Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 01 December 2010

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.05 pm in closed session.

1. Legal Advice

The Committee received a briefing from Assembly Legal Services on the Department’s decision not to reconstitute the South Eastern Education and Library Board and on foot of that advice agreed to write to the Department of Education.

The meeting moved into public session at 2.25 pm

2. Apologies

Apologies as above.  

3. Minutes of the Meeting of 24 November 2010

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 24 November 2010.

Mr D Bradley joined the meeting at 2.25pm

4. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 November 2010 from the Department of Education on the STEM Bus/Truck.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2010 from the Department of Education on Budget 2010 – Outstanding Budget Issues.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 November 2010 from the Department of Education on September 2010 – Outturn and Forecast Outturn.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 November 2010 from the Department of Education on October 2010 – Outurn and Forecast Outurn.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 November 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for OFMdFM enclosing a consultation document on the draft Child Poverty Report.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the consultation document to the Department of Education for its comments.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 November 2010 from the Department of Education on the Oxford Economics Scoping Paper: ‘Developing the Case for Shared Education’.

(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2010 from the Department of Eductaion on the draft Play and Leisure Implentation Plan.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for OFMdFM for information.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2010 from the Committee for OFMdFM enclosing copies of its Offical Report (Hansard) on European Issues 1 and 3 November 2010 meetings.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2010 from the Department of Education on the Armed Forces and Veterans Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for OFMdFM for information.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2010 from the Department of Education on the Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (NI) 2010.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 November 2010 from the Department of Education regarding the Programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration Consultation Document.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for OFMdFM for information.

(l) The Committee noted the list of stakeholders invited to submit evidence to the Committee Inquiry.

Agreed – The Committee would write to invite a number of other stakeholders to submit evidence.

(m) The Committee noted a draft letter and a draft list of post-primary schools whose views the Committee would seeking in the context of its Inquiry.

Agreed – The Committee approved the draft letter and the draft list of schools.

(n) The Committee noted a draft letter from the Committee Chairperson to all MLAs regarding the Committee Motion on Early Years on Monday 6 December 2010.

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft letter.

(o) The Committee noted and discussed a draft press release regarding the Committee Motion on Early Years on Monday 6 December.

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft press release with one amendment.

(p) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 November 2010 from the Department of Education on the undersupply of A level places in Northern Ireland.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Ulster Farmer’s Union for information.

(q)The Committee noted correspondence of 30 November 2010 from the Department of Education on re-standardisation in relation to InCas.

Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department regarding the recategorisation of GCSE Business Studies and GCSE Media Studies as ‘General’ rather than ‘Applied’ subjects in the context of the Entitlement Framework.

Agreed – In light of the concerns raised by a Member about the points attributed to A* and A grades at A Level of pupils in Northern Ireland in the admissions process for universities and colleges in the Republic of Ireland the Committee would write to the Department seeking clarification on this issue.

5. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 23 November 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Finance and Personnel enclosing Committee Ministerial correspondence on the draft Budget 2011-15.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 November 2010 from Mr J Graham enclosing copy correspondence sent to the Minister of Education regarding disability access at Devenish College.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr Graham’s correspondence to the Department asking to be copied in on the Minister’s response.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 November 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for OFMdFM on the role and work of the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels.

(d) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 25 November 2010 entitled ‘Minister visits Irish language after school’s club’.

(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 25 November 2010 entitled ‘Decision on the establishment of a nursey unit at Woodburn Primary School, Carrickfergus’.

(f) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 25 November 2010 entitled ‘Participation in full-time education and vocational training by 16 and 17 year olds in Northern Ireland 2009/10: Statistics’.

(g) The Committee moted a Department of Education News Release of 26 November 2010 entitled ‘Years 12 and 14 examination performance at post-primary schools in Northern Ireland 2009/10’.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 November 2010 from Ms C McCrea regarding her children starting primary school.

(i) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 30 November 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister meets Institute of Directors’.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on stakeholder engagement on the Spending Review and draft Budget 2011-15.

Agreed – Committee Members would consider whether or not they would wish to participate in themed round table discussions on strategic and cross-cutting finance issues and contact the Clerk as appropriate.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence from NICIE inviting the Committee to visit Integrated Schools and requesting an opportunity to present to Committee.

