Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Sunday, 13 December 2009

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.03pm in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 9 December 2009

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 9 December 2009.

3. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 December 2009 from the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety regarding the development of a wellbeing strategy for Northern Ireland.

(b) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 7 December 2009 from the Minister for Education to the Committee for Employment and Learning responding to a briefing paper prepared by the Royal National Institute for Blind People and forwarded by that Committee.

(c) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 7 December 2009 from the Minister for Education to Mr David McNarry MLA providing information on the progress made by the working group established to take forward work on Community Use of School Premises.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 8 December 2009 from the Minister for Education regarding the attendance of officials at the Committee to provide briefing on interim governance arrangements as a result of the delay in enacting the Education Bill.

Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 2.07pm.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 10 December 2009 from the Department of Education responding to an information request from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on how the Department engage with the Committee on European issues.

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

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 10 December 2009 from the Department of Education providing clarification and an explanation regarding outstanding Departmental Post Project Evaluations.

(g) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 7 December 2009 from the Minister for Education to Councillor Tom Ekin on the education of working class males.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 11 December 2009 from the Department of Education listing business items which may be brought before the Committee during the January – March 2010 period.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 11 December 2009 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding correspondence it had received from Mr Aiden Corrigan on the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation. The Committee also noted that Mr Corrigan and some colleagues had been invited to the SEN and Inclusion Event on 20 January 2010.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 December 2009 from Mr Jonathan Craig MLA regarding a constituent, Mrs Maxine Maugher, on her concerns about the proposed changes to SEN provision. The Committee also noted that Ms Maugher had been invited to the SEN and Inclusion Event on 20 January 2010.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 December 2009 from the Department of Education regarding the publicising of the extension to the deadline to the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to Mr Gregor McGlashan for information.

(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 17 December 2009 from Fleming Fulton School enclosing its LILAC response to the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation. The Committee also noted that representatives from Fleming Fulton School had been invited to the SEN and Inclusion Event on 20 January 2010.

(m) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 17 December 2009 from ‘Kids Together West Belfast’ to the Department of Education on the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation. The Committee also noted that Ms Mairead McCrea of ‘Kids Together West Belfast’ had been invited to the SEN and Inclusion Event on 20 January 2010.

(n) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 December 2009 from the Department of Education regarding the situation facing St Peter’s Primary School, Collegelands in relation to sustainability in a rural area.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to St Peter’s Primary School Parents’ Support Committee for information.

(o) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 December 2009 from the Minister for Education on the STEM Review Report and the promotion of STEM.

(p) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 December 2009 from the Department of Education providing a response to the Committee on issues raised by Ms Lisa Saunders on data security issues.

(q) The Committee noted correspondence of 6 January 2010 from Ms Lisa Saunders enclosing a copy of the Final Report produced by DE Internal Audit on Data Security in the Department of Education. A Member raised his concerns regarding the findings of the Internal Audit Report and the necessity for urgent action.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request it provide an update on the investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office which the Committee requested in its letter of 19 November 2009 and the written briefing requested on the action taken to remedy the shortcomings highlighted in the Resource Accounts and detailed in the Audit Report.

(r) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 16 December 2009 from the Minister of Education to Mr Mark Durkan MLA regarding budget allocation to School and Employer Connections.

(s) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 December 2009 from the Department of Education regarding proposed changes to the common funding formula for schools for 2010/11 including proposals to increase the Age Weighted Pupil Unit weighting for primary school pupils and to withdraw funding for preparatory Department pupils.

Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 2.11pm.

Agreed – the Committee would request briefing from the Department of Education on the outcome of the EQIA consultation on the proposal to withdraw funding from preparatory departments of schools after the consultation deadline of 4 March and would request additional briefing from an organisation representing preparatory departments in the interim.

(t) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 November 2009 from the North Eastern Education and Library Board providing confirmation that the Board’s current training programme on the recently introduced provisional criteria and good practice guidelines is in no way linked to the Department of Education’s SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation.

(u) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 January 2010 from Action for Children enclosing its response to the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation. The Committee also noted ‘Action for Children’ had been invited to the SEN and Inclusion Event on 20 January 2010.

(v) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 22 December 2009 from the Department of Education to the Chief Executive of the Belfast Education and Library Board regarding the delay in the operational date for the establishment of the ESA.

Agreed – Further to this correspondence and correspondence of 8 December 2009 from the Minister for Education to the Committee noted at (d), the Committee would write to the Minister to request a written update on the position on the implementation of the interim governance arrangements across the education sectors and receive a briefing from the Department officials on this.

