Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Venue: Holy Cross College, Strabane
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.48am in public session.
1. Presentation by Holy Cross College, Strabane
Sean Bradley, Principal; Maria Doherty, Vice-Principal; Michael Early, Vice-Principal; and Eugene Mullan, Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors, Holy Cross College, joined the meeting at 10.50am. The witnesses gave a presentation on the development and construction of the College, and its bilateral admission and academic structure arrangements.
Mr O’Dowd joined the meeting at 11.18am.
Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 11.23am.
The witnesses answered questions on a number of issues, including: the Public Private Partnership process; optimum school sizes; the impact on the size of a school on pastoral care; the transition from three single-sex schools to a single co-educational school; classroom-based academic selection as opposed to at admissions stage; weightings applied to criteria for placing children in bands; parental challenges to placements; movement of pupils between bands and streams; benefits to banding and streaming as opposed to mixed, all-ability classes; school management structure, teaching outputs/targets and the value added to the overall development of a pupil.
The Deputy Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an interesting and informative presentation, and they left the meeting at 12.06pm.
Apologies are detailed above.
3. Minutes of the Meeting of 17 September 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 17 September 2008.
4. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding Lisanelly Barracks, Omagh.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the Department to determine if the business case has been completed and submitted to the Executive.
(b) The Committee noted the copy correspondence from the Departmental Permanent Secretary to the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) regarding the oversight arrangements for the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the Department to express concern at the delay in responding to the WELB’s original correspondence of 30 April and 8 May.
(c) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding Global Dimension in Schools.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the response to Ms N McQuaid, Co-ordinator for Global Dimension in Schools NI.
(d) The Committee noted the response from the Minister regarding Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Agreed – the Committee requested a definition of ‘vocational’ and ‘academic’ subjects.
(e) The Committee noted the correspondence from St Comgall’s College Support Group.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.
(f) The Committee noted the response from the Belfast Education and Library Board regarding Alternative Education Provision.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.
(a) The Committee noted copy correspondence from Ms J Todorov to the Minister regarding transfer procedures to post-primary education.
Agreed – the Committee will request a copy of the Minister’s response to Ms Todorov. The Committee agreed the draft response to Ms Todorov, with amendments.
(b) The Committee noted the correspondence from NIPSA regarding the outstanding pay claim for Education Welfare Officers.
Agreed – the Clerk will make arrangements for an informal meeting with NIPSA representatives, as necessary.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence regarding Primary Capital Action 08 Conference.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence regarding Northern Ireland 08 Conference.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for the Environment regarding George Best Belfast City Airport.
(f) The Committee noted three Departmental press releases: ‘The Education Gap can be Closed to Ensure a Bright Future – Ruane’; ‘Olympic and Paralympic Games can Invigorate Education’; and ‘ Donaghadee High School to Close.’
Agreed – the Committee will request more information on the ‘Achieving Derry – Bright Futures’ programme from the Department.
6. Subordinate Legislation
The Committee considered the correspondence from the Department regarding its plans to consult on a proposed Statutory Rule, ‘The Special Educational Needs and Disability (General Qualifications Bodies) (Relevant Qualifications, Reasonable Steps and Physical Features) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2008.
Agreed – the Committee will request clarification on the rationale for reducing the period of consultation from 12 to 8 weeks.
7. Presentation by the Derg Mourne Learning Community (DMLC)
Desy Williamson, Principal, Castlederg High School; Martin Haughey, Vice-Principal, Holy Cross College, Strabane; Lewis Lacey, Principal, Strabane Grammar School; and Julie Murphy, Acting Principal, Knockavoe School and Resource Centre, joined the meeting at 12.18pm. The witnesses gave a presentation on the DMLC’s successes, concerns and challenges, and answered questions on a number of issues, including: financial implications for pupils moving between schools and Further Education colleges to access courses; cost and timing issues regarding transportation of pupils between sites; partnership and involvement with the local business community; issues with cross-sectoral collaborative working; distance learning technology; the sustainability of schools in the area and the potential amalgamation of Strabane Grammar and Strabane High School.
The Deputy Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an interesting and informative presentation and they left the meeting at 1.02pm.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the Department regarding issues with Common Funding Formula allocations for rural and urban designations.
8. Forward Work Programme
The Deputy Chairperson confirmed that the meeting with the Minister on transfer arrangements will take place in closed session on Wednesday 1 October 2008 from 10.00 – 11.30am. The Committee noted that the Departmental briefings planned for 1 October 2008 on ‘Every School a Good School’ and Literacy and Numeracy, would be rescheduled to 15 October 2008.
The Committee noted that CCMS will attend the Committee meeting on 8 October 2008 to discuss general policy issues raised during the presentation by St Comgall’s College Support Group at the Committee’s meeting on 17 September 2008.
9. Any Other Business
The Deputy Chairperson reminded Members to forward their Party papers on the Sustainable Schools policy to the Clerk by 1 October 2008.
10. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 1 October 2008 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.
The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.06pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
1 October 2008