Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.05pm in public session.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 3 February 2010
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 3 February 2010.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 February 2010 from the Department of Education responding to issues contained in Ms Lisa Saunders’ correspondence of 19 January 2010 on data protection issues.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 February 2010 from Ms Lisa Saunder’s enclosing a copy of a DE Internal Audit Report on ‘Security of Data in NDPBs and Schools’ and providing an update on the progress of her complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Saunders’ correspondence to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised and in particular the action taken in relation to the Audit Report and monitoring of progress.
Mr O’Dowd joined the meeting at 2.07pm.
Mr Ross left the meeting at 2.07pm.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 February 2010 from the Department of Education on the consultation on the draft Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (NI) 2010.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education requesting officials provide an analysis of the consultation responses and the Department’s proposed way forward in sufficient time for the Committee’s consideration.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 February 2010 from the Department of Education regarding the recognition of Queen’s University Belfast Post Graduate Certificate in Education qualification by the Teaching Council in the South of Ireland.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Committee for Employment and Learning for information.
(e) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 4 February 2010 from the Committee for Employment and Learning to the Minister of Employment and Learning on the Committee’s response to the STEM Review Report.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 13 January 2010 from the Committee for Employment and Learning enclosing responses from Stakeholders on its STEM Review consultation.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 February 2010 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister enclosing Departmental correspondence relating to the rescheduling of the PfG Delivery Report Take Note Debate.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 January 2010 from Longstone School on the SEN debate which took place on 26 January 2010.
(i) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 5 February 2010 from the Department of Education to Ms Fiona O’Toole regarding the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation.
(j) The Committee noted a February 2010 News Release from Libraries NI providing the details of public consultation meetings which will take place during February on the future of libraries in the Greater Belfast area.
(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 9 February 2010 from the Minister of Education on interim governance arrangements in the period before the establishment of ESA.
(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 10 February 2010 from the Department of Education confirming that the Minister is currently considering the Convergence Delivery Plan and that this would be sent to the Committee in due course.
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 31 January 2010 from Global Dimension in School inviting the Committee to participate in a consultation study to gauge its views and experiences of the work of Global Dimension.
(b) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 3 February 2010 entitled ‘Education faces difficult decisions in the future – Ruane.’
(c) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 4 February 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister addresses Joint Committee.’
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 February 2010 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister enclosing the Departmental Update on the Recommendations of the Child Poverty Inquiry.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Departmental Update to the Department of Education for comment on the recommendations relevant to education.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 February 2010 from the Committee for Regional Development seeking the views of the Committee on Community Transport and enclosing a draft letter to the Minister for Education requesting information on the support her Department offers for community transport provision.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Regional Development’s letter to the Minister for Education as requested.
(f) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 5 February 2010 entitled ‘Transfer 2010 sets a clear path - Ruane.’
(g) The Committee noted an invitation to the Advice NI’s AGM on 26 February 2010 in the Pump House, Northern Ireland Science Park.
(h) The Committee noted the Equality Commission’s eNewsletter for February 2010.
(i) The Committee noted an invitation to the Catholic Principals Association Conference on 25 and 26 February 2010 in Glenavon Hotel, Cookstown.
Agreed – Committee Members would advise the Clerk if they wish to attend this conference.
(j) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 8 February 2010 entitled ‘Minister addresses Assembly on Sparklebox’.
Members discussed the subject of child protection and the related subject of the establishment of a body in Wales which handles investigations into allegations made against teachers and the Clerk was asked to consider a proposal in respect of briefing for the Committee on the issues raised.
(k) The Committee noted Ocean Youth Trust Ireland’s 2010 E-Newsletter.
(l) The Committee noted an invitation to a book launch of ‘Selection Challenged – the case against selection for 11+’ on 23 February in the Canada Room, Queen’s University Belfast.
(m) The Committee noted correspondence of 9 February 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment inviting the Committee’s views on its Department’s Briefing Paper on the Draft Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for a comment on the proposed actions contained in the Strategy that relate to DE.
(n) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 3 February 2010 from Omagh County Primary School to the Minister for Education on the Schools Community Relations Programme.
(o) The Committee noted correspondence of 9 February 2010 from G and J Mulholland on the proposed removal of funding for preparatory schools.
(p) The Chairperson advised the Committee that the Committee for Employment and Learning had included the subject of an inquiry on NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training) in its forward work programme and queried whether there was overlap with the responsibilities of the Committee for Education.
Agreed – the Clerk would inquire whether there is a cross over in responsibility between the Department of Education and Department of Employment and Learning on this matter.
5. Presentation from NI Voluntary Grammar Schools Bursars’ Association on the Review of Funding of Preparatory Departments of Grammar Schools
Stephen McConnell, Chairman, Mr John Robinson, Vice-Chairman, Mr John Monteith, and Mr Karl Wilson, Committee Members joined the meeting at 2.23pm.
