Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings

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

1.    Apologies

There were no apologies.

2.    Minutes of the Meeting of 10 December 2008

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 10 December 2008.

Mr McCausland joined the meeting at 10.10am. 
Mrs Bradley joined the meeting at 10.11am.

3.    Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education in response to a letter forwarded by the Committee from Ms K Early regarding the TTRS computer programme for children and adults with literacy difficulties.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Early enclosing a copy of the Department’s correspondence.

(b) The Committee noted the response from the Department of Education to the Committee’s letter of 20 November 2008 raising a number of issues and questions in relation to alternative education provision (AEP).

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s response to Ms M McCafferty, Chair of the AEP Forum.

(c) The Committee noted the response from the Department of Education to the Committee’s letter of 5 June 2008 regarding the new school for Towerview Primary School, Bangor.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s response to Mr T H Cowan, Principal of Towerview Primary School.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department for Education enclosing a copy of a letter issued to the Committee for Employment and Learning following an evidence session on 26 November 2008 on the setting of intake levels to initial teacher education courses.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education in response to a letter forwarded by the Committee from Ms T Donnelly regarding school meals.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Donnelly enclosing a copy of the Department’s correspondence.

(f) The Committee noted the Department of Education’s response to issues raised by the Committee arising from an email sent by Ms A Hamill on home to school transport assistance.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Hamill enclosing a copy of the Department’s correspondence.

(g) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence from the Minister of Education to Mr B Latham on the dispute at Movilla High School and the admissions situation in North Down.

(h) The Committee noted a copy of the response from Mr B Latham to the Minister of Education on the dispute at Movilla High School.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education in response to issues raised in a letter to the Department from Mr D McDermott, Principal of Sacred Heart College, Omagh.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Mr McDermott enclosing a copy of the Department’s response.

(j) The Committee noted a letter of thanks from Ms L Canning, Booktrust for the opportunity to make a presentation to the Committee on the National Bookstart Programme in Northern Ireland.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education enclosing additional information about the reduced TSN element in the Funding Formula and the issue of vocational qualifications becoming the responsibility of the ESA, as requested during the Committee meeting on 26 November 2008.

(l) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education confirming that an economic appraisal for the capital project for St Joseph’s High School in Crossmaglen is currently being considered by the Department.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Mr K Scally, Principal of St Joseph’s High School enclosing a copy of the Department’s letter.

(m) The Committee noted correspondence from the Minster of Education to the Committee Chairperson enclosing the individual responses from the five parties represented on the Committee for Education to the draft ‘Schools for the Future: A Policy for Sustainable Schools’. Committee Members discussed the timing of the Minister of Education’s announcement/press release on the publication of her policy for sustainable schools. There was consensus that whilst no protocol had been breached by the Minister, it was a breach of courtesy for the Minister not to give the Committee proper notice of this publication before it was made public.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister of Education to express the Committee’s dissatisfaction that they had not received prior notification of the Minister’s announcement.

It was further Agreed – that the Committee would write to the Minister to raise its concerns regarding the delay in receiving this week’s Committee meeting briefing papers on the Education Bill from the Department, which did not allow sufficient time for Members to be properly prepared to scrutinise the Bill.

(n) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education in response to a letter forwarded by the Committee from Mr D Lewis on teacher attendance procedure.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Mr Lewis enclosing a copy of the Department’s response.

(o) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department in response to a letter from the Committee of 27 November 2008, confirming that the Department is considering the terms of reference for the Committee for Finance & Personnel’s scrutiny of procurement practice and that a response shall be provided early in the new year.

(p) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education in response to a letter forwarded by the Committee from Ms F Donnelly, NICIE regarding the implementation of the job evaluation process for classroom assistants in the grant-maintained integrated sector.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Donnelly enclosing a copy of the Department’s response.

(q) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education in response to a letter forwarded by the Committee from Mr P Campbell, Principal of Ballywalter Primary School regarding the delay in progressing the provision of a replacement school.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Mr Campbell enclosing a copy of the Department’s response.

(r) The Committee noted the Department of Education’s response to a briefing paper from the Committee for the Environment on Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems forwarded to the Department by the Committee.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s response to the Committee for the Environment.

(s) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence from the Minister of Education to Mr D R Dickson, Secretary to the Board of Governors, The Armstrong Primary School on primary school funding.

(t) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education on the current status of a development proposal for the amalgamation of Augher Central, Carntall and Clogher Regional Primary Schools.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s response to Mr D Mulligan, Chairperson of the Board of Governors, Augher Central Primary School.

(u) The Committee noted a memo from the Committee Clerk enclosing a written statement from Mr Anderson, Chief Executive, CCEA, outlining the position on the development of a transfer test commissioned by the Department of Education.

(v) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education confirming that officials will brief the Committee on the outcome of the consultation on The Education (Pupil Records and Reporting) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009 once this is completed, and enclosing the CCEA evaluation of InCAS and the Annual Pupil Profile Report for information.

(w) The Committee noted information from NASUWT on the imminent industrial action by its members. The Chairperson advised the Committee that he and the Deputy Chairperson had met with the Northern Ireland President and the Secretary of NASUWT that morning to discuss the industrial action and that he would meet again with the union on this matter.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department seeking an update on the Department’s position in relation to the proposed industrial action and the issues in dispute.

4.    Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted information on Life Long Learning UK provided by the Director, Mr B Henry.

(b) The Committee noted the WELB Annual Report and Accounts 2007-2008.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk of the Committee of Finance and Personnel providing information, by government department, on post project evaluations which have been delivered or are still outstanding.

