Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.01pm in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 18 November 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 18 November 2009.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 12 November 2009 from the Chief Executive of the Belfast Education and Library Board to the Department of Education’s Permanent Secretary on the establishment of the ESA.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it is copied into the response to BELB’s Chief Executive.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 November 2009 from the Department of Education on data protection issues.
Agreed – The Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s letter to Ms L Saunders for information.
(c) The Committee noted a Press Release of 19 November 2009 from Buddy Bear Trust entitled ‘A Mother’s Prayer Answered’.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 November 2009 from Ms M Maugher on the SEN and Inclusion Review.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 18 November 2009 from the Principal of Longstone School to the SEELB regarding the SEN and Inclusion Review.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence from Ms R Hogan of the Children’s Law Centre providing information requested by the Committee relating to the SEN and Inclusion Review.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Hogan’s letter to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 November 2009 from the Department of Education providing outstanding responses to correspondence from the Committee.
(h) The Committee considered a draft follow-up letter to the Department of Education further to the Education Budget briefing session from Departmental officials at last week’s meeting.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence as drafted to the Department.
(i) The Committee noted a copy of the Minister of Education’s speech at the annual conference of the Association of Education and Library Boards on 20 November 2009.
The Chairperson advised Members that further to the Minister’s speech he had instructed the Clerk to write to the Department requesting officials to come today to provide briefing on the existing legislative and other powers which are available to the Minister to put interim arrangements in place if ESA were not to be established on 1 January 2010 as planned. Further to advice from Departmental Officials that it would be premature to come before the Committee at this time the Chairperson instructed the Clerk to prepare a draft letter to the Minister of Education on this subject for the Committee’s consideration.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the draft letter (subject to amendment) to the Minister of Education.
Agreed – that Committee Secretariat would provide a transcript of the discussion between Members and departmental officials as part of the Budget Briefing Session that took place at last weeks meeting, during which the position in relation to the circumstances in which the appointment of Commissioners to Education and Library Boards was raised.
(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 November 2009 from the Principal of Longstone School inviting Members to come to the school to meet parents, teachers and members of the Boards of Governors to discuss the SEN and Inclusion Review.
Agreed – the Committee would write to Longstone School to advise that the Committee would undertake a visit to the school in the new year.
(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2009 from the Department of Education responding to the terms of reference to an inquiry from the Committee for Regional Development on sustainable transport in education.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Committee for Regional Development.
(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2009 from Ms H Hamill regarding the SEN and Inclusion Review.
Agreed – the Committee would forward briefing papers on the SEN and Inclusion Review from the Department of Education and Children with Disabilities Strategic Alliance to Ms Hamill for information.
(m) The Committee considered a draft Press Release highlighting the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council’s presentation on the SEN and Inclusion Review.
Agreed – the Committee would issue the Press Release as drafted.
Mr Lunn joined the meeting at 2.14pm.
Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 2.19pm.
Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 2.21pm.
(n) The Committee considered and agreed the Christmas card recipient list.
(o) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2009 from the Department of Education enclosing a copy of the EQIA which has been carried out on the Premature Retirement Compensation Regulations.
(a) The Committee noted an invitation from the Northern Ireland Lottery Forum to celebrate its 15 th Birthday on 3 December 2009 at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.
(b) The Committee noted an invitation from the Northern Ireland Ombudsman to its 40 th Anniversary Conference on 25 November 2009 at the Dunadry Hotel, Antrim.
(c) The Committee noted the SELB Annual Report and Accounts 2008-2009.
(d) The Committee noted reminder correspondence regarding an invitation to celebrate the work of the Education and Library Boards to be held on 4 December 2009 in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 20 November 2009 entitled ‘Education reform will go ahead - Ruane’.
(f) The Committee noted an invitation to UTU’s Annual Conference 2010 on 18 and 19 March 2010in the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle.
(g) The Committee noted an invitation to INTO’s Northern Conference on 26 February 2010 in the City Hotel, Derry.
(h) The Committee noted an invitation to NASUWT’s Annual Conference on 11 and 12 March 2010 in La Mon House Hotel, Belfast.
(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 November 2009 from Mrs P Cardwell on the lack of opportunity for graduate teachers and enclosing correspondence from the Department of Education detailing the number of teachers employed in all Board areas during the financial year 2008/09 who had previously been granted early retirement.
