Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Friday, 26 June 2009

Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.15am in closed session.

1. Apologies

None.

2. Legal Advice

The Legal Advisor to the Assembly provided a briefing on legal advice requested by the Committee.

The meeting moved into public session at 10.24am.

Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 10.27am.

The Chairperson welcomed Mr John McAllister who replaced Mr Tom Elliott to his first meeting of the Committee for Education and asked that the Clerk pass on to Mr Elliott the Committee’s appreciation of the contribution he made to the work of the Committee.

3. Minutes of the Meeting of 17 June 2009

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 17 June 2009.

4. Matters Arising

The Committee noted correspondence of 16 June 2009 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister enclosing a copy of the Final Draft Abstract from The Autism Bill (NI).

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised by the proposed Autism Bill.

The Committee noted correspondence of 16 June 2009 from St Comgall’s College Support Group regarding Development Proposal No 239 indicating the Group’s intention to commission its own ‘professional critique and Site Location Feasibility study’.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education to ask for its comments in relation to the possible avenues of funding for the type of study the Group have indicated.

The Committee noted correspondence of 17 June 2009 from the Association for Quality Education on the Education Bill.

The Committee noted correspondence of 17 June 2009 from the Ulster Farmer’s Union enclosing a copy of their response to the Department of Education’s EQIA on Transfer 2010 Guidance.

The Committee noted correspondence of 17 June 2009 from the Department of Education on the salary position of instrumental music tutors.

The Committee noted correspondence of 17 June 2009 from the Department of Education regarding the Craigavon Area Learning Community.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to Mr Dominic Bradley MLA and to Mr Gerard Adams the Chairperson of Craigavon Area Learning Community (CALC) for circulation to other members of the CALC.

The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 17 June 2009 from Buddy Bear Trust to the Minister of Education requesting an urgent meeting.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that the Minister’s response to Buddy Bear Trust is copied to the Committee.

The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 16 June 2009 from Buddy Bear Trust to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister requesting an urgent meeting.

The Committee noted correspondence of 22 June 2009 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister enclosing a copy of Buddy Bear Trust’s letter of 2 June 2009 to the Minister of Education requesting an urgent meeting.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education.

The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 21 June 2009 from Buddy Bear Trust to the Minister for Education and Science, Dáil Éireann on the possibility of establishing a Conductive Education Unit in Drumcar Special School.

The Committee noted correspondence of 19 June 2009 from the Department of Education on the Education Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would write again to the Department of Education to ask it to ascertain what arrangements, in general terms, are in operation within the Northern Ireland Office to achieve representative membership of the Equality Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

The Committee noted correspondence of 19 June 2009 from St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook regarding Specialist Schools.

The Committee noted correspondence of 21 June 2009 from Ms Lisa Saunders on the Draft Education (Pupil Reporting) Regulations NI 2009.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Saunders with the information requested...

The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 4 June 2009 from the Department of Education to Mr Robert Greer, Belfast noting his correspondence on politics and bureaucracy in education.

The Committee noted correspondence of 12 June 2009 from Ballysally Primary School regarding a Nurturing Programme being delivered in the school.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.

The Committee noted correspondence of 15 June 2009 from Mr William McCrea MP MLA enclosing a letter from Mrs Carol Bailey on the Government’s consultation on PSHE education (including Education about sex and relationships)

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mrs Bailey’s letter to the Department of Education to enquire on policy in Northern Ireland relating to this subject.

The Committee noted correspondence of 23 June 2009 from Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG) on the Education Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would forward CnaG’s letter to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.

The Committee noted correspondence of 23 June 2009 from the Commission for Catholic Education on the Education Bill including a response to the Department of Education’s paper of 18 March 2009.

The Committee noted correspondence of 22 June 2009 from the Department of Education to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety providing an update on consultations with DHSS&PS and OFMDFM regarding funding for the Buddy Bear School.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Committee for HSS&PS as requested.

The Committee noted a thank you letter of 24 June 2009 from Smart Start.

