Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.07pm in public session.

1. Apologies

As above.

2. Minutes of the Meetings of 18 and 19 January 2011

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meetings of 18 and 19 January 2011.

Mr J O’Dowd joined the meeting at 2.08pm.

3. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence from Mr E McArdle, GTCNI on its congratulations regarding his inclusion regarding the New Years Honours List.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 January 2011 from the Department of Education indicating that the Minister of Education supported the principle of the Autism Bill, but noting the Bill’s potential to ‘generate a hierarchy of special education needs, to create an imbalance in the budget available for all special educational needs and to impose unnecessary bureaucracy on autism services for children’.

Agreed – the Clerk would liase with the Clerk to the Health Committee regarding a meeting of the Chairpersons of both Committees to discuss the Autism Bill.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 January 2011 from the Minister of Education to the Chairperson of the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety on the Autism Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 January 2011 from the Chairperson of the Chairperson of the Committee for Education to the Minister of Education regarding the meeting with the Finance Minister on End Year Flexibility funding.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 21 January 2011 from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety requesting the views of Department of Education officials on ‘whether the Autism Bill would give priority to children with autism over children with other SEN’.

Agreed – the Committee approved the forwarding of this request to the Department of Education.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 October 2010 from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on the British Lung Foundation’s campaign to ban smoking in cars where children under 18 years of age are present.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to Ms N Blair for information.

(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 January 2011 from the Minister of Education to the Chairperson of the Committee for the Environment regarding the Planning Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Committee for the Environment.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 January 2011 from the Minister of Education regarding water damage to schools as a result of the extreme weather conditions over the Christmas period and Members expressed to senior Department of Education officials at Committee their concerns about the effectiveness of current arrangements in the event of further severe weather and the need to review and update arrangements.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 January 2011 from the Department of Education on December 2010 – Outturn and Forecast Outturn.

Mr J O’Dowd left the meeting at 2.15pm.

4. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted a correspondence of 13 January 2011 from the NEXUS Institute requesting the opportunity to meet informally with the Committee regarding awareness of sexual violence.

Agreed – The Clerk would arrange an informal meeting.

(b) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 19 January 2011 entitled ‘End year Flexibility funding can be restored – Ruane’.

(c) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 20 January 2011 entitled ‘Funding increase announced for private/voluntary pre-schools’.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence from Healthy Cities Belfast enclosing a copy of its 2009-10 Annual Report.

(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 20 January 2011 entitled ‘Investment in schools’ estate is vital – Ruane’.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence from Volunteer Now enclosing a copy of their briefing paper on the work of volunteers in the delivery of the services supporting the work of the Department of Education.

(g) The Committee noted an invitation of 20 January 2011 from Business in the Community to the launch of ‘Time to Read’ Research on 26 January 2011 in Ulster Museum.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 January 2011 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on Monitoring of Departmental Efficiency Delivery Plans.

(i) The Committee noted copy correspondence of 18 January 2011 sent to the Minister of Education from Ms K Purdy.

(j) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 21 January 2011entitled ‘Ruane discuss key issues at NSMC meeting in Armagh’.

(k) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 21 January 2011 entitled ‘Ruane and Wilson safeguard school funding’.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request details of, and a copy of, the decision of the Executive in 2008 that the EYF of schools and E&LBs would be guaranteed, and would copy this letter to the Committee for Finance and Personnel.

Agreed – the Committee would request that the Department of Education keeps the Committee informed on the developing arrangements to implement the recent agreement reached on schools’ EYF between the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance and Personnel.

(l) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 21 January 2011 entitled ‘Sport plays a vital role in children’s development – Ruane’.

(m) The Committee noted correspondence of 21 January on behalf of the NAHT (NI) Nursery Committee regarding an increase in funding for private/voluntary pre-school places.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department for comment on the specific issues raised.

 

(n) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 January 2011 from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment on the NI Executive Economic Strategy – Priorities for Sustainable Growth: Consultation Document.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department for any comment it may have on the consultation.

