Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.07pm in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 3 March 2010

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

Mr Lunn joined the meeting at 2.09pm.

Mr Lunn left the meeting at 2.10pm.

3. Matters Arising
a. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 March 2010 from the Department of Education responding to a letter forwarded by the Committee from Ms L Saunders on C2k’s handling of the Sparklebox website case.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to Ms Saunders for information.

b. The Committee noted extracts from ‘The Northern Ireland Teachers’ Health and Wellbeing Survey Final Report’, December 2002 referred to by the Chairperson at last week’s meeting.

c. The Committee noted correspondence of 5 March 2010 from the Department of Education responding to a request from the Committee to provide comments on the recommendations relevant to education in the Child Poverty Inquiry.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

d. The Committee noted correspondence of 7 March 2010 from Ms L Saunders regarding the availability of audio recordings of Committee meetings on the Assembly website.

Agreed – the Committee would pass Ms Saunders thanks on this matter to Assembly Communications.

e. The Committee noted correspondence of 8 March 2010 from the Department of Education regarding correspondence from Ms L Saunders on internal audit report on security of data in NDPBs and Schools.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to Ms Saunders for information.

f. The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 8 March 2010 from the Minister of Education to the Committee for Employment and Learning confirming that the Department of Education does not use any automated communications systems when contacted by customers.

g. The Chairperson raised the subject of the presentation made by the NI Nurture Group Network at the Committee meeting of 3 February 2010 and circulated a copy of the motion the Network proposed for the Committee’s consideration.

Agreed – the Committee would consider the motion proposed by the NI Nurture Group Network at the next Committee meeting.

4. Correspondence

a. The Committee noted correspondence of February 2010 from Queen’s University Belfast enclosing the most recent edition of the Sharing Education Programme Newsletter – ‘Schools working together’.

b. The Committee noted correspondence of 2 March 2010 from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment regarding DETI’s quarterly performance against the 10-day payment of invoice targets.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this letter to the Department of Education for a response on the issue raised.

c. The Committee noted correspondence of 22 February 2010 from Mr and Mrs Armstrong on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr and Mrs Armstrong’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

d. The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 1 March 2010 from Mr and Mrs Romein to the Minister of Education on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it is copied the Minister’s response to Mr and Mrs Romein.

e. The Committee noted correspondence of 27 February 2010 from Mr and Mrs Price on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr and Mrs Price’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

f. The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 2 March 2010 from Ms McGoldrick to the Minister of Education on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it is copied the Minister’s response to Ms McGoldrick.

g. The Committee noted correspondence of 2 March 2010 from Mr Rogan on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr Rogan’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

h. The Committee noted correspondence of 22 February 2010 from Mr and Mrs Galbraith on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr and Mrs Galbraith’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

i. The Committee noted copies of correspondence of 26 February 2010 from the Faloon family to the Minister of Education on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it is copied the Minister’s response to the Faloon family.

j. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 March 2010 from Ms Mehaffy on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Mehaffy’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

k. The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 4 March 2010 from Mr and Mrs Edgar to the Department of Education on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it is copied the Department’s response to Mr and Mrs Edgar.

l. The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Decision on an additional Nursery Unit for St Anne’s Primary School, Kingsway, Belfast’.

m. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 March 2010 from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety on the provision of services for children with autistic spectrum and the co-operation between professionals working in the health and education services and attached letters to each of the Education and Library Boards on this.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Health Social Services and Public Safety’s letters to the Chief Executives of the Education and Library Boards and request that it is copied the responses.

n. The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 4 March 2010 entitled ‘Collective Responsibility Raises Standards – Ruane’.

o. The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 4 March 2010 entitled ‘Ruane tells unions education is changing for the better’.

p. The Committee noted CiNI’s response to the Review of Spending Plans for NI Departments.

q. The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 4 March 2010 from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to the Minister of Education regarding the delay in a paper on institutional child abuse being prepared for the Executive.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Minister and request that it is copied the Minister’s response.

r. The Committee noted correspondence of 2 March 2010 from Dr Au on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Dr Au’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

s. The Committee noted correspondence of 1 March 2010 from Mr Acheson on funding of preparatory departments.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr Acheson’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

t. The Committee noted correspondence of 1 March 2010 from the Women’s Centres Regional Partnership enclosing a copy of its new report ‘Women’s Experiences of Violence: Mapping the Experiences and Responses’.

u. The Committee noted correspondence of 1 March 2010 from Ms Tremblay on funding of preparatory departments.

v. Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Tremblay’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

w. The Committee noted an invitation from Barnardo’s and NSPCC to the launch of their joint manifesto on children’s issues on 24 March 2010 in the Stormont Hotel, Belfast.