The Committee noted correspondence of 24 June 2009 from Mr James Murphy regarding the proposal to close the Department of German Studies at Queen’s University Belfast.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to seek comment on the issues raised. The Committee further agreed to write to the Committee for Employment and Learning to consider a request that the Department of Employment and Learning provides comment on this issue.

The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 19 June 2009 from Stranmillis University College to the Minister of Education and the Minister for Employment and Learning regarding allocations of Initial Teacher Education places for 2009/10.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it receive a copy of the Department’s response to the letter.

The Committee noted a paper of 25 June from the Clerk of the Committee on ESA Membership and enclosing the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Secretary of State to request details of the arrangements by which the Secretary of State so far as practicable secures appointment of Commissioners to the Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission are representative of the community in Northern Ireland.

The Committee noted correspondence of 25 June 2009 from the Department of Education providing an update on the draft Teachers’ (Compensation for Redundancy and Premature Retirement) Regulations (NI) 2009 and complementary amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation (NI) Regulations 1998.

The Committee noted a paper of 25 June 2009 from the Committee Clerk providing guidance on statutory rules.

5. Correspondence

The Committee noted correspondence of 12 Jun 2009 from Mr Ian Collen, Lurgan regarding the closure of the Department of German Studies at Queen’s University.

Agreed –the Committee would write to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised. The Committee further agreed write to the Committee for Employment and Learning to on requesting comment on the issues raised from the Department for Employment and Learning.

The Committee noted an invitation from the Atlantic Philanthropies to a seminar it is co-hosting with Together 4 All on Implementing Evidence-based Programmes; Promise and Practice on 1 July 2009 in the Stormont Hotel, Belfast.

Agreed – Members would inform Committee staff if they wished to attend this seminar.

The Committee noted correspondence of 19 June 2009 from Mrs Hughes, Loughgall regarding welfare visits to children who are home educated.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mrs Hughes’ letter to the Department of Education and the Southern Education and Library Board for a response to the issues raised, and to request briefing from Department officials on the subject of home schooling later in the year.

The Committee noted correspondence of 18 June 2009 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit’s (PEDU) Review of Public Service Agreement (PSA) Delivery.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that when officials next come to Committee in relation to Budget or In-Year Monitoring that they also brief the Committee on the Department’s PSA targets and performance against targets.

The Committee noted pre-screening consultation documents of 22 June 2009 from Belfast Education and Library Board regarding a proposal to relocate City of Belfast School of Music to Castle High School site on or around 1 September 2009.

The Committee noted a Press Release of 23 June 2009 from the Department of Education entitled Education Minister encourages parents to apply for the new primary school uniform grant.

The Committee noted a Press Release of 25 June 2009 from the Department of Education entitled Ruane expresses condolences following tragic drowning .

The Committee discussed the handling of Matters Arising, Correspondence and Freedom of Information (FoI) Requests received by the Committee over the recess period.

Agreed – the Committee would delegate authority to make decisions in relation to FoI requests to the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson.

Agreed – the Committee secretariat would circulate correspondence received during recess, to Members at the end of July and again at the end of August for comment and agreement to action.

6. Subordinate Legislation

The Committee considered The Education (Pupil Reporting) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009.

Question put and agreed:

That the Committee for Education has considered Statutory Rule 2009/231 The Education (Pupil Reporting) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 and has no objection to the rule.’

7. Education Bill – Scrutiny of Clauses 1 – 2, Schedule 1 and Clauses 3 - 12

The Committee continued its clause-by-clause consideration of the Education Bill. The Chairperson invited Department of Education officials in attendance in the public gallery to join the Committee to clarify issues raised in its deliberations on the Bill.

The Committee considered Schedule 1 Paragraph 2 (2) (b) and (3). The Committee agreed (1 Member dissented) to recommend that the Department’s power to vary those numbers in Schedule 1 Paragraph 2 (3) be made subject to positive Assembly approval.

The Committee considered Schedule 1 Paragraph 19. The Committee agreed that the Paragraph remain part of the Bill. One Member raised a query regarding the required timing of the resignation of a Member of the ESA who wishes to seek election to the Assembly.

