Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.12 pm in closed session.
1. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 13 October 2009 from Mr Alan O’Shea advising that he has resigned as Secretary to St. Comgall’s College Support Group and providing information regarding the new point of contact for the Group.
Agreed - The Committee would write to Mr O’Shea.
The Committee moved into public session at 2.22pm.
The Chairperson welcomed Darren Finnegan, a pupil at St Coleman’s College and Conleth Cull, a pupil at Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar School who attended the meeting in the public gallery.
Apologies are detailed above.
3. Minutes of the Meeting of 14 October 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 14 October 2009.
4. Matters Arising (continued)
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 October 2009 from the Department of Education providing a briefing note on the Effective Use of Data project along with copies of the Report on ‘School and Pupil Performance Data’.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 13 October 2009 from the Department of Education regarding the draft School Admissions (Exceptional Circumstances) Regulations 2010.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 October 2009 from the Department of Education on implementing the 2009 pay increases to staff employed in the Education and Library Boards.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education on the delay in implementing the nationally agreed contractual pay increases and question the value added by the approval process involved.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Trade Union Side of the Joint Negotiating Council for the Education and Library Boards.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 October 2009 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the Executive’s European Engagement Action Plan 2009/10.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 10 October 2009 from Lynne Williamson, a teacher at Donegal Road Primary School, regarding the arrangements for teachers’ redundancy and early retirement.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Williamson’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised.
(f) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 19 October 2009 from the Chairperson to the Minister of Education regarding the recent Report of the STEM Review.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 October 2009 from the Department of Education providing further information requested by the Committee on the September Monitoring, and in particular on the surrender of £0.8 million in respect of STEM funding from the Innovation Fund.
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 9 October 2009 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding DFP performance against 2008/09 PSA targets.
(b) The Committee noted four Press Release of 15 October 2009 from the Department of Education entitled ‘Children must be at the centre – not institutions’, ‘Minister announces decision on Irish-medium school’, ‘Ruane approves funding for newIrish-medium primary school’ and ‘School leaders are vital in education reform - Ruane’.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 October 2009 from the Department of Education on the June, July and August 2009 forecast outrun returns to DFP for DE.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request an Education Budget Update briefing from Department officials, which would include issues arising from the September Monitoring Round such as the STEM surrender and the impact of budget cuts to provide funding for actions relating to swine flu and other in-year issues such as capital realignment between youth spend and school spend and assets disposals.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 October 2009 from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) on the SEN and Inclusion Review proposals.
Agreed – the Committee would forward NDCS’ correspondence to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised. Additionally, the Committee agreed to ask the Department (further to representation made by the Royal National Institute of Blind People) to provide comment on their concerns with this Review.
(e) The Committee noted a Press Release of 17 October 2009 from the Department of Education entitled ‘Education Minister Celebrates 25 Years of NICMA’.
(f) The Committee noted a Press Release of 19 October 2009 from the Department of Education entitled ‘New technology helps language development - Ruane’.
(g) The Committee noted an invitation from Sentinus to attend the STEM Experience at the King’s Hall, Belfast on Tuesday, 24 November between 11.00am and 2.00pm to view the activities and speak to participating pupils and teachers.
(h) The Committee noted a Press Release of 20 October 2009 from the Department of Education entitled ‘Education Minister attends launch of road safety initiative’.
(i) The Committee noted a Press Release of 21 October 2009 from the Department of Education entitled ‘Decision on nursery units for Oakwood and Cranmore Integrated Primary Schools’.
6. Departmental Briefing on SEN and Inclusion Review
Dorothy Angus, Head of Inclusion, Access and Well-being Directorate, Irene Murphy, Head of the Review of SEN and Inclusion Team and Deborah Frost, Review of SEN and Inclusion Team joined the meeting at 2.44pm. The officials confirmed that the Minister had agreed to extend the deadline for the consultation period on the SEN and Inclusion Review to 30 November 2009 and that schools had been informed.