(w) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 December 2009 from the North Eastern Education and Library Board confirming that the Board does not envisage the need for a substitute register for classroom assistants.

(x) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 January 2010 from the Belfast Education and Library Board confirming that the Board had not experienced problems in recruiting suitably qualified classroom assistants for permanent or temporary positions, and that it had discontinued the use of a substitute register for classroom assistants.

(y) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 January 2010 from the South Eastern Education and Library Board advising that the establishment of a substitute register for classroom assistants would assist with the lack of appropriately qualified and experienced classroom assistants available to act as substitutes, particularly for pupils with severe learning difficulties.

(z) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 16 December 2009 from the Minister for Education to the Chairperson regarding a constituent’s concerns about career opportunities for young graduate teachers.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Minister’s response to Mrs Pauline Cardwell for information.

(aa) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 January 2010 from the Department of Education on the Employment and Learning Committee’s response to the findings of the STEM Review Report.

(bb) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 January 2010 from the Department of Education on services to disabled people.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Committee for Regional Development.

(cc) The Committee noted the final version of the CDSA SEN and Inclusion Review consultation response received on 17 December 2009.

(dd) The Committee noted the Press Notice issued to the media and stakeholders in advance of the STEM evidence sessions to be heard at today’s meeting and considered a draft Press Release on this.

Agreed – the Committee agreed that the Press Release be issued subject to the inclusion of two further lines.

(ee) The Committee noted the Department of Education’s Report of the Responses to the Consultation on The School Admissions (Exceptional Circumstances) Regulations 2010.

(ff) The Committee noted a draft Committee Press Release on the Committee’s SEN and Inclusion Review event to be held on 20 January 2010.

Agreed – the Committee agreed to issue the press release under embargo until 18.00 on 20 January 2010.

(gg) The Committee noted correspondence of 11 January 2010 from the Minister for Education confirming that department officials will attend the Committee’s event on the SEN and Inclusion Review on 20 January 2010.

4. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 10 December 2009 entitled ‘Education Minister congratulates science students’.

(b) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 11 December 2009 entitled ‘Search begins for Board Members’.

(c) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 14 December 2009 entitled ‘Middletown Autism Centre moving ahead - Ruane.

(d) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 14 December 2009 entitled ‘New £9million Magherafelt High School to go ahead - Ruane’.

(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 16 December 2009 entitled ‘Education Minister visits Rathlin Primary School.

(f) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 16 December 2009 entitled ‘Parents’ Guide to Choosing a Post-Primary School’.

(g) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 17 December 2009 entitled ‘Enrolments at grant-aided primary and post-primary schools 2009/10: basic statistics’.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 December 2009 from the Committee for Regional Development inviting written evidence on the issues raised in its research event report on Ensuring and Accessible Transport System in Northern Ireland.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Regional Development’s correspondence to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised relevant to education.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 December 2009 from the Fermanagh Trust enclosing its Shared Education Programme Newsletter.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 January 2010 from Mr Gregor McGlashan on the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation.

(k) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 6 January 2010 entitled ‘Membership of Education and Library Boards’.

(l) The Committee noted an invitation from ‘Inside Government’ to a forum entitled ‘Raising Attainment: Overcoming Underachievement in Schools’ on 9 March 2010 in London.

(m) The Committee noted an invitation from Citizens Advice to the launch of ‘Money Active’ a money management volunteering initiative on 19 January 2010 in Hillsborough Castle.

(n) The Committee noted correspondence of 6 January 2010 on the new series of Northern Ireland’s version of Sesame Street to be screened across the UK on CBeebies.

(o) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 12 January 2010 entitled ‘Minister announces closure of St John’s Primary School’.

5. Statutory Rule – Schools Admissions (Exceptional Circumstances) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010

The Committee considered the Schools Admissions (Exceptional Circumstances) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 Statutory Rule. The Committee noted copies of the consultation response document provided by the Department of Education.

Agreed – That the Committee would finalise its deliberations on the Statutory Rule at next week’s meeting. It was further agreed that if Members had any issues they wished to raise, they would inform the Clerk who will arrange for officials to be present to address these.

6. STEM Review – Presentation from STEM Expert Panel

Joanne Stuart, Chairperson of STEM Expert Panel and IoD NI, Dr Clare Passmore, Matrix, Dr Sam McGuinness, University of Ulster and Professor Roger Woods, Queens University joined the meeting at 2.36pm.

