Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.02am in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 18 March 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 18 March 2009.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 18 March 2009 from Mr William Haughan regarding the statutory assessment of his son.
Agreed – the Committee would send a reminder to the Department of Education seeking a response to previous correspondence of 12 March and notify Mr Haughan accordingly.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 18 March 2009 from Creative Youth Partnerships on the Launch of Inspiring Creativity being hosted by the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure in the Long Gallery on 25 March 2009 at 3.00pm.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 18 March 2009 from the Department of Education on funding of the implementation of the job evaluation process for classroom assistants in Grant-Maintained Integrated and Voluntary Grammar Schools.
(d) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 30 January 2009 from the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure regarding the National Bookstart Programme in Northern Ireland.
Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Minister’s correspondence to Bookstart.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 March 2009 from Advice NI proposing to make a presentation to the Committee on Free School Meals.
(f) The Committee noted a press release of 18 March 2009 from St Comgall’s College Support Group on the Minister for Education’s decision to approve amalgamation of East Antrim schools.
(g) The Committee noted a request from INTO for a copy of the Committee’s letter of 6 October 2008 to the Minister of Education.
Agreed – the Committee would provide a copy of the letter of 6 October 2008 to INTO and would write again to the Department requesting a response to this letter.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education on the provision of speech and language services at Taughmonagh Primary School.
Agreed – the Committee would write again to the Department on the absence of substitute arrangements and to request an update on provision of these services at the school.
(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 March 2009 from the Department of Education to Mr Dominic Bradley MLA on a number of points raised by Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta. It was noted that the Committee hoped to hear oral evidence from this group on the Education Bill in April 2009.
Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 10.05am
(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 March 2009 from Sentinus on their Young Innovators/STEM event in the Odyssey Arena on 18 June 2009.
Agreed – the Committee would forward details of this event to the Committee for Employment and Learning.
(k) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 12 March 2009 from CCMS Primary Principals’ Group, Derry to the Minister of Education on concerns regarding the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority.
(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 18 March 2009 from the Department of Education on the Consultation on the Draft Teachers’ (Compensation for Redundancy and Premature Retirement) Regulations.
Agreed – Department of Education officials will be requested to brief the Committee on this consultation.
(m) The Committee noted further correspondence of 23 March 2009 from Mr William Haughan regarding the statutory assessment of his son.
Agreed – the Committee would reference this most recent correspondence from Mr Haughan in its reminder letter to the Department of Education.
(n) The Committee noted an invitation from Creative Youth Partnerships to the launch of Inspiring Creativity in the Long Gallery on 25 March 2009.
(a) The Committee noted the Equality Commission e-newsletter Equality Focus for February/March 2009.
(b) The Committee noted an invitation from the Northern Ireland Office to attend a public presentation of a drama regarding the Knives Awareness Campaign for school children which took place in Stranmillis College, Belfast on 24 March 2009.
(c) The Committee noted an invitation to Capita’s 6th National Conference Third Sector Commissioning – Overcoming Barriers and Realising Potential in London on 22 June 2009.
Agreed - Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend this conference.
(d) The Committee noted an invitation from Child Poverty Alliance to attend a series of seminars focussing on issues relating to child poverty to be held in the Long Gallery on 24 and 31 March 2009.
Agreed - Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend the seminar on 31 March.
(e) The Committee noted an invitation from the Coleraine and District Branch Samaritans to a two-day workshop relating to the DEAL Initiative on the 1 and 2 April 2009 in the University of Ulster, Coleraine.
Agreed - Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend the workshop.
The Chairperson advised members that the Committee have been requested to hold a joint informal session with the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to hear from the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health and that consideration is being given to including a presentation from the Samaritans in this session.
(f) The Committee noted an invitation from the University of Ulster to a seminar on ‘Joining up the Dots: Britain’s Constitutional Territorial Debates’ on 26 March at the Jordanstown campus.
Agreed - Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend the seminar.
(g) The Committee noted an invitation from PSCA to a Project Leadership Conference 2009; Building and Improving Teams.
Agreed - Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend the conference.
(h) The Committee noted an invitation from Inside Government to a conference on ICT in Education: Shaping a New Generation in Learning in London on 18 June 2009.
Agreed - Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend the conference.
(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 March 2009 from the Department of Education on the 2008 Review of the Primary Schools Building Handbook.
(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 March 2009 from the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Minister of Education on provision of Ulster-Scots within the formal education sector.
(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 18 March 2009 from Mr Jonathan Craig MLA enclosing letters from Wallace High School and Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) on concerns regarding the creation of the Education and Skills Authority.
Agreed – the Chairperson would write to Mr Craig MLA (and copied to Wallace High School and RBAI) to advise that the issues raised by the schools would be considered as part of the Committee’s ongoing scrutiny of the Education Bill.
(l) The Committee noted a Press Release of 23 March 2009 from the Department of Education entitled Education Minister says ‘Let’s Close the Gap’.
(m) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 March 2009 from NIPSA requesting an opportunity to give oral evidence to the Committee on the Education Bill.
Agreed – the Committee agreed to include an oral evidence session with NIPSA on the Education Bill into the Committee’s Forward Work Programme and to advise NIPSA accordingly.
(n) The Committee noted a Press Release of 24 March 2009 from the Department of Education entitled Transfer 2010 Guidance Offers a Fair System - Ruane.