Mr O’Dowd joined the meeting at 2.50pm
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 3.05pm
The officials gave a presentation on the SEN and Inclusion Review and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: an explanation of why the term ‘diagnosis’ has been removed from the document and replaced with the term ‘identification’; why the Department may be adopting a lower level and less expert approach to determining what type of intervention is appropriate for a child; whether the responsibility for ‘identification’ presents a huge challenge to already ‘overstretched’ teachers; capacity building/training for teachers; timescale for the production of the statutory guidance; the Scottish experience on SEN changes; concerns on whether the Review is resource driven; whether existing resource and other issues in the current system will be addressed; the definition of ‘complex and multiple needs’; what will be the mechanism for obtaining a Community Support Plan and what status CSPs will have; concerns regarding replacing the annual review of Statements with CSP’s which are reviewed at a trigger point or at parents’ request; to whom multi-disciplinary groups working within a learning community will be responsible to; is there potential for disparity between provision in different communities; concerns that the ‘Inclusion’ element of the proposals will ‘dilute’ from provision for children with special educational needs; an explanation of the ‘additional educational needs’ concept; the use and availability of Educational Psychologists; in relation to the £25 million secured for the implementation of the Review budget whether the proposals have been costed and how much of this has been spent to date; whether SEN funds held centrally going to mainstreams schools will be ringfenced for SEN and how will the use of the money be monitored; training for Learning Support Co-ordinators; whether there were any specific outcomes arising from the Consultation Review Roadshows; early identification of educational needs in the Nursery sector; an explanation of ‘the child deficit model’; and a request for information on whether confirmation has been received from the Department of Health on when pupils in special schools will be offered the vaccination for swine flu.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.43pm.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 3.44pm.
Mr McCallister left the meeting at 3.44pm.
7. Departmental Briefing on the draft Education (No. 2) Bill – Controlled Schools
Mr Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration joined the meeting at 3.45pm.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 3.56pm
Mr Stewart gave a presentation on Controlled Schools and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: whether the Department have reached a view on TRC’s legal case for guaranteed membership on the controlled schools Holding Body; whether consideration had been given to changing the name of controlled schools; confirmation that the Minister’s proposal of 17 June 2009 that the Second Bill will include a Clause placing a statutory duty on the ownership body of the controlled sector in exercising any of its functions to consult with the representative body and take account of its views has not been included in the draft legislation; which legal rights currently enjoyed by the Transferors disappears with the dissolution of the Education and Library Boards; when will the Holding Body come into existence after the establishment of ESA; whether the provisions in Clause 12 provide a consultation or notification function; what is the intention of Clause 17 in relation to ‘Management of Controlled Schools’; whether the Holding Body could sell off the assets of the school without consultation with the Board of Governors; future transfer and/or disposal arrangements of the land of a school that has been closed; an explanation of the submitting authority provisions; and concerns regarding equality.
The Chairperson thanked the official for an informative briefing and he left the meeting at 4.16pm.
8. Forward Work Programme
The Committee discussed and agreed its updated Forward Work Programme.
9. Any Other Business
(a) The Committee discussed and agreed to write to Foyle View School to extend Members’ sympathy to the school community and family of a pupil who recently died from swine flu.
It was further agreed to request briefing from the Department of Education on how they are dealing with the issue of swine flu in schools (particularly special schools) and specifically on the advice they are giving in relation to this matter.
(b) The Committee discussed the joint meeting of the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety and Committee for Education to hear from the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (NIAMH) on the importance of devising a single coherent Wellbeing Strategy for Northern Ireland as set out in its Report - A Flourishing Society.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the NIAMH to ask for their view on the Committee’s proposed amendment to the Education (No 1) Bill to make reference to a duty on ESA to contribute towards the mental development of children and young people.
Agreed –that the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request what actions have been taken or planned in relation to the reccomendations of the NIAMH’s Report – ‘A Flourishing Society’. In addition the Committee agreed that further to the Department of Education’s correspondence of 28 July 2008, the Committee would request an update on the progress of the Pupils Emotional Health and Wellbeing Programme.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to ask how his Department is addressing the recommendations within the NIAMH’s Report – A Flourishing Society for a single coherent Wellbeing Strategy for Northern Ireland.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.19pm
Miss Michelle McIlveen
Acting Chairperson, Committee for Education
4 November 2009