The Committee considered Schedule 1 Paragraph 20 - 22. The Committee agreed that these paragraphs remain part of the Bill.

The Committee considered Clause 2 (1) and (2). The Chairperson asked Department officials when the wording of the Minister’s proposed amendment to 2 (2) (b) regarding youth services and a further Departmental amendment relating to the promotion of Irish Medium education within Clause 2 would be made available to the Committee. The Chairperson advised officials that a copy of correspondence of 23 June 2009 from Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta to the Committee would be forwarded to the Department for their consideration. Some members raised concerns regarding the promotion of Irish Medium education over other education sectors. One Member raised a proposal from NICIE that Clause 2 (2) (a) should be amended to reflect a commitment to the promotion of community relations.

Miss McIlveen joined the meeting at 11.17am

The Committee considered Clause 2 (3). The officials confirmed that the provisions on the face of the second bill for the establishment of controlled schools’ ownership body and its membership would be provided to the Committee before the summer recess. A member raised concerns regarding the disadvantage of the controlled sector’s lack of representation in this process.

The Committee considered Clause 2 (4). Officials agreed to consult with Legislative Council on a proposal from the Committee to remove “(so far as they are capable of being so exercised)” from this paragraph.

The Committee considered Clause 2 (5) to (8) without substantive comment.

The Committee discussed general issues in relation to Clause 3. Officials confirmed that the Minister was not convinced that the Committee’s suggestion that the Bill be amended to include an enabling provision for DE to make Regulations clarifying Schemes of Employment was required. Officials also confirmed that the Department intended to work with stakeholders in developing the Model Employment schemes for their sectors. Members discussed whether the ethos of a school could be undermined by ESA becoming the single employing authority.

Agreed – The Committee agreed in principle the need for regulations within the Bill to provide clarity, certainty and confidence in relation to Schemes of employment. Guidance on employment schemes

The Committee considered Clause 3 (1) and (2). Members discussed the submitting authority role for the controlled sector. Officials confirmed that the first meeting of a broad consultative group of controlled sector educational interests would take place on Friday, 3 July 2009. Officials agreed to provide the Committee with a list of the groups who have been asked to attend this meeting.

The Committee considered Clause 4 without comment.

The Committee considered Clause 5. Members discussed: whether subordinate legislation to govern the content of Employment Schemes was required; and the authorship of the Model Employment Schemes. A Member raised concerns whether this clause presents a command and control approach, which would affect the autonomy of schools in employment matters.

The Committee considered Clause 6 without comment.

The Committee considered Clause 7 without substantive comment.

The Committee considered Clause 8 without comment.

The Committee considered Clause 9 without comment.

The Committee considered Clause 10 without substantive comment.

The Committee considered Clause 11. Officials confirmed that the Department would be bringing forward an amendment to permit all Boards of Governors to have control over school budgets for salaries. The Chairperson requested that the wording of this amendment is brought to the Committee as a matter of urgency.

The Committee considered Clause 12 without comment.

The Committee returned to Schedule 1, Paragraph 7.

Agreed – The Committee agreed in principle to making use of regulation to give clarity, certainty and confidence regarding the establishment of ESA Committees.

Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department of Education to:

  • request the wording of the Minister’s proposed amendment to 2 (2) (b) regarding youth services and a further Departmental amendment relating to the promotion of Irish Medium education within Clause 2; and the wording of the proposed amendment to Clause 11;
  • remind officials that they agreed the provisions for the establishment of controlled schools’ ownership body and its membership would be provided to the Committee before the summer recess; and a list of the groups who have been asked to attend the first meeting of a broad representative group of controlled sector educational interests to be held on 3 July 2009;
  • request the outcome of officials’ consultation with Legislative Council on a proposal from the Committee to remove “(so far as they are capable of being so exercised)” from Clause 2 (4).
8. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted the Committee’s forward work programme.

9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The Committee noted that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Wednesday 1 July 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.08pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
1 July 2009

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