Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 08 September 2010
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.05 pm in public session.
Apologies as above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 1 September 2010
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 1 September 2010
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee expressed its abhorrence of recent bomb incidents at schools in the Antrim area.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the principals of St Comgall’s Primary School, Antrim and St Joseph’s Primary School, Antrim expressing the Committee’s views.
(b) The Committee reconsidered correspondence of 14 July 2010 from the Minister of Education on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy.
Agreed – the Committee would request a further briefing from Department of Education officials on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy before the end of the consultation period.
Agreed – the Committee would request briefings from FONT/NAHT and the Early Years Organisation on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 August 2010 from Mr E McCartan, Chief Executive of Sport NI thanking the Committee for the interest it has shown in the provision of PE in Northern Ireland’s primary and post primary schools.
Agreed – the Committee would request Sports NI to keep it informed of developments on this subject.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 September 2010 from the Department of Education enclosing a copy of the Consultation on Community Relations, Equality and Diversity in Education.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to request that it be provided with a summary analysis of the responses to the consultation and the proposed way forward prior to the Department finalising its position on this policy.
(a) The Committee noted an invitation of 31 August 2010 from the Five Nations Network to seeking a representative to attend their annual conference ‘Citizenship and Values Education 2010 and beyond’ in St David’s Hotel and the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff on 18 and 19 November 2010.
Agreed – any Committee Member wishing to attend would notify the Clerk by Friday 10 September 2010.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 September 2010 from the Department of Education on items for its forward work programme September – December 2010.
Agreed – the Committee’s forward work programme would be updated to reflect the Department of Education’s business items.
(c) The Committee welcomed a Department of Education News Release of 2 September 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister announces new nursery unit at Drumnamoe Nursery School, Lurgan’.
(d) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 2 September 2010 entitled ‘Decision on nursery unit for Braniel Primary School’.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department seeking clarification on the Minister’s decision to turn down the SEELB’s proposal to increase the number of full-time nursery places, and cease to provide part-time places, at Braniel Primary School Nursery Unit.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 September 2010 from Ms P Haren, Director of Women’s Support Network on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Haren’s letter to the Department for comment on the specific issues raised.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 September 2010 from the Education Training Inspectorate enclosing a copy of their Annual Business Report 2009-10.
(g) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 6 September 2010 entitled ‘St Comgall’s Primary School and St Joseph’s Primary School, Antrim’.
(h) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 7 September 2010 entitled ‘Schools’ special needs units performing well’.
(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 September 2010 from the Clerk to the Central Committee office on the publication of Members’ attendance at Committee meetings for the period from 1 September 2009 to 31 August 2010.
Agreed – any Committee Member who wished to query the attendance figures would let the Clerk know as soon as possible.
5. September Monitoring
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Mark McNaughten, Director of Finance, and Gillian Upritchard, Finance Division, joined the meeting at 2.22 pm.
Officials were unable to provide a briefing as the Minister has not yet made a decision on September Monitoring. Officials hoped that it would be possible to brief the Committee at its meeting on 15 September 2010.
6. Departmental Update Briefing on Budget 2010
John McGrath, Mark McNaughten and Gillian Upritchard provided a briefing on specific areas of expenditure within the Department’s Budget 2010 spending proposals raised by the Committee on the subject at its meeting of 1 September 2010. The session commencing at 2.25 pm and officials answered Members’ questions on a number of issues, including: confirmation that the spending proposals for each of the four years were premised on a flat (constant in cash terms) 2010/11 baseline and not on a baseline reducing by a 5% cut scenario year on year; whether the Committee had received the Department of Education’s full submission to DFP on spending proposals; the cost breakdown of transport within Education Budget 2010; the numbers/proportions of staff engaged on permanent and temporary contracts; whether a work initiative following on from the the Executive’s Away Day, mentioned during the Budget 2010 briefing to the Committee on 1 September 2020, had been progressed in the context of Savings Delivery Plans; when the Committee would be informed of the areas in which the Minister planned to make savings; why the additional spending proposals for teachers’ pay had increased by some £94 million from the information provided to Committee on 1 September 2010; whether public sector pay freeze had been agreed with relevant trades unions and the timing of the freeze in relation to teachers; how the Department quantifies the TSN element within the Aggregated Schools Budget additional spending proposal; why the additional spending proposals for redundancy payments were £234 million and the scale of redundancies this implies (by reference to the approximately £50 million provision for 450 redundancies within ESA proposals); whether consideration was being given to a negotiated pay cut as a way of avoiding redundancies; confirmation that the spending proposals on staff pay over the four years had not been adjusted downwards to reflect the payroll savings which would be achieved by the £234 million proposed spend on redundancy costs; whether different education sectors have different incentives regarding staff redundancies if all costs are eventually borne by public purse; why the estimate of the number of pupils affected by the proposed extension of Free School Meals entitlement had increased from 20,000 to almost 30,000; the impact of a 9.1% cut in capital budget bearing in mind that it has been said that 80% of the available capital budget for 2011/12 is already contractually committed; whether there was any risk of any of the 13/14 school builds announced by the Minister in August 2010 as starting this year being put on hold and the level of contractual commitment at this point; the conditional nature of the proposed capital spend for 2011/12 on the Middletown Centre for Autism which is subject to match funding from DES.
Mr B McCrea joined the meeting at 2.39pm
Mr J McCallister left the meeting at 2.55pm
Mr B McCrea left the meeting at 3.13pm
Miss M McIlveen left at 3.35pm
Mr T Lunn left the meeting at 3.37pm
Officials left the meeting at 3.45pm.
Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department requesting more information on some issues/areas of expenditure raised, including the suggestion for a possible closed session discussion with officials regarding proposed savings. The Committee would also seek clarification regarding the timescale for completion of the ‘work initiative’ arising from the Executive’s Away Day in July 2010 and the link between this initiative and the production of the Department’s Savings Delivery Plan.
7. Assembly Research Paper on appointment of Specialist Budgetary Advisor
The Committee discussed the way forward. Mrs M O’Neill asked that her opposition to the proposal be noted.
Agreed – a subgroup of the Committee, to agree a list of possible providers, and later to evaluate bids received and make a recommendation to Committee regarding appointment, would be formed comprising Mr M Storey, Chairperson, Mr Dominic Bradley, Mr Trevor Lunn, Mr Basil McCrea and Mr John O’Dowd.
8. Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted and agreed the amended Forward Work Programme.
Agreed – The Clerk would prepare a draft programme for a visit to Belfast Boys Model School for the Committee’s approval.
9. Date of the next meeting
The next Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday 15 September 2010 at 2.00pm in Room 21, Parliament Building.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.02 pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
15 September 2010