The witnesses provided briefing on the STEM Review Report and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: the capacity of the revised curriculum to adequately deliver STEM subjects; the requirement for educational leadership in the interpretation of the revised curriculum; the move towards the ‘life’, rather than the ‘physical’ sciences; the status and future of specialist schools; the timescale involved in the establishment of the joint working group and the development of and implementation of an action plan; whether key STEM stakeholders should be represented on the joint working group;

Mr Lunn left the meeting at 3.05pm.

the role of the universities with STEM; the need for school leadership to be more visionary in relation to STEM subjects; whether engineering as an occupation is undervalued; the opportunity for engineering graduates to pursue a diversity of careers; the requirement for the development of a knowledge based economy; the requirement for a joined up implementation approach at a departmental and industry level; and how to address the gender bias evident in the focus on the physical and life sciences.

Agreed – Professor Roger Woods agreed to provide the Committee with statistics relating to the lifetime earnings of engineers versus other professions.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.33pm.

Mr Craig left the meeting at 3.33pm.
Miss McIlveen left the meeting at 3.33pm.
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 3.33pm.

7. STEM Review – Presentation from Sentinus

Jim Stewart, Chairman, Brian Campbell, Chief Executive and Caron Malone, STEM Ambassador joined the meeting at 3.36pm. The witnesses provided briefing on the STEM Review.

Ms O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 3.39pm.
Mr Craig rejoined the meeting at 3.42pm.
Mr Lunn rejoined the meeting at 3.45pm.
Mr Ross left the meeting at 3.45pm.
Mr McCallister left the meeting at 3.48pm.
Miss McIlveen rejoined the meeting at 3.48pm.
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 4.03pm.

The witnesses answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: the opportunities for Sentinus from the STEM Review implementation; the importance of partnership with industry; meeting modern industry demands; the quality of careers advice in general and more particularly whether there is career advice bias towards medicine or law; developing awareness around STEM; percentage drop out rates at University in science subjects; addressing dated perceptions young people may have regarding STEM related career opportunities; the demand for existing Sentinus programmes; the main barriers to accessing Sentinus activities; the necessity for commitment from schools and teachers; and the mapping exercise undertaken by Sentinus to gauge the current commitment from schools to actively engage in STEM activities.

Mr Craig left the meeting at 4.09pm.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.29pm.

Agreed – the Committee would attend a forthcoming Sentinus event.

8. STEM Review – Presentation from Department of Education

Robson Davison, Deputy Secretary, Katrina Godfrey Curriculum, Qualifications & Standards Director, and Russell Welsh, Head of Curriculum and Development Team joined the meeting at 4.30pm.

Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 4.31pm.
Ms O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 4.39pm.

The officials provided briefing on the STEM Review Report, the approach to its implementation, and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: whether a target date for the establishment of the joint working group and production of an action plan has been set; whether key STEM stakeholders will be represented on the joint working group; an explanation of the delay between the commissioning of the Report in Spring 2007 and its publication in September 2009; whether there is a gap between the Department’s rhetoric and practice in relation to delivering STEM, particularly given the recent surrender of £0.8million from the Innovation Fund; and the apparent lack of guidance in relation to interpretation of the delivery STEM subjects with the revised curriculum; whether the resources provided to the school is sufficient for the delivery of STEM related subjects; the importance of STEM subjects in the decision making stages within Key Stages 2 and 3;

Mr McCallister rejoined the meeting at 5.08pm.

the culture within which children make choices; the role of specialist schools; whether the child centred focus in education meets the needs of the economy; the requirement for emphasis on the development of mathematics in schools; whether any of the Report’s DE recommendations are being progressed; and maximising the potential of pupils with an aptitude for STEM.

The Chair requested, and officials agreed to provide regular updates on the progress of the action plan once produced. Officials also agreed to bring back to DEL colleagues’ the view that STEM stakeholders should be involved in the cross departmental working group to be established to implement the STEM Review Report.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 5.20pm.

9. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and agreed an updated Forward Work Programme. The Committee noted and agreed to briefing sessions provisionally scheduled on ‘Community Relations, Equality and Diversity in Education’ and ‘Education Budget Spending Plans for 2010/11’ on 27 January 2010 and a briefing from the Northern Ireland Nurture Network on 3 February 2010.

The Committee discussed the arrangements for the Committee’s SEN and Inclusion Review event to be held on 20 January 2010. The Committee noted the most recent list of confirmed attendees and further noted that as the number of those wishing to attend had exceeded 100 that the event was being relocated from the Long Gallery to the Great Hall. The Clerk provided information on the format of the event. The Committee agreed that the Clerk would review the programme of the event to ensure Members had an appropriate opportunity to speak.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 5.32 pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
20 January 2010

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