Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

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

1. Apologies

Apologies as above.

Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 2.06 pm

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 23 June 2010

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 23 June 2010.

3. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 June 2010 from the Clerk of the Committee for Health, Social Service and Public Safety enclosing correspondence from the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on the ICAN Centre, Ballynahinch.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to Mrs Gallagher and Ms Hannigan for information.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education for comment particularly in relation to the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety suggestion that a meeting between the Minister for Education and the SEELB ‘could resolve the outstanding issues without further delay’.

Agreed – the Committee would also ask the Department of Education to provide an updated position in regard to funding for the ICAN Centre, including whether I CAN could be funded if the money which would have gone to fund a pre-school place in a nursery school could follow the child to the ICAN facility .

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 June 2010 from the Department of Education enclosing a copy correspondence from the Department of Education to the Principal of Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College regarding the College’s appeal for a temporary variation in its admissions number.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 June 2010 from the Department of Education enclosing a copy of the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy document now issued for consultation and response booklet.

Agreed – the Committee would review the nature and level of stakeholders’ views on, this draft Strategy in September 2010 to inform the Committee’s further consideration of the Strategy.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 June 2010 from the Department of Education on the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit (PEDU).

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Committee for Finance and Personnel to request an initial written briefing from PEDU on its work, and in particular any work it has done on education, and would, on receipt, consider whether to request an oral briefing.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 June 2010 from the Education and Training Inspectorate on the ‘Sports NI Baseline Survey of Timetabled PE in Primary Schools in Northern Ireland – 2009’

Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education, to Sport NI and to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure for information.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 June 2010 from Ms L Saunders enclosing a copy of the Cabinet Office, HMG Security Policy Framework.

(g) The Committee noted copy correspondence of 28 June 2010 from the Minister of Education to Ms M Dolan, Principal of Loreto Convent Primary School and Mr K Thompson of Omagh County Primary School regarding the Schools’ Community Relations Programme.

(h) The Committee noted copy correspondence of 24 June 2010 from the Minister of Education to Dr A Heaslett, Principal of Stranmillis University College on allocation of Initial Teacher Education places for 2010/11.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Minister’s letter to the Committee for Employment and Learning for information.

(i) The Chairperson raised the proposals by some Education and Library Boards to reduce from two weeks to one week the customary summer schemes for pupils with SEN.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Committee for the First and deputy First Minister seeking clarification of the role of OFMDFM in relation to summer schemes for children.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education seeking (i) clarification on whether there was a statutory duty on Education and Library Boards to run summer schemes for pupils with SEN and whether or not DE regard this as a frontline service; (ii) whether any of the proposals in SEN & Inclusion consultation document would impact on this situation and how; (iii) whether, in the context of the Minister’s press release noted at 4(t) below there is a statutory equality obligation on Education and Library Boards plus a duty to consult with stakeholders in relation to their decision, and if there is any sanction the Department can use via the non-approval of the elements of the Resource Allocation Plan relating to the cuts by Boards of summer schemes for children with SEN.

Agreed – the Committee would seek legal advice in relation to this issue.

4. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted an invitation from Stranmillis University College to attend a European Heritage and Lifelong Learning Open Day at Stranmillis University College on 11 and 12 September 2010.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 June 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure enclosing correspondence from the Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Minister of Education regarding the accessibility of Local Government owned art.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Minister of Education for information and any comment.

(c) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 23 June 2010 entitled ‘Ruane chairs NSMC meeting in Warrenpoint’.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education requesting a copy of the presentation on initiatives to tackle educational underachievement in disadvantaged communities, including the Full Service Community Network.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 June 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding the United Nations convention on the Rights of the Child.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of the 24 June 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister on the European 2010 Strategy and the European Commission Work Programme.

(f) The Committee noted an invitation of 21 June 2010 from Mr R Barnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster to hold a Committee meeting at their Coleraine Campus and a request to present to Committee at this meeting on teacher training activities.

Agreed –the Committee would consider this invitation again in the context of its autumn Work Programme.

(g) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 25 June 2010 entitled ‘Years 12 and 14 Examination Performance at Post-Primary Schools in Northern Ireland 2008/09’.

(h) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 25 June 2010 entitled ‘Early years matter!’.

(i) The Committee noted a copy of the Northern Ireland Audit Office Report entitled ‘Schools’ Views of their Education and Library Board 2009’.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 June 2010 from Mr F Bunting of INTO on concerns regarding education RPA and the establishment of ESA.