Agreed- The Committee forward this correspondence to the Department of Education asking for an explanation why none of the post project evaluations listed had been delivered by the target date in relation to projects within the Department of Education’s area of responsibility.

(d) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence from NASUWT to Mr B Mulholland, Chief Executive, WELB regarding controlled/voluntary post primary education in County Fermanagh.

(e) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence from Mr B Mulholland, Chief Executive, WELB, to NASUWT regarding the previous correspondence on controlled/voluntary post primary education in County Fermanagh.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence from Ms Alison Millar of NIPSA regarding consultation opportunities during the Committee’s scrutiny of the Education Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Millar informing her that the Committee had written to NIPSA, and other stakeholders, inviting it to provide a written submission on the Education Bill to be submitted by 20 February 2009.

(g) The Committee noted correspondence from NIPSA enclosing a commissioned report from the University of Edinburgh on the use of PFIs/PPPs in Northern Ireland.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence from Mr A G Redpath, Principal of Bangor Integrated Primary School on primary school funding.

Agreed – the Committee would forward to Mr Redpath a copy of a response from the Minister of Education to The Armstrong Primary School addressing almost identical issues; and that the Committee would forward the same response to Ian McCrea MLA who had raised similar concerns on behalf of Cookstown Primary School,.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence from Mr G Matthewson, CCMS Primary Principals’ Group, Derry City Council Area to the Minister of Education on concerns regarding the ESA.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to requesting a copy of the response issued by the Minister or the Department to Mr Matthewson.

(j) The Committee noted an invitation from South Armagh Childcare Consortium to the launch of their research report ‘Childcare Who Cares’.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence from YCNI on Section 75 screening of policies.

(l) The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for Employment and Learning enclosing a copy of a presentation made by the Employment Services Board (ESB) to the Employment and Learning Committee on 10 December 2008 and a letter from the Chairperson of that Committee to the Minister of Education seeking her views.

Agreed – The Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education and ask that its response be channelled through the Clerk to the Committee for Education.

(m) The Committee noted an invitation from Together for All to a seminar on ‘Better Outcomes for Children: Getting Prevention Science Into Mainstream Policy and Practice’.

(n) The Committee noted correspondence from the Education and Library Boards regarding EQIA on implementation of the job evaluation schemes.

(o) The Committee noted the Equality Commission’s December 2008 Newsletter.

(p) The Committee noted correspondence from NSPCC seeking consultation on the Committee’s scrutiny of the Education Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would write to NSPCC inviting it to provide a written submission on the Education Bill by 20 February 2009.

(q) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 12 January 2009 on Irish Medium Pre-schools.

5.    Subordinate Legislation

The Committee considered the following proposed statutory rule: The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Relevant Qualifications, Reasonable Steps and Physical Features) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009.

Agreed – that the Committee would seek briefing from Department Officials on the content of the Regulations at next week’s Committee meeting.

6.    Departmental Briefing on Education Bill

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration and Joe Reynolds, Review of Public Administration Team, joined the meeting at 10.25am.

Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 10.33am. 
Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 10.37am.

The officials gave a presentation on the proposed structure of the Education & Skills Authority (ESA) at regional and local levels. They answered questions on a number of issues, including: what references there are in the Bill to the structure and sub-regional structure for the ESA; what staffing structure is envisaged below the senior official level for each of the six local teams; the change of emphasis in the rationale for the ESA from making savings to raising standards; whether there was any empirical evidence to suggest that the development of a single education authority would improve standards; what incentives, in terms of rewards, there would be for high achieving schools; the change management process generally, the timing of recruitment and appointment of senior staff to the ESA and whether this would result in “asset stripping” of the Education and Library Boards before the ESA was in place; the powers and composition of Local Committees and the appointment mechanisms for Local Committee members; the timing of the appointment of the ESA Chairperson designate and his or her role in other appointments.

Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 11.54am.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and the witnesses left the meeting at 12.19pm.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to confirm agreement that officials would provide the Committee with a paper to include a worked up example of what the envisaged change in structure and approximate staffing levels would look like, from the current structure to an ESA Regional and Sub Regional structure, and bring this back to Committee; and a further paper on the proposed powers, responsibilities and make up of a Local Committee, including how members of a Local Committee would be appointed.

7.    Education Bill - Extension of Committee Stage

The Chairperson reminded Members, and in particular Party Education Spokespersons, to consider the date to which the Committee will wish the Committee Stage of the Education Bill to be extended, in order to complete the Committee Stage scrutiny of the Bill and report to the Assembly. The Clerk reminded Members of the timescales set out in his briefing note to the Committee of 5 December 2008 and that a decision on the date would have to be taken at the Committee’s next meeting.

Agreed – the Committee would consider this matter at its meeting on 21 January.

8.    Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and agreed the updated Forward Work Programme.

Agreed – the Clerk will consider and bring forward a draft programme for the Committee’s next visit to a school in Spring 2008.

9.    Any Other Business

A Member drew the Committee’s attention to a recent news story of a 16 year old boy in County Antrim who has never attended secondary school.

Agreed - The Committee agreed to write to the Department for its position on this matter.

Members discussed the position of schools for which a development proposal has been made or where a decision to close a school has very recently been taken, including Maghera High School, in light of the publication on 12 January 2008 of the final ‘Schools for the Future: A Policy for Sustainable Schools’.

Agreed – The Committee agreed to write to the Minister to ask her how the new Policy would affect such development proposals and closure decisions, and request the Minister to come to a future meeting of the Committee to discuss this and other Committee questions on the Policy.

Mr Poots joined the meeting at 12.28pm.

10. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The Committee agreed that the next meeting will be held on Wednesday 21 January 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.33pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
21 January 2009

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