(o) The Committee noted correspondence regarding a temporary project carried out on behalf of the five Education and Library Boards.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Public Accounts Committee.

(p) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 January 2011 from Autism NI enclosing a copy of its response to the Department of Education, Early Years (0-6) Strategy.

(q) The Committee noted an invitation of 21 January 2011 from The Spirit of Enniskillen to attend their Schools’ Conference on 3 February 2011 in Wellington Park Hotel, Belfast.

Mr J O’Dowd rejoined the meeting at 2.42pm.

5. Departmental Briefing on the DE 2011-15 Draft Budget: Draft Allocations and Savings Proposals

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Mark McNaughton, Director of Finance and Diarmuid McClean, Director of Investment and Infrastructure joined the meeting at 2.42pm.

A Member proposed that the Committee hold a stakeholder event to inform the Committee’s scrutiny of the Department’s 2011-15 Draft Budget Allocation and Savings Proposals.

Agreed – the Clerk would bring back to Members a proposal for such an event.

The witnesses, continuing on from the DE 2011-15 Draft Budget Allocation and Savings Proposals evidence session on 25 January 2011, answered Members’ questions on a number of issues including: details of the Department’s proposed spending plans at this stage could be misleading; how professional support for schools organisations would know how much they had to save; whether savings proposals could be achieved within the first financial year; the potential for further savings by further reducing sickness absence; how saving plans would be affected by the Voluntary Severance Programme – for example should it not produce the expected savings; anticipated take up of the Voluntary Severance Programme, when schools will be informed of their Budget allocations for next year; the transfer of £41million monies from Capital to Resource, the impact on ASG without such a transfer and whether further such transfers would be required in 2012/13 to pay severance/redundancy costs; the need for cooperation between school authorities/employers in rationalising the schools estate; the £300 million maintainance costs backlog; when the Committee will be informed how much money the Minister hopes to receive from potential additional revenue raising sources referred to in the Executive’s Draft Budget; lessons to be learned from the agreement between the Ministers of Education and Finance & Personnel on EYF; whether the Executive wll realise an additional £800m revenue, the potential ‘nightmare scenario’ in Year 4 for schools and the need for all Executive Ministers to cooperate on Budget; the cost of the extension of Free Schools meals entitlement; whether small schools are sustainable under the new Budget proposals; the monies for SEN capacity building in light of views expressed on SEN and Inclusion Strategy Consultation and the importance of keeping this budget line open; the extra money allocated to private/voluntary pre-schools in the current financial year in the context of consultation on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy; the ending of funded substitute teacher cover for transfer interviews conducted after 4 February 2011 prior to consultation on this change; the removal of the re-imbursement of GTC teacher registration costs;

Mr J O’Dowd left the meeting at 2.45pm.

Mr D Hilditch left the meeting at 3.13pm.

Mr J O’Dowd rejoined the meeting at 3.30pm.

Ms M O’Neill left the meeting at 3.35pm.

Mr D Hilditch rejoined the meeting at 3.43pm.

Mr J Craig left the meeting at 3.45pm.

Mr B McCrea left the meeting at 3.50pm

Ms M O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 3.58pm.

Mr B McCrea rejoined the meeting at 4.07pm

The witnesses left the meeting at 4.15pm.

Agreed – the Clerk would prepare a draft Interim Committee Response to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Department of Education’s Draft Budget 2011-15 to reflect the Committee’s discussion (including Committee correspondence) and the issues and concerns raised with the Department and circulate this for Members’ comments/approval prior to submission to the Finance and Personnel Committee.

Mr J O’Dowd left the meeting at 4.23

6. Forward Work Programme

The Committee considered and agreed an amended forward work programme.

7. Date and Time of Next Meeting

The next Committee meeting will be on Wednesday 2 February 2011 at 10.30am in St Pius X, Magherafelt.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.27pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
2 February 2011

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