diversity within the classroom; the differences between the ethos of the integrated sector to that of the controlled sector; whether the integrated sector can be subsumed within the controlled sector under ESA; objections to a majority councillor membership on ESA; the participation of young people on the Education Advisory Forum; equitable treatment regarding capital build and estate provision.
Agreed - the witnesses would come back to the Committee with wording which would make reference to good relations and community relations for inclusion within the Bill.
Mr McCaulsand joined the meeting at 11.11am.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.12am.
(b) Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG)
Caoimhín Ó Peatáin, Leas-Chathaoirleach /Vice Chair, Seán Ó Coinn, Príomhfheidhmeannach /CEO, and Liam MacGiolla Mheana, Oifigeach Sinsearach Oideachais /Senior Education Officer joined the meeting at 11.44am.
The witnesses gave a presentation on the Education Bill and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: the perceived inequity in the protection and promotion of two sectors (ie Integrated and Irish Medium) within legislation at the disadvantage of the other education sectors; whether the promotion and encouragement of the Irish Medium sector would be diminished if a duty was placed on ESA to read ‘encourage and facilitate all school sectors’; the slow-down in growth of the Irish Medium sector as indicated in the Chief Inspector’s Report; Clause 2 –a proposed duty on ESA to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish Medium education; whether allowing the trustees of Irish Medium schools to be given the power to act as the ‘submitting authority’ will help promote and protect the ethos of the sector; the role of the trustees to ensure the long-term welfare of the education provision of the sector; the role of the sectoral support body to maintain, promote and protect ethos; proposed amendment to Clause 26 – and whether it is realistic for ESA to have regard to pupils of Irish Medium schools to use their Irish language in wider society beyond the school;
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 11.46am.
awareness of the Irish language economy; concerns regarding the redeployment opportunities of staff from CnaG to ESA; and how the Irish Medium sector will benefit from the creation of ESA.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 12.08pm.
Mr Elliott left the meeting at 12.10pm.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.19pm.
(c) Department of Education’s Response to NICIE and CnaG
Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration joined the meeting at 12.21pm.
Mrs Bradley rejoined the meeting at 12.22pm.
The official responded to NICIE’s and CnaG’s written submissions on the Bill, and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: timeframe in which the Committee will have sight of the Department’s amendments to Clauses 2, 3, 26 and 31 and the timeframe for the provision of the second Education Bill; whether reassurance can be found for the controlled sector to protect the long-term ethos of their schools, similar to that being proposed by the Irish Medium sector; whether ESA can facilitate the needs of Irish Medium pupils beyond the school in wider society; the Department’s view to NICIE’s concerns regarding the lack of reference to ‘good relations’ or ‘community relations’ within the Bill; consideration of the suggestion to allow the trustees of Irish Medium schools to be given the power to act as the ‘submitting authority’; and the appropriate vehicle for fostering and developing ethos, if not within legislation.
Mr Elliott rejoined the meeting at 12.39pm.
Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 12.41pm.
The Chairperson thanked the official for an informative briefing and he left the meeting at 12.44pm.
Mr McCrea left the meeting at 12.44pm.
Agreed – the Committee would provide copies of the Department of Education’s response paper to the NICIE and CnaG. The Chairperson advised that NICIE and CnaG have a right to reply and are welcome to respond to the Committee on the Department’s paper.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education highlighting some of the key issues raised and to remind the Department officials to provide the following information agreed to be provided during the course of the Committee meeting discussions:
- a full description of the content of the second bill, particularly around the issue of area based planning and the associated draft clauses (for the briefing session on 3 June).
- a definitive list of the Department’s proposed amendments to the first Bill (within 2 weeks).
8. Policy Briefing- Love for Life – School-based Relationships and Sexuality Education
Richard Barr, CEO and Olwyn Mark, Senior Programme Developer joined the meeting at 12.52pm.
The witnesses gave a presentation on the promotion of school-based Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and funding for Relationships and Sexuality delivery in schools and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: the interface between the Department of Health and Department of Education on RSE provision; the problems if sex education is dominated by a health agenda; the link between alcohol and drug abuse and the age at which young people commence sexual relations; whether it is acceptable for teachers, uncomfortable with the delivery of RSE, to ‘opt out’ as it is now part of the curriculum; training and support required for teachers; whether Love for Life would have a role in the ‘mixed economy’ delivery of ESA training and development services; the delivering of RSE within a moral framework; the engagement of, and input of parents and the wider community; the demand for RSE provision from schools.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 1.17pm.
Ms O’Neil left the meeting at 1.17pm.
Agreed – the Committee would commission a research paper on the statutory and policy framework within which RSE is delivered in schools in Northern Ireland .
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request an update on the delivery of RSE, how this is being monitored and evaluated and to ask what linkage there is between the Department of Education and the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety on this issue.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 1.25pm.
9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The Committee agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Wednesday 13 May 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings and to be continued in Room 21, at approximately 1.30pm.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.25 pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
13 May 2009