Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 09 June 2010

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.02pm in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies as above.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 3 June 2010

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 3 June 2010.

3. Matters Arising
  1. The Chairperson proposed that the Committee write to the Department of Education requesting an update on the Minister’s announcement regarding the cutting of 220 teaching posts this year and the consequences of further financial cuts on the education budget.
    Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department in the terms proposed and request that it be kept up to date on job cuts affecting education frontline services.
  2. The Committee noted correspondence of 2 June 2010 from the Department of Education on outdoor environmental education programmes.
    Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to Mr N Elliot, Centre Manger of the Field Studies Council, Derrygonnelly for information.
  3. The Committee noted correspondence of 2 June 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Employment and Learning enclosing copy correspondence to the Minister of Education from Dr A Heaslett on the allocation of initial teacher education places to Stranmillis University College for the academic year 2010/11.
    Agreed – the Committee would write to the Clerk for the Committee for Employment and Learning informing him that the Committee has requested that it be copied in on the Minister of Education’s reply to Dr Heaslett and asking to be copied in on any response the Committee for Employment and Learning may receive from its Department.
  4. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 1 June 2010 from Mr B Magill on his Freedom of Information request regarding CCEA.
  5. The Committee noted letters of 2 June 2010, in the same terms, from the Department of Education regarding 18 separate correspondents on the funding of Preparatory Departments of Grammar Schools.
    Agreed – the Committee would forward each letter to the appropriate correspondent.
  6. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 31 May 2010 from the Minister of Education to Ms A Dawson on Whitehouse Primary School and Nursery Unit.
  7. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 June 2010 from the Minister of Education to Mr B McElduff, Chairperson to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure on the Bike to Work Scheme. 
    Agreed – the Committee would forward the Minister’s response to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure.
  8. The Committee noted correspondence of 28 May 2010 from the North Eastern Education and Library Board enclosing a copy of the five Education and Library Boards’ Consultation Report on the EQIA regarding ‘Provisional Criteria for Initiating Statutory Assessment of Special Educational Need’.
  9. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 June 2010 from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding the Belfast Telegraph article entitled ‘We need co-operation not continued conflict’.
  10. The Committee noted correspondence from Ms G Tigchelaar, the Chairperson of the Integrated Education Fund, thanking the Committee for the opportunity to present to Committee on 26 May 2010.
  11. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 6 June 2010 from the Minister of Education to Mr Burke of NILGA, Agriculture and Rural Development Group on Free/Subsidised fruit and vegetable supplies to local schools.
  12. The Committee noted correspondence of 9 June 2010 from the Department of Education on the Tribunal Reform Programme Consultation. 
    Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s response to the Clerk of the Committee for Justice.
  13. The Committee noted correspondence of 7 June 2010 from the Department of Education on the Commissioner for Older People Bill. 
    Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.
  14. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 21 May 2010 from the Minister of Education to Mrs V Ogilby on Whitehouse Primary School.
  15. The Committee noted correspondence of 6 June 2010 from the Minister of Education to Mr D Hilditch MLA on funding for the YMCA capital project in Carrickfergus.

Mrs M O’Neill joined the meeting at 2.05pm.

4. Correspondence
  1. The Committee noted an invitation of 2 June 2010 from Volunteer Now to attend a Volunteer Evening Reception at Parliament Buildings on 30 June 2010.
  2. The Committee noted correspondence of 1 June 2010 from Mr G Campbell, Chairperson of the Board of Governors of St Joseph’s Primary School, Antrim on the expansion of reception classes in the town of Antrim and its impact on neighbouring schools.
    Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised.
  3. The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 3 June 2010 entitled ‘Exceptional Circumstances Body operational’.
  4. The Committee noted correspondence of 2 June 2010 from the St Peter’s Primary School Parents’ Support Group Committee regarding a minor works scheme to address urgent health and safety issues at the school.
    Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department for comment on the issues raised.
  5. The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 4 June 2010 entitled ‘New learning resource will deliver valuable lessons from the past – Ruane’
  6. The Committee noted an invitation of 3 June 2010 from Fleming Fulton School LILAC Project to attend a Reception at Hillsborough Castle on 22 September 2010.
  7. The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 8 June 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister presents Department of Education Governor of the Year Award’
  8. The Committee noted correspondence of 7 June 2010 from Mr A W J Hyndman, Principal of Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College enclosing copy correspondence to Mr P Price of Department of Education on Transfer 2010, regarding temporary extension of pupil numbers.
    Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department asking to be copied in on any response to Mr Hyndman.
  9. The Committee noted an invitation of 8 June 2010 from Dawn Purvis MLA, Chair of the All Party Group on Children and Young People to attend a Seminar on Children’s Budgeting in Parliament Buildings on 24 June 2010.
  10. The Committee noted correspondence from Ms A Cassidy regarding Carrick Primary School’s wait for a new school.
    Agreed – The Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for a response on the issues raised.
5. Presentation from the Education and Library Boards on SEN Good Practice Guidelines and Provisional Criteria for Making Statements and the move to increased provision at Stage 3 of the Code of Practice

David Cargo, Chief Executive BELB, Clare Mangan, SEELB/NEELB, Geoffrey McGeagh, NEELB and Alice Lennon, SEELB joined the meeting at 2.10pm.