Agreed – The Committee would forward Mrs Cardwell’s letter to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.
(j) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 24 November 2009 entitled ‘School Children + Rockets + Fun = Stem’.
5. Presentation from the Northern Ireland Teacher’s Council on the SEN and Inclusion Review
Seamus Searson, NASUWT, Mark Langhammer, ATL, Kevin Smyth, INTO, Aidan Dolan, NAHT, and Audrey Stewart, UTU joined the meeting at 2.38pm. The witnesses gave a presentation on the SEN and Inclusion Review and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: the requirement for the modernisation of policy and practice of SEN and Inclusion provision in Northern Ireland; the current variation in SEN provision across the Education and Library Board areas; whether the proposals improve prospects for children with SEN; whether there was sufficient consultation with the Unions and other key stakeholders in the development of the policy proposals and prior to the publication of the Review; the varied interpretation and the use of the word ‘Inclusion’ within the Review document; concerns regarding class size and pupil teacher ratio figures in Northern Ireland; the role of the Multi Disciplinary Groups (MDGs) to ‘challenge’ schools; membership and composition of the MDGs and concerns that educational practitioners are not represented; that there should be an emphasis on the MDGs working collaboratively with teachers; experience of the ‘prototype’ of the MDGs which already exists within each of the education and library boards; implications for funding and resources; placing an unfair burden on schools by moving responsibility for funding to the schools and away from what will be ESA; the accountability of schools to several bodies – an imbalance in accountability; an ‘off-loading’ of responsibility onto schools; the assumption within the document of collaboration and partnership between schools; whether the competitive culture underpinning LMS is ‘fit for purpose’ in the context of these proposals; the Review of LMS; ring-fencing funding for the implementation of the proposals; the Scottish model of delegated management;
The meeting was suspended at 3.28pm.
The meeting resumed at 3.46pm. Mr M Storey, Mrs M Bradley, Mr J Craig, Mr T Lunn, Mr J McCallister, Mr B McCrea, Miss M McIlveen, Mr J O’Dowd, and Mr A Ross present.
Implication of an increased workload for teachers; training and professional development of teachers in SEN; what happens after ring-fenced funding for teacher training is gone; increased fear of litigation; the role and responsibilities of the SENCOs; the requirement for early intervention; the legal protection offered by the existing statementing process; the bureaucracy and lengthy process involved in the current statementing process; a change in emphasis from ‘diagnosis’ to ‘assessment’ indicating a less expert based approach to early intervention; Co-ordinated Support Plans (CSP) and the frequency of CSP reviews; to what extent the school’s pastoral system should interlock with special needs provision; and the link between the Review of Early Years and the SEN and Inclusion Review.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 4.01pm.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.21pm.
Mr McCallister left the meeting at 4.24pm.
The Committee discussed the 30 November 2009 deadline for the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation and agreed that further to its correspondence of 12 November 2009, the Committee would write to the Department to request that the Department consider a further extension to the consultation deadline to the end of January 2010.
Agreed – in addition, the Committee agreed to ask the Department for: the analysis of the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation responses as soon as these are available; information regarding the link between the Review of Early Years and the SEN and Inclusion Review; and to request clarification on a reference made in paragraph 10.2 of the document to the OFSTED 2006 survey.
Members discussed the Committee’s role in looking at the SEN and Inclusion Review policy proposals and agreed to request the Clerk prepare an analysis of correspondence the Committee has received to date on this matter, highlighting key areas of concerns.
An Assembly Researcher presented a short briefing note detailing the parallels between the SEN and Inclusion Review policy proposals and the changes in SEN provision in Scotland in 2004 and 2009.
Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 4.32pm.
6. Forward Work Programme
The Committee discussed its Forward Work Programme.
Agreed – the Committee would reaffirm with the Department its invitation to the authors of the ‘Together Towards Entitlement’ Report to brief the Committee on this before Christmas recess.
The Committee discussed a request from Special Needs Action Group (SNAG) to make a presentation to the Committee on the SEN and Inclusion Review. The Committee discussed the possibility of hosting an event in which they could hear from a number of stakeholders including SNAG on the SEN and Inclusion Review.
Agreed – the Committee instructed the Clerk to explore the options for hosting such an event early in the New Year.
7. Any Other Business
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.46pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
2 December 2009