5. Education Bill – Evidence Sessions
(a) Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU), Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
Avril Hall-Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, Frank Bunting, Northern Secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation and Seamus Searson, Northern Ireland Organiser of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers joined the meeting at 10.10am.
The witnesses gave a presentation on the Education Bill and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: whether the Unions feel the Education Bill presents a threat to the preservation of school ethos; redeployment of teachers; who the Unions consider should be the submitting authority responsible for employment and management schemes; whether the Unions are in favour of maximising autonomy or centralisation; how effective ESA will be in raising standards in schools; concerns regarding the role of ESA in challenging schools; an explanation of INTO’s concerns regarding clause 34 that the Boards of Governors will have a duty to promote the achievement of high standards of educational attainment; differences across school sectors between teachers/non teaching staff regarding terms and conditions of service and employment; differences in staff promotion opportunities and allowances across the sectors; the use of the CCMS model for ESA; sectoral support bodies and the requirement to assist in raising standards in schools; the role of the sectoral bodies in addition to their advisory role; inequality of treatment of the controlled sector; concern regarding the composition and inadequate size of the membership of ESA; role of the Trade Unions within, and representation on ESA; Trade Union membership on ESA and potential conflict of interest; consideration of inclusion of statutory requirement to consult with the Unions; Clause 10 – employing panels of teachers; reservations regarding the use of public funds to employ external bodies to carry out research particularly with existing expertise, for example, within the E&LBs; representation of multicultural society across the school system; role of the Education Advisory Forum and its representation, for example, of the controlled sector.
Mr Poots joined the meeting at 11.19am.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.21am.
(b) Department of Education’s Response to UTU, INTO and NASUWT comments/concerns
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration, and Eve Stewart, Review of Public Administration joined the meeting at 11.22am.
The officials responded to the written submissions of, and presentation given by the three Teachers’ Unions and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: whether there is a risk that maximised accountable autonomy will be damaged if the submitting authority for controlled schools is one central ownership body; progress in relation to the Department’s inquiry regarding VAT exemption status transfer from E&LBs to the new ownership body; assurances from the Department regarding the size of the bureaucratic task facing schools in the preparation and operation of employment schemes; the allocation of future savings generated by ESA; what empirical evidence there is to suggest that ESA will be successful in raising standards in schools; ‘Every School a Good School’ policy; potential disagreement in the approach taken for raising standards in schools; use of the term ‘challenge’; intervention powers proposed in the Bill; how ethos will feature in schemes of employment; conflict of interest issue in relation to Trade Union membership on ESA; provisions within Clause 10 to employ a panel of teachers; provision within the legislation for early years education within the definition ‘educational services’; concerns regarding the size and composition of the membership of ESA; provision within Clause 13 to procure training, advisory and support services and not utilising expertise currently available within the E&LBs; whether ESA should have regard to the requirements of the Unions as well as industry, commerce and the professions; and the Minister’s consideration of a proposed amendment to the definition of submitting authority.
(c) Department of Education’s Response to NICCE and CCMS comments/concerns
The officials then responded to the presentations given by the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) at the Committee’s meeting on 18 March 2009 and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: reasons for legislation exemptions for schools in respect of equality (Section 75) and FETO; the application of equality legislation governing public authorities such as the controlled school ownership body and not to Catholic Church owned schools; whether ESA will provide the same level of protection of ethos to Catholic schools as CCMS does; the current arrangements for the appointment of Boards of Governors and their composition; how the Department ensures applicants to Boards of governors on Catholic maintained schools are sympathetic to Catholic ethos;
Mr O’Dowd joined the meeting at 12.29pm.
the current Department of Education advert for recruiting those interested in serving on Boards of Governors and omitting the controlled sector from the list of preferred ‘school management type’ in which to serve as a Governor; request from NICCE for a change of wording regarding the ‘consultation’ on the appointment of community governors; whether the Department commissioned any research into definition of ethos, the protection of ethos within legislation and how this is carried out within other jurisdictions in the UK and elsewhere; requirement for the definition of ethos for example for the controlled sector; community background and ethnic origin statistics for pupils within the catholic maintained and controlled sectors; the role of the future sectoral bodies in raising standards; and proposed subordinate legislation to address the clarification of, and concerns in respect of Clause 8.
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 12.52pm.
The Chairperson reminded the officials of the Committee’s recent letter summarising specific information requests, particularly highlighting the request (item (v)) for proposals to address stakeholder concerns with Clause 8. He thanked them for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 1.07pm.
Agreed – the Committee would provide copies of the Department of Education’s response paper to each of the three Teachers’ Unions. The Chairperson advised that the Unions will 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 the issues raised by the Committee and to remind officials to provide the following information requested during the course of the discussion:
- a grid detailing all school categories and the composition of the Boards of Governors in respect of each of these categories.
- a paper on other examples of faith based schools placed in public ownership and the provisions made within legislation to protect the ethos of such schools.
- the percentage of children in the controlled sector who come from the Protestant/Unionist community;
- the percentage of children in the Catholic maintained sector who are from the Catholic/Nationalist community;
- percentage of children in Catholic maintained and controlled sector who come from ethnic minorities.
6. Forward Work Programme
The Committee agreed the updated forward work programme.
7. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The Committee agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Wednesday 1 April 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.08 pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
1 April 2009