Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 08 December 2010
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.03 pm in closed session.
1. Specialist Budget Advice
The Chairperson updated the Committee on the evaluation and selection process.
Agreed – the Sub-Committee would meet shortly before the full Committee meeting on 15 December 2010.
The meeting moved into public session at 2.05pm
Apologies as above.
3. Minutes of the Meeting of 1 December 2010
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 1 December 2010.
4. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 December 2010 from the Education Training Inspectorate on GCSE Grades.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 December 2010 from the Department of Education on GCSE Grades.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 December 2010 from the Committee for OFMdFM on the draft Childcare Strategy.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 December 2010 from the Department of Education on Data Security.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Mrs L Saunders for information.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 December 2010 from the Department of Education on the ARNE Formula.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 December from the Minister’s Private Office acknowledging receipt of the Chairperson’s correspondence of 19 and 25 November 2010 regarding an extension to the consultation period on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy.
(g) The Committee noted the Chairperson’s letter of 7 December 2010 to the Minister of Education on some outcomes of the debate on the Committee’s Early Years Motion on 6 December.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 December 2010 from the Department of Education enclosing the terms of reference for the Joint PEDU and Department of Education Efficiency Review.
(i) The Chairperson reported to the Committee on his speech to the Autumn Conference of Belfast Association of Post-Primary Principals on Friday 3 rd December 2010.
Agreed – the text of the Chairperson’s speech would be circulated to Members before it was added to the Committee’s web pages.
(j) A member raised an issue regarding schools being instructed not to proceed with the planning and tendering of new school builds, the impact this could have if a school’s readiness to proceed quickly is a criterion in deciding which capital projects receive funding and whether such schools should be progressing alternative courses of action (eg maintenance work) if new builds are not allowed to proceed.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education for clarification on these issues and recirculate to Members the Department’s letter on criteria for prioritising capital projects to commence on site in 2011/12.
Mr J O’Dowd joined the meeting at 2.12 pm
(a) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 1 December 2010 entitled ‘Minister announces publication of online guide for school governors’.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 December 2010 from the Prince’s Trust regarding its ‘Cost of Exclusion’ report.
(c) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 3 December 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister visits St Joseph’s Convent Primary School in Newry’.
(d) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 6 December 2010 entitled ‘Early Years Consultation Extended’.
(e) The Committee noted an invitation of 3 December 2010 from Mr J Taylor, Principal of Fleming Fulton School to visit the school.
Agreed – the Committee would visit Fleming Fulton in the New Year on a date to be decided and the Committee would write to advise Mr Taylor accordingly.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of the 2 December 2010 from New Life Counselling requesting an opportunity to present to the Committee.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request a written briefing on the role and work of New Life Counselling.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 6 December 2010 from NAHT on reductions to school budgets.
(h) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 7 December 2010 entitled ‘ PISA results show further improvements needed – Ruane’.
Agreed – the Committee would commission a briefing from the Department of Education on the PISA results.
(i) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 7 December 2010 entitled ‘School closures are exceptional – Ruane’.
6. Departmental Briefing on ICT & C2K including Budget
Katrina Godfrey, Director of Curriculum, Qualifications and Standards and Jimmy Stewart, Director of C2K joined the meeting at 2.38pm.
The witnesses provided a briefing on ICT and C2K and answered questions on a number of issues including; the structure of C2K and its public private partnership management model; the freedom of schools in all sectors to purchase additional resources outside C2K framework while maintaining sercurity and compliance within C2K; the review and upgrading of security measures; delay in the commissioning of laptops for use in InCAS; whether ‘C2K’ was now rather dated as a name for the service; the lower level of support C2K provides to nursery schools, as opposed to full range of service provided to primary schools; C2K’s working relationship with CCEA; the role and potential of ICT to identify and help improve poor standards of literacy and numeracy and related professional development for teachers in addressing a lack of essential skills; how the value for money assessment of C2K had been carried out; how £9 million reductions in the planned 2010/11 would be achieved without affecting the standard of service; the coordination of C2K with other IT related contracts, such as that for the provision of InCAS and any issues arising, and future developments such as on-line exams and on-line marking; the emPowering ICT review scheduled to complete in June 2010; when would the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy be available.
Sir R Empey left the meeting at 2.47pm and rejoined the meeting at 2.59pm.
Mr T Lunn left the meeting at 3.10pm and rejoined the meeting at 3.26pm.
The witnesses left the meeting at 3.42pm.
7. Departmental Briefing on School Transport Policy and Budget
Dorothy Angus, Director of Access, Inclusion and Well-Being Directorate, Paul Price, School Access Team and Alan McMullan, School Access Team joined the meeting at 3.43pm.
The witnesses provided a briefing on School Transport Policy and Budget and answered questions on a number of issues including; whether the Department had a dialogue with DRD regarding cost savings achievable on Translink bus and train passes and was trying to maximise useage of, and income from, E&LBs’ buses; the need for a ‘fundamental review’ of school transport policy to take account of environmental issues, such as multiple ‘school runs’ for individual pupils, and planning issues, such as PPS21; the potential contribution that more inclusive transport provision could make in terms of improving school cohesion and pupil performance; the level of involvement which the Department has, and should have, in the E&LBs’ negotiations with Translink, particularly in light of the concerns around ‘Transparency’ highlighted in the budget update briefing to Committee on 1 December 2010; the responsibility of the Department in approving E&LBs’ Resource Allocation Plans, including school transport operational plans; the use and benefits of smart bus passes to link payment to actual useage to address the issue of non-usage of some bus journeys; the administration costs for transport within the E&LBs and the Department; the costs of changes in bus safety regulations and whether the Department would be involved with other departments in any publicity to raise awareness of pupil safety; the prevalence of ‘ribbon development’ in Northern Ireland, resultant transport cost implications and the need to have accurate information on occupancy levels to inform consideration of this issue; the difficult cases which can arise in relation to the application of the 3 and 2 mile distance eligibility criteria for travel to school and whether similar distances were used in other jurisdications; the capital cost of renewing the school bus fleet; the Review of School Transport in 2005 under direct rule, the availability of that Review and its not being taken forward in light of RPA/ESA;
Agreed- the Clerk would prepare a draft letter to the Department seeking further information on a number of outstanding issues around school transport for the Committee’s consideration at next week’s meeting.
The witnesses left the meeting at 4.50pm.
8. Forward Work Programme
Agreed - the Committee would meet at 10.30am on 15 December 2010 to consider the Department’s written briefing on Education Workforce issues (an oral briefing to be commissioned for the New Year, as appropriate), to receive an Assembly Research briefing on the Committee’s Inquiry and to discuss/agree an Inquiry Work Programme, including visits to schools in January/February 2011.
9. Agreed – the Education Budget 2010 would take precedence in the Committee’s immediate work programme. Date of the next meeting
The next Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday 15 December 2010 at 10.30am in Room 144, Parliament Building.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.59pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
15 December 2010