The witnesses provided briefing on the review of funding of preparatory departments of grammar schools and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: levels of achievement in preparatory departments; whether preparatory departments provide ‘value for money’ and ‘added value’; whether there has been sufficient level of consultation between the Department and preparatory departments; the appearance that the decision to end the funding to preparatory departments has already been taken in advance of the outcome of the EQIA consultation; whether the timescale for the consultation period and proposed effective date is adequate; whether there has been consideration of the Department’s proposal for preparatory departments to be funded on the same basis as the Integrated/Irish-medium sectors; whether there is evidence to support the assumption that a surplus of mainstream primary school places exist within reasonable travel distance from existing preparatory departments; the potential financial impact of the removal of funding on the Department;
Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 2.50pm.
equality of access and opportunity; whether the removal of part-funding will create a completely separate private education system; whether pupils from preparatory departments are given preferential treatment when transferring from preparatory to the parent grammar school; whether the parent grammar school can assist with the funding for its associated preparatory department; barriers to access to education; the level of engagement or consultation the schools have undertaken with the parents of pupils attending preparatory departments on the Review proposals;
Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 3.12pm.
whether the schools affected have undertaken legal advice on the proposals; and the future of teachers within preparatory departments.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.24pm.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 3.24pm.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to ask whether the proposal to remove funding to preparatory departments will require legislative change and whether this decision will require Executive approval.
The Deputy Chairperson requested further information on the admissions criteria for the 16 Grammar Schools with Preparatory Departments affected by the proposals.
6. Consideration of draft Committee Response to the SEN and Inclusion Policy Proposals Consultation
The Committee considered the revised draft Committee response to the SEN and Inclusion Policy Proposals Consultation with a covering draft letter to the Minister for Education which was circulated to Members the previous afternoon.
Agreed – that the Committee response could be sent to the Minister for Education.
7. Committee Response to the Minister on Budget Spending Plans
The Committee considered a draft Committee covering letter to the Minister for Education (tabled) which references and encloses the Committee’s response on Education Budget Spending Plans 2010/11 that went to the Committee for Finance and Personnel for inclusion in its Report to the Assembly.
Agreed – that the Committee response could be sent to the Minister for Education.
8. Departmental Briefing on ‘Together Towards Entitlement’ Report and Entitlement Framework
The Committee noted the Assembly Research and Library Services research paper commissioned by the Committee on the Entitlement Framework.
Robson Davison, Deputy Secretary, John McGrath, Deputy Secretary and Lorraine Finlay, Development Branch joined the meeting at 3.29pm.
The Chairperson asked, and officials provided where possible, an update on the progress of the following Departmental Review Strategies: STEM Review implementation; Early Years 0-6 Strategy; Irish Medium Education Review, the Comprehensive Common Funding Formula Review and the Revised Literacy and Numeracy Strategy.
The officials provided a briefing on the ‘Together Towards Entitlement’ Report and Entitlement Framework and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: an explanation of the £17.7 million baseline spend on Entitlement Framework in 2009-10; the objective of the Entitlement Framework and what it is envisaged to deliver for education; whether there are examples in any other part of Europe where this model is being used; definition of ‘applied’ or ‘general’ courses of study; the rationale for 24/27 subjects offered; whether there is risk of diluting quality of provision in the development of breadth of access; the inability to produce a draft Regional Plan;
Mr McCrea and Mr McCallister left the meeting at 4.09pm.
value for money considerations; extent of collaborative arrangements between schools; how the entitlement framework can move forward; the process of curriculum change; the timescale for the delivery of the entitlement framework and whether it can be realistically be implemented by 2013; whether there is tension between area based planning and the entitlement framework; whether some sectors have progressed in the development of area plans ahead of others; how the entitlement framework fits in with the Minister’s review of capital projects; whether the delivery of the entitlement framework will be used to achieve other policy aims such as post-primary transfer; and when the Directions/Regulations for the Entitlement Framework will be forwarded to the Committee to allow sufficient time for scrutiny before commencement.
The Chairperson thanked officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.39pm.
9. Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted that a Committee visit to Longstone Special School has been arranged for Wednesday, 24 February between 1.30 and 3.00pm.
The Committee noted the Clerk would arrange briefing from the Primary School Principals’ Group followed by briefing from Departmental officials to include the funding position for primary schools and the Review of the Common Funding Formula, as a scoping exercise to look at the scope and possible terms of reference for a Committee inquiry into Primary School Funding.
A Member asked for clarification of the representativeness of the Primary School Principals’ Group.
10. Any Other Business
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.43pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
17 February 2010