Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 06 October 2010
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.01 pm in public session.
Apologies as above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 29 September 2010
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 29 September 2010
Mr D Bradley joined the meeting at 2.07pm.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2010 from the Department of Education on criteria for Determining Capital Projects to proceed in 2011-12.
Agreed – the Committee would request clarification on why the criteria might change, a progress report on the capital projects announced on 5 August 2010 and a current list of the capital projects from which the Department will be selecting projects to proceed.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2010 from the Department of Education enclosing a copy of the Every School a Good School – a policy for school improvement: Progress Report on Implementation Plan 2009/10.
Agreed – the Committee would request an oral briefing from Departmental officials on the Report.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 September 2010 from Mr T Hesketh, Director, Regional Training Unit on statistics relating to the PQH (NI).
Agreed – the Committee would request from the Department a breakdown, by gender, of appointees to headship not holding the PQH(NI).
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 September 2010 from the Department of Education on data security and officials’ meeting with the Information Commissioner.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Mrs L Saunders for information.
Mr J O’Dowd joined the meeting at 2.13pm.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 October 2010 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel enclosing a briefing paper from the Department of Finance and Personnel on the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit (PEDU).
Agreed – the Committee would request an update from the Department of Education on the progress towards agreeing terms of reference for PEDU’s work with the Department.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2010 from the Minister of Education on Budget 2010.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 October 2010 from the Department of Education on the Community Relations, Equality and Diversity in Education Policy.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 17 September 2010 from Children in Northern Ireland on the Early Years (0-6) Strategy.
(i) The Committee noted correspondence from Children in Northern Ireland on draft terms of reference for an advisory stakeholder group to assist the Department of Education in taking forward the responses to the consultation on the Early Years (0-6) Strategy.
(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 October 2010 from the Department of Education on the July and August Outturn and Forecast Outturn.
Mr B McCrea joined the meeting at 2.24pm.
Ms M O’Neill left the meeting at 2.28pm.
(a) The Committee noted an invitation of 28 September 2010 from Inside Government to attend the Annual Child Poverty Forum 2010 in Central London on 27 January 2010.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 September 2010 from the Department of Education on a Strategy Plan for Autism.
Agreed – The Committee would receive an update briefing on the Autism Bill when this was available.
(c) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 24 September 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister agrees closure of Beechfield Primary School, Belfast’.
(d) The Committee noted an invitation from the Department of Education to attend a research Seminar entitled ‘Pre-school experience and Key Stage 2 performance in English and Mathematics’ on 15 October 2010.
(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 30 September 2010 entitled ‘Ruane visits North coast Integrated College’.
(f) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 30 September 2010 entitled ‘Minister visits Cross and Passion College’.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence from Mrs H Martin regarding an individual pupil, primary to post primary, transfer issue.
Agreed – the Committee would (subject to Data Protection concerns being satisfactorily resolved) forward Mrs Martins’s correspondence to BELB and advise Mrs Martin accordingly.
(h) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 1 October 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister marks opening of new Abbey Christian Brothers’ School in Newry’.
(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 October 2010 from the Business Office enclosing a copy of the Department for Education’s Teachers’ Superannuation Annual Scheme Statements for the year ended 31 March 2010.
(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 October 2010 from the Business Office enclosing a copy of the Department of Education’s Resource Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2010.
(k) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 6 October 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister agrees to the cessation of primary education on the Grove Primary School Site’.
5. Draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy – Briefing from the Early Years Organisation
Siobhan Fitzpatrick (Chief Executive), Deirdre Kelly (Board Member) and Rachael Harron (Cleenish Playgroup Leader) joined the meeting at 2.33 pm.
The witnesses provided a presentation on the Department of Education’s draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy and answered Members’ questions on a number of issues, including: availability of SEN & other support to those attending voluntary/community providers of pre-school education and whether the draft Strategy addressed this; the different qualifications of those providing pre-school education across the sector; issues arising from the provision of early care and early education in the one setting including compliance/inspection under both Health and Education regulation and the requirement for a ‘supernumary manager’; whether too early intervention risked robbing children of childhood and how children from a normal background, not suffering disadvantage but not attending pre-school, perform; what conditions would have to be in place before the school starting age should be raised, whether ‘school starting age’ was a misnomer, whether there should there should be a compulsory pre-school starting age and the relationship with nurture provision; whether there was any problem with the current direction of travel in terms of early years provision; whether there was a lack of ‘joined up thinking’; the need for the providers of early education to work together; why an Education & Care Act was a 5-10 year goal for the Early Years organisation rather than shorter term; the appropriate level of early years intervention where children come from a stable background.
Ms M O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 2.51pm.
Miss M McIlveen left the meeting at 3.14pm.
Mr J McCallister joined the meeting at 3.42pm.
The witnesses left the meeting at 4.10 pm.
Agreed – The Clerk would liaise with Assembly Research to commission a briefing paper providing an overview of the range of school starting ages in other countries, including New Zealand, in the context of early care and early education provision.
Mr T Lunn left the meeting at 4.11pm.
6. Draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy – Briefing from the Department of Education
Linda Wilson, Director of Families and Communities and Marie Abbot, Early Years Team, joined the meeting at 4.12 pm.
Ms M O’Neill left the meeting at 4.16pm.
Officials provided a briefing on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy and answered Members’ questions on a number of issues, including: a written response from the Department to each of the issues appended to the Committee’s letter of 1 October 2010; the need for the Department to take account of stakeholders’ views and achieve stakeholder buy-in; how the Department proposes to achieve consensus across the divide between care and education; the lack of support for children with SEN while they remain in voluntary/community early years settings; the need for contractual arrangements between Health and Education to ensure support for pupils with SEN; current problems with provision including children with late birthdays (May/June), rural provision, two year olds occupying pre-school places and the availability of full time places; whether the draft Strategy was effectively a learning strategy for 3-6 year olds; the lack of linkage between early childcare and early education and with other key policies such as Community Relations, Equality and Diversity, the Child Poverty Strategy and the Childcare Strategy; the need for cross-cutting Executive action to address early years provision; the timing of most of the Department’s consultation events in the morning; how SureStart’s coverage of the 20% most disadvantaged wards in Northern Ireland compared to wider coverage in England and how discrepencies (including accommodation, per child funding, regulation/inspection, staffing ratios, full-time/part-time places and qualifications/training) between the two pre-school sectors could be addressed, particularly given the likely constraints on the capital budget and what could be done to address them at this stage.
Mr T Lunn rejoined the meeting at 4.31pm.
Mr J Craig left the meeting at 4.36pm.
Mr T Lunn left the meeting at 4.42pm.
Mr D Bradley left the meeting at 4.51pm.
Officials left the meeting at 5.00 pm.
Agreed – The Clerk would write to the Department regarding the issues raised with, and information requested from, officials during this session.
Agreed – The Committee would hold an event (similar to the SEN and Inclusion Event in January 2010) to provide a platform for stakeholders views on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy.
7. Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted and agreed the amended Forward Work Programme.
8. Any Other Business
9. Date of the next meeting
The next Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday 13 October 2010 at 2.00pm in Room 21, Parliament Building.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 5.04 pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
13 October 2010