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

(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 June 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Health Social Services and Public Safety seeking the Committee for Education’s views on the ‘Safeguarding Board Bill’ and enclosing correspondence from the Chairperson of the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety to the Minister of Education.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Minister of Education and ask to be copied in on the Minister’s response.

(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 June 2010 from Mr J Armstrong of the Construction Employers Federation requesting to make a presentation to the Committee.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Mr Armstrong to advise him that the Committee would consider this request when it reviews its forward work programme for autumn 2010.

(m) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 June 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure on a presentation from Special Olympics Ulster.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department for comment on the specific issues raised.

(n) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 28 June 2010 entitled ‘Minister announces new nursery unit at St Colman’s Primary School, Annaclone’.

(o) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 June 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on Budget 2010 enclosing the ‘Savings Delivery Plan Guidance’.

(p) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 June 2010 from Mrs P McMahon, Principal of Dromintee Primary School regarding an application for a new school build.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mrs McMahon’s letter to the Department for comment on the specific issues raised.

(q) The Committee noted a statement of 29 June 2010 from UNISON on Education Boards’ cutbacks in Summer Schemes for children with special educational needs.

Agreed – the Committee would forward UNISON’s statement to the Department for comment on the issues raised.

(r) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 29 June 2010 entitled ‘Education Inspectors report on pupil behaviour in schools’.

(s) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 29 June 2010 entitled ‘Funding a major stumbling block to rebuilding schools – Ruane’.

(t) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 29 June 2010 entitled ‘Education Boards Spending Plans not yet approved’.

(u) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 29 June 2010 entitled ‘Decision on a Welcome centre for Gibson Primary School, Omagh’.

(v) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 30 June 2010 entitled ‘Irish-medium partners come together’.

(w) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 30 June 2010 entitled ‘Ministers launch review of teacher education’.

(x) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 30 June 2010 entitled ‘Time to celebrate success in our schools – Ruane’.

(y) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 June 2010 from the Speaker to the Northern Ireland Assembly enclosing a copy of a letter sent to the Minister of Education regarding the laying of a petition in the Assembly on 28 June 2010 by Mr T Gallagher, MLA on the ‘Removal of Funding for Summer Schemes for Children with Learning Difficulties’.

(z) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 June 2010 from the Minister of Education on engagement with the Committee regarding Budget 2010.

(aa) The Chairperson raised, and the Committee discussed, the subject of the level of school attendance/absenteeism debated in the Assembly on Monday 28 June.

Agreed – the Committee would request a written briefing from the Department of Education on school attendance/ absenteeism, particularly in areas of disadvantage and very poor attendance, at which stage the Committee would consider whether to request an oral briefing.

Agreed – during summer recess the Clerk would provide Members with packs comprising correspondence received and, in consultation with the Chairperson, with a suggested way forward in relation to issues raised in the form of draft correspondence. Where Members raised no objection to any draft correspondence within five working days, the drafts would be deemed agreed and issue as correspondence on behalf of the Committee. Summer correspondence packs would be sent to Members’ constituency offices by first class post.

5. Departmental Briefing on Progress on the Implementation of the STEM Review Report.

Robinson Davison, Deputy Secretary, joined the meeting at 2.43pm.

The witness provided a briefing on the progress on the implementation of the STEM Review Report and answered Members questions on a number of issues, including: the pace of progress on what is a key Programme for Government PSA target and when the Department’s Action Plan would be available; when the information for those entered for STEM examinations in 2009/10 would be available; progress made on implementation and the involvement of business representatives and the idea of a STEM Champion; how cross-departmental work was being taken forward; whether the higher level of costs involved in equipping schools to deliver STEM subjects was an issue;

On behalf of the Committee the Chairperson thanked Dr Davison for an informative briefing, for his assistance to the Committee over the years and wished him well in his retirement. Dr Davison left the meeting at 3.05pm.

6. Departmental Briefing on the Budget 2010 and the Proposed Spending Plans including linkages to PSA’s

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary and Catherine Daly, Director of Finance joined the meeting at 3.07pm.

The witnesses provided a briefing on the Budget 2010 and the proposed spending plans including linkages to PSAs and answered Members questions on a number of issues including; how some ‘inescapable pressures’ were quantified; the effect of the public sector pay freeze on the ‘pay pressures’ figures; the nature of ‘non-pay pressures’ and how projections for these and other types of pressures were quantified into the future; the need for the Committee to be informed about what the impact of funding cuts against particular heads of expenditure would be; capital expenditure pressures; whether the delay in the Minister’s approving Boards’ Resource Allocation Plans had any implications for Boards in terms of proposed areas for expenditure; projected savings from the Convergence Delivery Plan; whether the provision of free school meals is a statutory obligation and when DFP’s response to DE’s June Monitoring bids would be known.

