Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.07am in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 6 May 2009

Agreed –the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 6 May 2009.

3. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 9 March 2009 from Mr David McNarry MLA requesting an update on the Committee’s view on his Private Member’s Bill – Community Use of School Premises.

Agreed –the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request information about the extent of community use of school premises that is currently taking place, and to make recommendations on how best to take the matter forward.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 May 2009 from the Department of Education regarding St Malachy’s Primary School, Bangor and their concerns on Capital Development in the Schools’ Estate.

Agreed –the Committee would consider this matter further at its meeting on 3 June when it would be considering area planning.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to St Malachy’s Primary School for information.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 May 2009 from the Department of Education regarding a development proposal for Aghavilly Primary School.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s and SE&LB’s correspondence on this matter to Councillor William Irwin MLA for information.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 April 2009 from the Minister of Education providing a response to an October 2008 information request arising from discussions on Transfer 2010, regarding underachievement, ‘structural inequalities’, and the Early Years Strategy.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request information on the empirical evidence which supported the Minister of Education’s press statement of 21 April 2009 on educational underachievement and academic selection.

Agreed –the Committee would consider the Department’s report on underachievement further at its meeting on 20 May when it would be considering pupil performance and attainment.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 May 2009 from the Department of Education responding to a letter from the British Medical Association (BMA) on obesity.

Agreed­ – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to BMA for information.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 8 May 2009 from the Department of Education advising that information is currently being collated to respond to a Committee query on the costs involved in the production of Department of Education documents published in both Irish and English languages.

(g) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 2 April 2009 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel to the Minister of Finance and Personnel on Varney II recommendations.

Agreed - the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 May 2009 from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to the Minister of Education on funding for the Buddy Bear School.

Agreed –the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for the attention of the Minister as requested.

(i)The Committee noted correspondence of 12 May 2009 from the Department of Education regarding financial support for Creative Youth Partnerships.

Agreed –the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s correspondence to Creative Youth Partnerships for information.

4. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister on an AFASIC programme to support young people with speech, language and communication impairments in secondary education.

Agreed - the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.

(b) The Committee noted an invitation to the NAHT (NI) AGM and Conference – The Challenge of Education Reform – a School District Perspective on 20 May 2009 in the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.

Agreed -Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend this event.

(c) The Committee noted the May 2009 edition of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland’s e-newsletter.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 April 2009 from BE&LB enclosing an equality consultation questionnaire on a proposal to cease education provision at Castle High School on 31 August 2009.

(e) The Committee noted an invitation from Together 4 All to a seminar on Social and Emotional Learning on 10 June 2009 in Stormont Hotel, Belfast.

Agreed -Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend this event.

(f) The Committee noted the Spring 2009 Quarterly Newsletter from Advice NI.

(g) The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for the Environment on departmental contribution to climate change targets.

Agreed - the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.

5. Education Bill – Evidence Sessions
(a) Association for Quality Education (AQE)

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Chairperson, William Young, Chief Executive, and Roy Lilley, Representative joined the meeting at 10.15am.

Mr Elliott joined the meeting at 10.16am.
Miss McIlveen joined the meeting at 10.25am.

The witnesses gave a presentation on the Education Bill and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: concerns that the intention of the Bill is not adequately reflected within the detail of the proposed legislation; concerns regarding the size and composition of ESA; the public school system in Edmonton, Canada; freedom to retain responsibility for employment matters; loss of autonomy in the use of standardised schemes of management; clarity on the distinction between the employing authority and the employer; the relationship between ESA and Boards of Governors; definition of community governors; the voluntary principle; whether there is confidence that ESA will deliver an enhanced system; negative impact that centralisation may have on rural areas; the role of ESA if a Board of Governors acted outside the law; how to ensure staff across the education sectors are treated equitably; and preservation of voluntary grammar school ethos.

