Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.07am in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 5 November 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 5 November 2008 and expressed its thanks to all involved in organising the meeting at Ballymena.
Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 10.08am.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted the response from the Minister to Mr Neal Killen regarding criteria to be used for post-primary transfer.
(b) The Committee noted the response from the Minister to the Chairperson’s letter of 13 October asking why the Executive was not meeting to discuss the Minister’s proposals for post-primary transfer.
(c) The Committee noted the Department’s responses to Mr William (Billy) Haughan regarding his requests for Article 101 reviews of the SEELB’s actions in response to Mr Haughan’s request for a statutory assessment of his son’s special educational needs.
(d) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding Lisanelly Barracks, Omagh.
(e) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding shortening the implementation period for NJC national pay agreements. The Chairperson expressed concern that the enhanced training provided to staff may not be sufficient to address this issue.
(a) The Committee noted the correspondence from Mr Barry Latham to the Minister regarding the dispute at Movilla High School.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft letter to the Department and draft response to Mr Latham.
(b) The Committee noted the correspondence from Professor Tony Gallagher, QUB, regarding the publication/launch of a research project “Education and a Shared Future: Options for Sharing and Collaboration in Northern Ireland Schools”.
(c) The Committee noted the correspondence from Mr Brendan McConville of the Buddy Bear Trust.
(d) The Committee noted the request to the Department of Education for officials to brief the Committee on Procedures on the Department’s performance in answering ordinary and priority written questions.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Department and approved the draft covering letter to the Department.
(e) The Committee noted the Advice Matters newsletter and invitation to launch of Wiseadviser Training Programme 2009 .
(f) The Committee noted the invitation to the l aunch of Chief Inspector’s Report 2006-2008 .
Agreed – the Committee would invite the Chief Inspector to speak to the Committee following the launch of the Report on 28 January 2009.
(g) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Commissioner for Public Appointments announcing the publication of the 2007/08 Annual Report.
(h) The Committee noted the Capita Conference on 25 November “Improving the Life Chances of Children in Care” .
(i) The Committee noted the Belfast Telegraph article on the Committee’s meeting in Ballymena on 5 November 2008.
(j) The Committee noted four Departmental press releases: ‘Statement from churches is to be welcomed – Ruane’; ‘Educating human rights increases global awareness – Ruane’; ‘Unions show educationalists reject selection – Ruane’; ‘Revised curriculum better preparing children for 21 st century – Ruane’.
(k) The Committee noted correspondence and copy press article from Dominic Bradley MLA regarding the educational performance of early school goers.
Agreed – the draft letter to the Department was approved.
(l) The Committee noted the request to forward to the Minister for Education a letter from the Chairperson of the Employment & Learning Committee’s arising out of a briefing to that Committee from the Construction Industry Group about the downturn in the construction industry .
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence and approved the draft covering letter to the Department.
(m) The Committee noted correspondence from Dominic Bradley MLA regarding funding arrangements for the ICAN Centre for hearing impaired children in Ballynahinch.
Agreed – the draft letter to the Department was approved.
(n) The Committee noted a letter from the Department regarding the publication of the Investment Delivery Plan for Schools and Youth Services.
(o) The Committee noted some photographs of the Committee’s visit to Ballymena on 5 November 2008.
Agreed – the Committee approved the use of the photographs for publication.
5. Presentation by Special School Principals
Dr Peter Cunningham Principal, Ceara Special School, Lurgan, Mr Colm Davis, Principal, Tor Bank Special School, Dundonald and Dr Michael Dobbins, Principal, Foyleview Special School, Derry/Londonderry joined the meeting at 10.12 am. The witnesses gave a presentation on key issues facing Special Schools and answered questions on a number of concerns, including: under-funding, the three month delay in Special Schools being informed of their budget and the impact of that on development planning; the ELBs’ approach to the assessment/statementing process; the need for an appropriate transparent formula for funding Special Schools; the absence of maximum enrolment numbers and over-crowding in Special Schools; the Education and Training Inspectorate’s reports on Special Schools; the lack of opportunities for engagement with those responsible for ESA; the availability of appropriate therapists; the training arrangements for such therapists and level of qualifications/experience being sought by the Health Trusts; transition to FE and post 19 transition; the Review of SEN and inclusion; and the need for school specialist status for Special Schools.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the witnesses asking them to supplement the paper they provided to the Committee; this would be considered by the Committee and forwarded to the Department and the ELBs’ for comment, and the former would be asked that the issues and concerns are addressed in the current Review of SEN and Inclusion.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the BELB to request more details on reciprocal special education arrangements with other Boards
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 10.41am.
Mr Poots joined the meeting at 10.41am.
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 10.50am.
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 11.16am.
Ms O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 11.19am.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.47am.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 11.47am.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 11.47am.
Mr Bradley rejoined the meeting at 11.48am.
Mrs Bradley rejoined the meeting at 11.49am.
6. Presentation by Assembly Research and Library Services on Community Use of School Premises Bill
Assembly Research & Library Service staff joined the meeting at 11.49am and gave a presentation to the Committee on the Bill and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: how the measures envisaged could be enforced; how community use of school premises was managed in the rest of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland; what added value the Bill would bring to current arrangements; current good practice; the option of Departmental guidance to schools without legislative compulsion; ‘clustering’ of schools and community schools; the potential of the Bill to promote equality by extending community use beyond urban areas.
The Chairperson thanked the Assembly Research staff for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.09pm.
7. Departmental Briefing on Community Use of School Premises Bill
Mr Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration, accompanied by Mr Steven Law, School Improvement Branch, joined the meeting at 12.10pm and gave a presentation to the Committee on the Department’s position in relation to the Bill and current community use of school premises, and answered questions on a number of issues, including: how the Department measures current levels of community use of school premises; how practical issues such as insurance, health and safety, additional costs etc, are dealt with currently; the effectiveness of the Bill where ownership of the school premises is in private hands; the usefulness of requiring that a scheme be prepared where existing community facilities were of better quality than the school premises; the power of the Department to compel schools to permit community use for non-educational activities; the impact of implementing the Bill in terms of School Principals’ time; whether Departmental guidance could achieve the same end at less cost; the need to consider community use in new-build school plans; the scope for greater community use of school premises, particularly in rural areas.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 12.12pm.
Mr McCrea left the meeting at 12.12pm.
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 12.17pm.
Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 12.17pm.
Mr Poots left the meeting at 12.28pm.
Mr Poots rejoined the meeting 12.30pm.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.30pm.
8. Presentation by Mr David McNarry MLA on his Bill
Mr McNarry joined the meeting at 12.31pm and gave a presentation to the Committee on his Bill and on some of the concerns raised by the Department, and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: extending community use of school premises by means of Departmental guidance and encouragement to schools rather than a compulsory scheme; the costs to schools in providing community use; the usefulness of a sample scheme of the sort which would be required by the Bill; the distinction between the legal requirement to prepare a scheme and the lack of prescription as to the content of scheme itself; contact between Mr McNarry and the Department in preparing the Bill.
Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 12.48pm.
Mr O’Dowd rejoined the meeting at 12.50pm.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 1.03pm.
The Chairperson thanked Mr McNarry for an informative briefing and he left the meeting at 1.04pm.
The Committee moved into closed session at 1.04pm to consider how the Committee would respond to the Bill when it comes before the Assembly for Second Stage reading on Monday 17 November. After consideration of some of the key issues raised in the earlier session, the Committee reached a consensus.
9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 19 November 2008 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.12 pm
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
19 November 2008