Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.04pm in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 20 January 2010

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 20 January 2010.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee noted correspondence of 19 January 2010 from Ms Lisa Saunders on Department of Education data security issues.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Saunders’ a copy of the Department of Education’s correspondence of 20 January 2010 (noted at (b)) and to inform her of the steps being taken by the Committee with the Department on this matter.

The Committee noted correspondence of 20 January 2010 from the Department of Education providing detail of the action taken by DE to address the findings of the Data Security Review.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Saunders’ correspondence of 19 January 2010 to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised; to request a written updated briefing and an updated version of the Action Plan; and to request that the Department actively pursue a response from the Information Commissioner’s Office on Ms Saunders’ complaint.

The Committee noted correspondence of 21 January 2010 from Mr Sean McGahan on the Department of Education’s SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation.

Mr Ross joined the meeting at 2.06pm. 

The Chairperson asked that it was placed on record his thanks and appreciation to the Clerk and Committee staff on the successful planning and management of the Committee’s SEN event which took place in Parliament Buildings on 20 January 2010.

The Committee went on to discuss the SEN and Inclusion Review debate which took place on Tuesday, 26 January 2010 and formulating an appropriate Committee response to the Department on the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation. 

Agreed – the Clerk would prepare a draft response to the Department’s consultation making reference to the views and issues raised by stakeholders with the Committee and including recommendations and views of the Committee to be discussed in further detail and agreed at next week’s meeting.

The Committee noted correspondence of 20 January 2010 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister enclosing a copy of the Report of the Committee’s Inquiry into Consideration of European Issues.

The Committee noted the Love for Life Annual Report for 2009.

The Committee noted correspondence of 21 January 2010 from Special Needs Action Group (SNAG) enclosing a copy of its response to the Department of Education’s SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation and requesting an opportunity to brief the Committee.
Agreed – the Committee to schedule this briefing in due course in its work programme.

The Committee noted correspondence of 25 January 2010 enclosing a copy of the Report of the Literacy and Numeracy Taskforce 2008/2009.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request a presentation from the Taskforce on its Report and request a written briefing from DE officials on the consultation outcome position on the Revised Literacy and Numeracy Strategy.
Agreed – that the Clerk would prepare a note for the Committee on the outstanding requests for consultation outcomes responses and other key information requests from the Committee to the Department of Education.

The Committee noted correspondence of 25 January 2010 from the Department of Education responding to a request from the Committee for Regional Development on Accessible Transport.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for Regional Development.

The Committee noted correspondence of 26 January 2010 from the Minister of Education on the production of a Convergence Delivery Plan.
Agreed – that in response to the Minister’s correspondence, the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request a copy of the Plan as soon as possible and an urgent briefing from DE officials on the Convergence Plan.

4. Correspondence

The Committee noted an invitation to attend Capita’s 4 th National Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour in Schools Conference on 24 March 2010 in central London.

The Committee noted correspondence of 15 January 2010 from the Community Relations Council offering to provide an overview of the work of that organisation and how it relates to the work of the Education Committee.

The Committee noted an invitation from Stephen Farry MLA and NIACRO to the launch of The Justice Series on 2 February 2010 in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

The Committee noted the Belfast Education and Library Board Annual Report 08-09.

The Committee noted correspondence of 26 January 2010 from the Speedwell Trust regarding the proposed Community Relations, Equality & Diversity in Education Draft Policy.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Speedwell Trust’s correspondence to the Department of Education for its comments on the issues raised

The Committee noted the public petitions from an Autism Group and Newry and Mourne Down Syndrome Group which were presented by Dominic Bradley MLA to the Assembly on 26 January 2010 on concerns regarding the Department of Education’s SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation. It was noted that the Speaker would forward the petitions to the Minister of Education.

The Deputy Chairperson advised that the Northern Ireland Down Syndrome Association is organising a much wider scale petition and that he hoped to present this to the Assembly some time in the near future.

Agreed – the Deputy Chairperson would forward details of this petition to the other Members of the Committee.