Agreed – The Committee would visit an Integrated School and this would be brought back to Committee when it is considering its forward work programme.

Ms M O’Neill joined the meeting at 2.50pm

6. Assembly Research Briefing on Free School Meals Entitlement

A representative of Assembly Rearch provided a briefing on ‘Free School Meals (FSM) Entitlement as a Measure of Social Deprivation’ and answered Members’ questions.

Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department regarding data sharing which might assist the establishment of more effective measurement of social deprivation and regarding measures being taken to encourage uptake of FSM and Clothing Allowance, including recent changes to FSM entitlement; the Advice NI briefing paper on FSM and Clothing Allowance would be re-circulated to Members

7. Departmental Briefing on December Monitoring

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Gavin Boyd, Mark McNaughten, Director of Finance, and Gillian Upritchard, Finance Division joined the meeting at 3.06 pm.

The witnesses provided a briefing on December Monitoring and answered questions on a number of issues including; part-funding of North Belfast Community Learning Centre by DFP when it is not a funding department; the reduction/reallocation of £60,000 from ‘Other Resource’ to ‘Admin Depreciation/Impairments’; use of STEM capital funding and the reduced requirement of £1 million in the September Monitoring Round; how schools are coping with their reduced budgets at this stage in the financial year; spend on minor works, criteria for prioritising minor works and which bodies make the decisions; and when the Department will have a clearer picture of schools’ drawdown.

Mr B McCrea joined the meeting at 3.16 pm

8. Budget 2010 and Convergence

The witnesses remained at table and informed the Committee that there was essentially no update on Budget 2010 and therefore no briefing paper; and answered Members’ questions on a number of issues including: the concerns raised by the Minister for Finance; the lack of any options/scenario planning to manage likely cuts so as to protect front line services despite indications from DFP as to the likely level of cuts; whether the Department of Education will have enough time to work up a budget from ‘standstill’ if there is no preparatory work being done; changes in the rationale for ESA; the lack of Ministerial authority for scenario planning by officials and how the Department arrived at its Budget 2010 spending proposals, with significant redundancy costs, without scenario planning; current proposals for a very recently introduced voluntary severance programme, the terms of the programme and its anticipated cost, the affected categories of employees, the number of anticipated redundancies and how the programme differs from that envisaged in ESA proposals; whether the Department has a Savings Delivery Plan and what type of financial planning had been done in this regard; access to End Year Flexibility (EYF) for schools, the impact of the ending of EYF and how this would be managed; the need for financial planning at operational levels in the education system, the absence of information and potential ‘paralysis’, and the the Minister’s priorities; the numbers of education service permanent and non-permanent staff, retirees and leavers; the E&LBs spend on sick pay, substitute cover for teachers, school transport, E&LB buses and Translink bus passes; the progress made towards Convergence and how much of the anticipated savings had been achieved to date; whether EQIAs would be necessary in relation to service initial changes; progress towards the reconstitution of the E&LBs; whether there was the ‘good will’ and determination in the E&LBs to deliver Convergence; the position of new Members joining E&LBs which have already ‘approved’ convergence of certain services; and what progress had been made in engagement with PEDU on its review on potential efficiencies within education.

Agreed – The Committee would request, and officials agreed to provide, a briefing paper on the voluntary severance programme, including the change of approach from the programme envisaged with the creation of ESA to the £20million severance programme now in place, and the discussions which are ongoing in relation to redundancies.

M M O’Neill left the meeting 4.12 pm

Mr T Lunn left the meeting at 4.23 pm

Mr B McCrea left the meeting at 5.07 pm

The witnesses left the meeting at 5.14 pm

9. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted the Committee Motion on Early Years to be debated in the Assembly on Monday 6 December 2010.

Agreed – The Chairperson will open the debate and Mr D Bradley will wind the debate on behalf of the Committee.

Agreed – the Committee will request a oral briefing from officials on 15 December 2010 on the Education Service Workforce, including the new severance programme and outstanding requests on workforce issues.

10. Date of the next meeting

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

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 5.16 pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
8 December 2010

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