Agreed – Committee Members would advise the Clerk if they wished to attend this event.

x. The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 5 March 2010 from Action for Children to the Minister of Finance and Personnel responding to the Review of Departmental Spending Plans 2010/11.

y. The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 9 March 2010 from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Minister of Education on the subject of the ‘Bike to work scheme’ in the context of its Inquiry into participation in sport and physical activity in Northern Ireland.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure’s letter to the Minister of Education as requested.

z. The Committee noted an invitation from Autism NI to attend a lecture in support of Autism Awareness Day entitled ‘Glancing into the World of Autism’ on 30 March 2010 in the Balmoral Hotel, Belfast.

Mr Lunn rejoined the meeting at 2.17pm.

5. Presentation from the Specialist Schools Principals Forum Steering Group on the Specialist School Programme

Johnny Graham, Chairperson, John Wilkinson, Carmel McCartan and David Knox, joined the meeting at 2.17pm.

Mr Craig joined the meeting at 2.19pm.

Mr Bradley joined the meeting at 2.21pm.

The witnesses provided briefing on the specialist school programme and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: identifying the drivers that makes specialist schools unique; the rigorous application/ bidding process to gain specialist school status; the effect of the Minister’s review/ refocus of the programme’s objectives; emphasis on whole school improvement; personalised learning plans for pupils; raising standards; sharing best practice; innovation in teaching and learning; the importance of rigorous assessment and reporting, and developing a culture of accountability; the future funding position for the programme and the detrimental impact of funding withdrawal for the programme; similarities with the 11-16 curriculum development programme;

Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 2.53pm.

identifying ways in which the programme can be further developed; the benefit of extending the programme to primary schools and Further and Higher Education institutions; developing the specialist schools relationship within the Area Learning Communities; collaboration with local communities; the ripple effect benefit to other non specialist schools; the role of school leadership;

Mr McCrea left the meeting at 2.57pm.

moving away from the competitive relationship between schools to one of collaboration; the appropriateness of the use of the word ‘specialist’; evidence of outcomes, achievements and cost benefits of the specialist school programme; and where the specialist school model sits in relation to area based planning and the entitlement framework.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.16pm.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to ask for information regarding: funding for specialist schools in the current and coming year; the review of the programme; the evaluation of the specialist schools programme to date, and what contribution the specialist school programme has made to the entitlement framework policy delivery and raising standards.

Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 3.17pm.

6. Department of Education Briefing on the Convergence Delivery Plan

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, and Eugene Rooney, Head of Investment and Infrastructure Division joined the meeting at 3.18pm.

The officials provided briefing on the Convergence Delivery Plan (CDP) and noted and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: the position of budget allocations to the Education and Library Boards for 2010/11;

Mr O’Dowd rejoined the meeting at 3.24pm.

timescales for implementation of individual service action plans including voluntary severance; the progress on the reconstitution of the Education and Library Boards; the legal requirement of Boards to have councillor representation; who will be responsible for taking the decision on issues such as voluntary severance; information on a breakdown of the savings and various service action plans; whether any legislative change is required to implement any part of the Convergence Plan; the role of the Chief Executives of the Education and Library Boards to discharge their responsibilities within the confines of decreasing resources generally and management savings; details of communications with staff; the difficulties being encountered in the appointment of Councillors to the Boards; the principles of public appointments; whether Board Members will be offered capacity building opportunities;

Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 3.42pm.

Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 3.44pm.

Councillor appointment criteria; the current absence of democratic accountability; public appointments external scrutiny by the Commissioners of Public Appointments and the role of independent assessors in the appointments process; the use of the merit principle in the Councillor appointment process; the position in relation to the reconstitution of the South Eastern Education and Library Board and whether the Minister sought legal opinion on this; how service levels can be maintained whilst achieving the £13 million savings gained mostly through management staff reductions; and the importance of a clear and accountable regionally managed model for service delivery in relation to voluntary severance.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.59pm.

Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 4.00pm.

7. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and agreed the amended Forward Work Programme.

8. Any Other Business

The Chairperson raised the subject of the review of Irish-Medium Education and expressed his disappointment that the Committee has received no further communication on this further to the Department of Education’s letter of 3 October 2008 which stated that the full report would be published for public consultation on 11 October 2008.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request a copy of the final Report of the Review of Irish-Medium education; a copy of the analysis of the responses to the Review and changes made to the final Review Report; and to ask for an explanation why the Committee has not had sight of the outcome of this Review to date.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.07pm.

Mr Dominic Bradley 
Deputy Chairperson, Committee for Education 
24 March 2010

Find Your MLA

Locate your local MLA

Find MLA

News and Media Centre

Read press releases, watch live and archived video.

Find out more

Follow the Assembly

Keep up to date with what's happening at the Assembly.

Find out more

Subscribe

Enter your email address to keep up to date

Sign up