Mr D Hilditch joined the meeting at 2.11pm.

The witnesses provided a presentation on SEN Good Practice Guidelines and Provisional Criteria for making Statements and the move to increased provision at Stage 3 of the Code of Practice and answered Members questions on a number of issues, including: whether there was a need for the Review of SEN & Inclusion if the Education and Library Boards were collaborating effectively and whether the Review complemented the work of the Boards; the possible lack of resources to deliver the proposals and the consequent delay in delivery of early interventions; the statistical evidence which ‘does not concur with a perceived reduction in the numbers of Statements… that have been issued’ and the apparent discrepancy with the statistics for new statements issued in the Department of Education’s letter of 4 December 2009; statistics regarding interventions at Stage 3 of the Code of Practice and the significance of ‘notes in lieu’; whether the witnesses favoured the retention of Statements or their removal and the relationship between securing successful interventions and securing resources; the difficulties and delays in securing statutory assessments; the accessibility of the Boards’ SEN resources to, and use by, the voluntary and community pre-school sector; the impact of budget cuts in curtailing Board SEN summer schemes; the use of ‘transition points’ as a trigger point for review under the SEN proposals and the differences, as between rural and urban areas, in how services can be provided; the timescale for ‘Convergence’ of SEN services to be implemented.

Mr B McCrea and Mr J McCallister joined the meeting at 2.54pm.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.33pm.

6. Departmental Briefing on the draft Early Years Strategy

Linda Wilson, Director of Families and Communities and Marie Abbot, Head of the Early Years Team joined the meeting at 3.35pm.

The officials provided a briefing on the draft Early Years Strategy and answered Members questions on a number of issues, including: the cost to implement the draft Strategy and whether the Review had considered the fragmented nature of provision and underprovision/overprovision in some areas; the constraints on the statutory sector in terms of principal’s release and delivery of the programme for 2 year olds despite very good ETI inspection reports; the qualifications of staff in the voluntary/community sector and their comparability; whether the Department had any plans for equity of provision and raising standards across the sector; the need for the Strategy to address the complexity of the sector in terms of the number of providers and different age ranges of across programmes; the meaning of ‘at the appropriate stage’ and the significance, and implications, of changing school starting age, including the complexity of the arguments around that issue, and the success or otherwise of the Foundation Stage of the Revised Curriculum; the lack of a clear statement of the rationale and evidence for pre-school education; the emphasis in the draft Strategy on the role of the Health Trusts and lack of any legislative proposals; lack of recognition that better qualified staff produces better outcomes; the evidence for ‘income-related gap in school readiness’ referred to in the Introduction to the draft Strategy; the focus of the document on structure and the need for more emphasis on pedagogy; the length of time taken to formulate the draft Strategy and level of expectation; whether this version of the draft Strategy should go out to public consultation and the timescale for information and developing an Action Plan; the Minister’s reaction to the draft Strategy and her Foreword; the £10 million spent on unintentional funding of 1500 places for 2 year olds in nursery classes/schools highlighted in the PAC Report; the recommended pedagogy for Irish Medium 0-6 provision; the extent to which the findings of the Effective Pre-School Provision (EPPNI) study influenced the draft Strategy.

Mrs M O’Neill left the meeting at 3.42pm.

Mr D Hilditch left the meeting at 3.53pm.

Mr D Hilditch rejoined the meeting at 4.16pm.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their briefing and they left the meeting at 4.37pm.

Agreed- the Committee would write to the Department requesting a copy of the ‘Evidence Paper’ which officials offered to provide.

Agreed- the Committee would write to the Department requesting a briefing on assessments and evaluations of, the Foundation Stage of the Revised Curriculum.

Agreed- the Committee would write to the Minister of Education highlighting the Committee’s disappointment with the draft Strategy, setting out the issues and serious concerns raised by Members during today’s session and questioning whether or not this draft should be issued for public consultation.

7. Any other Business
8. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and agreed the amended Forward Work Programme, including the Members’ visit programme to Nurture Units of three Primary Schools on 16 June 2010, together with the draft press release.

Agreed - when considering its Forward Work Programme, the Committee would also consider whether or not to request a Hansard record of particular sessions, and that a Hansard record would be requested for the briefings from DE officials and ETI on 23 June 2010.

9. Date of the next meeting

The next Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday 23 June 2010 at 2.00pm in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.39 pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
23 June 2010

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