Agreed – Officials would provide the Committee with the detail, including the underlying assumptions, and updating as appropriate, of the inescapable pressures listed in the Department’s briefing paper.

Agreed – Officials would clarify whether the provision of free school meals was a statutory obligation.

Agreed – Officials would provide the Committee with a full copy of its responses to the Department of Finance and Personnel of 30 July and 26 August 2010 on Budget 2010,; when responding to DFP, DE officials would include statements that the Committee will provide its specific views on the DE responses in mid September and would provide the Committee with written and oral briefings on Budget 2010 and the Department’s submissions to DFP, including a Convergence Delivery Plan update, for the Committee’s meetings on 8 and 15 September 2010.

Agreed –the Clerk would write to the Department to confirm the above.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.31 pm.

7. Departmental Briefing on the Outcome of the Capital Budget Review.

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary and Catherine Daly, Director of Finance, remained at table and provided a briefing to the Committee on the outcome of the Capital Budget Review and answered Members’ questions on a number of issues including; the Committee’s outstanding request for further detail in relation to how the Review was carried out including assessment criteria and scoring; when the Department’s list of approved capital projects would be placed in the Assembly Library and whether the Committee would be provided with that list before then; whether the Department would be notifying other schools potentially affected by the decision to approve a project in their area; the timing of the announcement at the beginning of the school holidays; the merit of approving such a long list of capital projects; the length of the delay in the Minister confirming what had first been indicated by officials in February 2010, that there was no money to take forward any new capital projects not already on site in 2010/11; when the Committee would be provided with details of the 2010/11 expenditure for the projects being funded by the £101.1 million capital monies allocated to PPPs; the projects being funded by the £18.3 million allocated to projects on site and the projects to be funded by the £30 million allocated to minor works; the extent of projected education capital spend in Budget 2010; approval of new ‘Youth’ projects and the development of Lisanelly; the arrangements for prioritisation of the 13 capital projects referred to in the Minister’s Statement to the Assembly on 29 June 2010 – if, for example, any capital money is secured by DE’s in-year bid for £30million;

Agreed – Officials would identify the projects being funded under each of the allocations of capital monies for 2010/11 referred to above and provide this to Committee.

Agreed – Officials would provide the Committee with the prioritised list of capital projects, particularly in relation to schools awaiting new builds, that is to be placed in the Assembly Library. It was agreed that the Committee should be copied this list as soon as possible, before it is forwarded to the Assembly Library.

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

The Committee considered a proposal from Mrs M O’Neill:

To write to the DFP Committee asking them to pass on a letter to DFP to say that we as a Committee recognize that there is a need for significant investment in the schools estate and we support the Minister’s bid for additional funds for capital build

The Committee divided: Ayes 2; Noes 4;

AYES

NOES

John O’Dowd

Mervyn Storey

Michelle O’Neill

Michelle McIlveen

 

Alastair Ross

 

John McCallister

   
   

A member proposed and the Committee discussed obtaining a specialist advisor on the education budget in the context of Budget 2010.

Agreed – the Clerk would liaise with Assembly Research to establish the resources available for securing advice to Committee regarding education Budget 2010 and the Department’s spending proposals. In consultation with the Chairperson, the Clerk would provide Members with a paper outlining the options available to the Committee, the process, timescales involved and the appropriate point at which to engage any special advisor.

Committee discussed the Minister’s letter of 30 June 2010 to the Chairperson on the subject of effective engagement on the Education Budget 2010 with the Committee during July and August 2010. The Committee confirmed the arrangements agreed at 6 above regarding Budget 2010 and left it to the Chairperson to decide on receipt of DE’s responses to DFP of 30 July and 26 August respectively whether or not to call a meeting or meetings of the Committee during Summer Recess.

8. Any other Business

Agreed - the Committee would delegate authority to comment on non-routine or contentious freedom of information requests made to the Committee to the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson acting together or, in the absence of either one, separately.

9. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and agreed the amended Forward Work Programme.

Agreed – the Clerk would liaise with the Chairperson regarding further scoping briefings in relation to a possible Committee Inquiry, perhaps in relation to school leadership, including a briefing from the Regional Training Unit, and would liaise with DE officials regarding scheduling such sessions during the Committee’s forthcoming visit to Rathgael House.

10. Date of the next meeting

The next Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday 8 September 2010 at 2.00pm in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.

Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 4.12 pm

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.16 pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
1 September 2010

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