5. Presentation on ‘Together Towards Entitlement’ Report

Adeline Dinsmore, Chairperson of the Central Area Planning Group, Pat McAleavey, Chair of SEELB Area Planning Group and John Young, Chair of NEELB Area Planning Group joined the meeting at 2.36pm.

Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 2.36pm.

The witnesses provided briefing on the ‘Together Towards Entitlement’ Report and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: whether there is acceptance of the specific Entitlement Framework envisaged by the Department of Education particularly in relation to the 24/27 subjects; the quality, access and availability of course provision on; whether the interests of the institution and pupils coalesce; the competition between schools in attracting pupil numbers; the budget implications for the implementation of the Entitlement Framework; concerns regarding the multitude of courses offered and that a significant number of courses have less than 10 pupils; how much more collaboration is needed to deliver a 24/27 Entitlement Framework; access to applied learning; the impact of funding following pupils rather than policy; the requirement for a more realistic timeframe beyond 2013 for the implementation of the Entitlement Framework; the relationship between the Entitlement Framework and Area Based Planning; the experience of some area learning partnerships in England; the role of Further Education in the provision of the Entitlement Framework and how FE provision is not being fully exploited; clarification of FE Colleges’ relationship with schools; and lack of coherence in relation to age 14 – 19 provision.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.34pm.

6. Departmental Briefing on Community Relations, Equality and Diversity in Education – Draft Policy

Linda Wilson, Head of Parents, Families and Communities Directorate, Andrew Bell, Head of Community Cohesion Team and Cathy Galway, Head of Youth and Schools in the Community Team joined the meeting at 3.35pm.

The witnesses provided briefing on Community Relations, Equality and Diversity in Education Draft Policy and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: lessons from EMU; whether it is appropriate that the delivery mechanisms of the new policy will come from a review of the current delivery mechanisms, given ETI’s highly critical Inspection Report findings; examples of best practice programmes; the lack of empirical evidence to support and provide explanation of the use of terms such as ‘bigotry’, ‘sectarianism’ and ‘homophobia’ used in the document; social engineering; why we need a separate policy on community relations and why within the curriculum citizenship isn’t delivering; pre-school provision of community relations education;

The Chairperson left the meeting at 4.11pm and the Deputy Chairperson took the Chair.

The monitoring and evaluation of the new community relations programme; practical examples of the types of activities the programme will allow; and the tools used to evaluate the outcomes of the programme.

Agreed – officials would provide the Committee with Dr Paul Connolly’s Research Paper.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.16pm.

7. Departmental Briefing on Education Budget Spending Plans 2010-11

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary and Catherine Daly, Director of Finance and Gillian Uprichard, Financial Planning Division joined the meeting at 4.18pm.

The Chairperson rejoined the meeting at 4.19pm and resumed the Chair.

The witnesses provided briefing on Education Budget Spending Plans 2010-11 and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: the correspondence of the Minister of Education 26 January 2010 on the production of a Convergence Delivery Plan; whether the areas identified in the Department’s briefing paper at Annexe B represent the Minister’s proposed budget savings; whether it is within the remit and duty of a statutory committee to provide the Minister with the Committee’s views on where savings can be made or whether its role remains primarily in this case to scrutinise Departmental proposals; clarity relating to the £24 million funding set aside for 2010/11 for training/capacity building relating to the introduction of SEN and Inclusion Policy Review Proposals; explanation on the position of the ESA efficiency savings; when the Committee will be briefed on the detail of the Convergence Delivery Plan; an explanation of the use of the phrase ‘conversations with a purpose’; and an explanation of ESA Implementation costs of £23.7million in 2010/11 detailed in Annexe A.

Mr McCallister left the meeting at 4.37pm.

The meeting moved into Closed Session at 4.43pm.

Discussion continued on the Education Budget Spending Plans 2010-11.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.53pm.

8. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and agreed the updated Draft Forward Work Programme.

9. Any Other Business

A Member proposed that the Committee undertake an Inquiry into the subject of Primary School Funding.

Agreed – the Clerk would prepare a scoping paper to examine options with regard to terms of reference for a Committee Inquiry on Primary School Funding for consideration by the Committee.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.59pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
3 February 2010

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