Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.04am in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 12 November 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 12 November 2008.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted the memo from the Committee for Employment and Learning regarding the Bumblebees Nursery.
(b) The Committee noted the response from the Middletown Centre for Autism Ltd to the Committee’s letter of 23 October 2008 raising a number of questions in relation to the Centre’s work.
(c) The Committee noted the response from the Department of Education to the Committee’s letter of 23 October 2008 raising a number of questions in relation to the Middletown Centre’s work.
(d) The Committee noted the response from the Chief Inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate to the Committee’s letter of 14 November 2008 regarding a presentation from the Chief Inspector on his Report 2006-2008.
(e) The Committee noted that the Minister of Education had yet to respond to the Committee’s letter of 6 October asking her to provide further information on a number of points raised in discussions with the Minister on 1 October 2008. This included information on the forms of structural (institutional) inequalities in the school system.
Agreed - the Committee would write to the Department asking for a response as soon as possible.
(a) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Governing Bodies Association regarding a recent statement from Catholic Heads Association.
Agreed – The Committee will bring the subject of this statement and the recent joint statement by the four main churches onto its Forward Work Programme - for discussion at next meeting.
(b) The Committee noted the correspondence from NI Environmental Link regarding ‘European Environmental Policy – The Northern Ireland Dimension’ conference in Parliament Buildings on 9 December 2008.
(c) The Committee noted the correspondence from Committee for Finance & Personnel – Analysis of Sickness Absence in Northern Ireland Departments 2007-2008 .
(d) The Committee noted the correspondence from Lee Opticians regarding a Visual Stress Report.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department with a copy of the Report seeking information on the steps being taken to address the issues raised in the report. The Committee would also forward a copy of the Report to the Committee for Health Social Services and Public Safety.
(e) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Joint Committee on Education & Science, Leinster House, Dublin.
Agreed – The Committee approved the draft reply.
(f) The Committee noted the correspondence regarding the visit of the President of the European Parliament.
(g) The Committee noted the correspondence regarding publication of members’ attendance at committee meetings .
Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 10.09am.
(h) The Committee noted the proposed list of recipients of Committee Christmas cards .
Mr Bradley joined the meeting at 10.10am.
Mrs Bradley joined the meeting at 10.11am.
Agreed – The Committee discussed the list and agreed that any members with any suggested additions should contact the Clerk as soon as possible.
5. Presentation from the Alternative Education Providers (AEP) Forum
Mairead McCafferty, Director/ Head of Centre, Newstart Education Centre, Louise Brennan, Education Coordinator, An Munia Tober, Joe Conore, Manager, Education By Choice and Angela Mervyn, Upper Andersonstown Community Forum, joined the meeting at 10.13am.
The witnesses gave a presentation on key issues facing community based alternative education providers and answered questions on a number of issues including: how the benefits delivered by the AEPs could be assessed; the effect of locating AEPs in centres as opposed to schools; the inter-generational nature of the problems facing the young people attending AEPs; the nature of AEPs’ relationship/contact with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland, the teaching unions, the Department of Education, E&LBs and the Education and Skills Authority, and the need for a coordinated approach; the sources of the funding which AEPs receive, the uncertainty around future funding and the difficulties which this creates; the size of AEPs and staff/pupil ratio; the evolution of community based AEPs, the benefits which being community based brings to AEPs and possible effects of mainstreaming on community based AEPs; AEPs’ relationships with mainstream schools and with statutory providers such as Loughshore in BELB; concern with the level of engagement between AEPs and the Department in the Review of AEP; age related provision and transition arrangements to FE/vocational training post-16; research into the sources of disaffection with school among young people; the inter-disciplinary nature of AEP staff – teachers/youth workers/social workers;
Miss McIlveen left the meeting at 10.21am.
Mr Poots joined the meeting at 10.21am.
Miss McIlveen rejoined the meeting at 10.41am.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 10.52am.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the Department regarding the issues raised in the AEPs’ presentation and question and answer session.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.07am.
6. Departmental Briefing on AEP
Dorothy Angus, Head of Supporting and Safeguarding Children Division and Mary Potter Pupil Support Unit , joined the meeting at 11.08am.
The witnesses gave a presentation outlining the background to alternative education provision, the current provision by both Education and Library Boards and community based providers, the principles underpinning the Department’s Review of Alternative Education and its proposed approach for future provision, and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the apparent lack of progress on AEP since the 1998 report; the level of engagement between the Department and the community based AEPs on the current Review of AEP; the potential benefits of alternative education beyond 16 and with pre 14 pupils; the lack of resources such as educational psychology to support primary schools in dealing with the issue of disruptive/disaffected children; the pressures on principals and teacher’s time in mainstream schools, the danger of overburdening teachers/principals/governors with ongoing responsibility for pupils attending AEPs and of children ‘falling through the net’; whether schools should retain registration and responsibility for pupils attending an AEP centre or whether it would be better to have a separate body with clear responsibility for the young people attending AEPs; the likelihood of young people returning from AEP to mainstream and the legal obstacles to schools ceasing to have ultimate responsibility for such pupils’ education; the differences in scale/ethos between Loughshore and community based AEPs; the appropriate standards by which AEPs’ performance should be assessed and whether delivery of the whole breadth of the curriculum should be the top priority; the likely date for the release of the Review of Special Educational Need and Inclusion consultation and the consultation on Review of AEP and how the overlapping nature of these reviews can be adequately reflected in each review process;
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had a number of questions and further information requests which it would wish the Department to respond to and would like to be kept informed about the AEP review process going forward.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for their informative presentation and they left the meeting at 11.57am.
7. Departmental Briefing on Food in Schools Policy
Alan McMullan and Gary Montgomery of School Administration Branch joined Dorothy Angus, Head of Supporting and Safeguarding Children Division at the meeting at 11.58am.
The witnesses gave a presentation on Food in Schools Policy and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the level of ‘buy in’ from schools in light of the sale of unhealthy food via tuck shops/vending machines; children leaving school to buy lunch from neighboring fast food outlets; whether the problem with the level of uptake of free school meals would be better addressed by, for example, tackling the stigma attached to seeking free school meals or by increasing the effectiveness of attempts to target communications on entitlement to parents in receipt of benefits; the need to influence the developing tastes of children at primary school and the need for an integrated approach which encompassed not just healthy food but physical exercise.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 12.03pm.
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 12.07pm.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.18pm.
8. Any Other Business
There was no other business.
9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 26 November 2008 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.19 pm
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
26 November 2008