Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.06 pm in public session.
Apologies as above.
The Chairperson congratulated Sir Reg Empey on the recent announcement that he is to be appointed to the House of Lords.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 17 November 2010
Agreed –the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 17 November 2010.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 17 November 2010 from the Department of Education on the School Transport Policy.
Agreed –The Committee would raise the subject with DE officials at the 1 December 2010 meeting and then decide whether or not to request a specific briefing on School Transport Policy.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 November 2010 from the Chief Inspector, ETI enclosing statistics for pupil performance at Grade’s A* - D and a copy of the ETI Report ‘An Evaluation of the SureStart Programme for 2-Year-Olds’.
Agreed –The Committee would request statistics from ETI on levels of pupil attainment for 5 GCSEs including English and Maths at A*-C, A*-D and A*-E.
Agreed – The Committee would also request from ETI details of the differences in relative levels of attainment represented by grades C to E in Maths and English at GCSE.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 17 November 2010 from the Department of Education on staff employed in arms length bodies paid between £50,000 and £10,000.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 November 2010 from the Department of Education on the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland – Investing Activity Report for October 2010.
(e) The Committee thanked the Clerk and his team for their work in organising a very successful Early Years Event in the Great Hall on 17 November 2010 and the Committee considered a draft Committee Motion on an Early Years Children’s Strategy, discussed a number of suggested amendments and deferred a decision to later in the meeting.
Mr B McCrea joined the meeting at 2.25pm
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 November 2010 from Ms R Irvine, Ulster Farmers’ Union on the undersupply of A level places for students.
Agreed –the Committee would forward Ms Irvine correspondence to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 17 November 2010 from Mr J Austin, Librarian, Thornhill College, on the lack of funding available for school libraries.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr Austin’s correspondence to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.
Agreed – the Committee would copy Mr Austin’s correspondence to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance and Personnel as requested.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 18 November 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for OFMdFM on European issues.
Agreed –the Committee would request an update from Assembly Research on European initiatives affecting education.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 November 2010 from Ms S Campbell, NAHT Nursery Education Committee, regarding changes to the admissions procedure for enrolement to pre-schools for September 2011.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Campbell’s correspondence to the Department for comment.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence from Ms K Pauley, Footprints Women’s Centre, acknowleging the excellent work of the Committee regarding its Early Years Event.
(f) The Committee noted an invitation from Healthy Cities Belfast to attend their Annual General meeting at Clifton House, Belfast on 8 December 2010.
(g) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 22 November 2010 entitled ‘St Cecilia’s College Derry is a valuable educational asset – Ruane’.
(h) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 23 November 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister attends opening of new St Dominic’s High School’.
(i) The Committee noted copy correspondence of 22 November 2010 from the Minister of Education to the Speaker enclosing a written Ministerial Statement to be issued on 23 November 2010 entitled ‘Procurement in the Education Sector’.
(j) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 23 November 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister’s statement to Assembly on procurement’.
(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 November 2010 from the Public Accounts Committee enclosing its Report entitled ‘The Management of Substitution Cover for Teachers: Follow-up Report’.
Mr J Craig joined the meeting at 2.45pm
5. Any Other Business
Agreed – the Committee would send electronic Christmas cards.
6. Presentation by Assembly Research on School Starting Age and Early Years Provision
An Assembly Research Officer provided a briefing on ‘School Starting Age and Early Years Provision’ and answered Members’s questions.
Agreed – the Committee would request a follow-up briefing from Assembly Research on neurological development in the context of early years provision and on the differences in the ways in which young boys and girls learn during early years and requested Assembly Research to liaise with the Department’s statisticians regarding any alternative to FSME as a measure of social and economic deprivation.
7. Presentation on Primary School Starting Age
Mark Langhammer, Director, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), NI, Siobhan McQuaid, Vice Principal, Holy Family PS, Liz Fawcett, Parent and Roisin Gilheany, Parent joined the meeting at 3.02 pm.
The witnesses provided a briefing on Primary School Starting Age: the case for greater flexibility for NI and answered Members’ questions on a number of issues including: their particular perspective on the issue of school starting age; ATL’s survey evidence and the percentage of responses favouring greater flexibility; the percentage of children whose parents might opt to start school a year later; what safeguards might be appropriate where parents could opt for their child to start school later and whether any stigma would attach to such children; the significant differences between the options on school starting age which the witnesses were presenting; the home-schooling option and the extent to which the education authorities check that this is taking place; whether the Revised Curriculum Foundation Stage has helped relatively young children; the Department’s guidance to Nursery Schools issued in 2001 on limited flexibility in school starting age and the clarification provided in 2007 withdrawing this flexibility; whether flexibility in school starting age should be addressed in the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy; flexibility for children who start school too late and the expertise in pre-school settings to advise parents; how requests to defer school start for a year should be dealt with where the children’s home environment was chaotic and primary school would provide a better environment; the risk of conflict of interest where a pre-school provider’s advice on a child’s readiness to leave and start school might affect the provider financially; the way in which school starting age is managed in Scotland; what ‘knock-on’ effects there may be for children starting at an older age, and on their peers, at transition points;
Agreed – the Committee would seek legal advice on the witnesses’ suggestion that Article 45 of the Education and Libraries (NI) 1986 Order might be read as providing some flexibility in school starting age.
Agreed – the Committee would request information from the psychology service in each of the E&LBs on how many/what proportion of the children referred to them might have benefited from having an additional year of pre-school and starting school a year later, the nature of the benefit to such children and the likelihood that a referral to the psychology service would have been avoided.
Agreed – the Committee would request the Department’s views on the proposals within the briefing paper provided by the witnesses.
Ms M O’Neill left the meeting at 3.34pm
Ms M McIlveen left the meeting at 3.53pm
Ms M O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 3.55pm
Ms M McIlveen rejoined the meeting at 4.09pm
The witnesses left the meeting at 4.18 pm.
8. For ward Work Programme
The Chairperson confirmed that there would be a Department of Education briefing update on Budget 2010 and the Convergence Delivery Plan at the Committee meeting on 1 December 2010. The Committee noted and agreed the Forward Work Programme.
The Committee discussed a revised draft Committee Motion on an Early Years Children’s Strategy.
Agreed –The Committee agreed the revised draft Committee Motion.
9. Date of the next meeting
The next Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday 1 December 2010 at 2.00pm in Room 21, Parliament Building.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.25pm.
Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
1 December 2010