Mr O’Dowd joined the meeting at 10.53am.
Mr Poots joined the meeting at 11.07am.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and requested a copy of a letter of 10 March 2009, from the Minister of Education to the Chairperson of AQE, to assist with the Committee’s deliberations on the Education Bill. The witnesses left the meeting at 11.48am.

The Chairperson left the meeting at 11.48 and the Committee agreed that Mr McCausland take the Chair.

(b) The Association of NI Education and Library Boards (ANIE&LB)

Alderman Roy Beggs, Chairperson of NEE&LB, Peter Duffy, Chairperson of WE&LB, Gary Haire, Chairperon of SEE&LB, and Hilary Sloan, Chairperson of the Education Committee at BE&LB joined the meeting at 11.49am.

Miss McIlveen left the meeting at 12.14pm.

The witnesses gave a presentation on the Education Bill and Policy Paper 20 and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: The need for greater clarity within the detail of the Bill; the potential conflict of interest presented by ESA assuming the role of CCEA; difficulties in attracting new Boards of Governors; concerns about the responsibilities of Boards of Governors and how they will be held accountable; clarification on the composition and functions of ESA local committees; ethos of the controlled sector schools; concerns regarding the size and composition of the membership of ESA.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.37pm.

(c) Department of Education’s Response to AQE and ANIE&LB

Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration joined the meeting at 12.39pm.

Miss McIlveen rejoined the meeting at 12.40pm.
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 12.46pm.
Mr Poots left the meeting at 12.51pm.

The official responded to AQE’s and ANIE&LB’s written submissions on the Bill, and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: the appointment of governors; the catchment area from which community governors can be recruited; the responsibility of Boards of Governors in employment related matters; whether a Board of Governors would have a right to judicial review of a decision made by ESA; potential conflict of interest presented by ESA assuming the role of CCEA; and when further information on the composition and functions of local committees will be provided.

Mr Poots rejoined the meeting at 1.05pm.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the official for an informative briefing and he left the meeting at 1.06pm.

Agreed – the Committee would provide copies of the Department of Education’s response paper to the AQE and ANIE&LB. The Chairperson advised that AQE and ANIE&LB 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 further information on the composition and functions of local committees within 2 -3 weeks as discussed.

6. Budget Scrutiny – Education Budget 2009 - 2010

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Catherine Daly, Head of Finance Division, Eugene Rooney, Head of Planning and Performance Management and Gillian Uprichard, Financial Planning and Control joined the meeting at 1.07pm.

The witnesses gave a presentation on and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: whether the additional funding allocated to ‘early years’ and ‘free school uniforms’ are an indication of the Department’s priorities; whether funding for job evaluations are for front line service providers; an explanation for the funding increases relating to NDPBs; youth and community relations budget; extra funding allocated to early years; when cost implications of implementing the Irish medium strategy would be made available; whether the £25 million set aside for the SEN review is secure/ring-fenced; explanation of £2.5 million forecast savings in 2010/2011 in relation to SEN Review and overall efficiency savings; youth services budget; what is being done to speed up the progress of capital works in schools; what is the overall maintenance budget for schools; management of maintenance spending and backlog of maintenance works.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to remind the Department officials to provide the following information agreed to be provided during the course of the Committee meeting discussions:

  • an explanation for the funding increases relating to NDPBs;
  • an explanation of the increase in funding in the youth and community relations budget; and
  • when cost implications of implementing the Irish medium strategy would be made available.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 1.32pm.

The Chairperson rejoined the meeting at 1.35pm.

7. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted the amended Forward Work Programme.

The Chairperson advised that as there would be no quorum present for a continuation of the Committee meeting scheduled for 1.30pm in Room 21, that the Education Bill Committee Stocktake exercise would be postponed to be discussed as the first item of business at the next meeting of the Committee on 20 May 2009.

8. Any Other Business

The Chairperson reminded Members to return their copies of the Toolkit for Diversity in the Primary School if no longer required.

9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The Committee agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Wednesday 20 May 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.37pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
20 May 2009

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