Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Venue: Senate Chamber

The meeting commenced at 10.33 am in open session. 

Apologies 

Apologies are detailed above.

Chairpersons Business

The Chairperson welcomed Danny Kinahan as deputy Chairperson to replace Mike Nesbitt. The Chairperson congratulated Mike Nesbitt on his elevation to party leader and thanked him for his work on the Committee to date.  

Members noted the declaration of interest tabled by Danny Kinahan.  

Agreed – to include an update on progress in relation to the Middletown Centre in the agenda for next week’s meeting.  

1. Draft Minutes of 21 March 2012 

The Committee approved the minutes of the meeting on 21 March 2012 as amended. 

 2. Matters Arising

2.1. The Committee noted correspondence of 14 March 2012 from the Department of Education regarding Prompt Payments and Post Project Evaluations.

Agreed –

- that the Committee would write to the department to request the following: 

- An explanation of the mechanisms which could be put in place to address the problem of late payment.

- A breakdown of the amount of money outstanding against the invoices.

- A copy of the guidance provided by the department to ELBS in relation to prompt payments.

2.2. The Committee noted correspondence of 15 March 2012 from the Committee for the Environment regarding School Transport Health and Safety Issues.

The Committee noted correspondence of 26 March and 30 March 2012 from the Department of Education regarding School Transport health and Safety issues.

Agreed-

- That the Permanent Secretary would be invited along with senior officials from the Department of Environment to provide a briefing in relation to school transport and health and safety.

- To request that the department provide detail in advance of the briefing as to the licensing arrangements for drivers working for private companies.

- To request that the department keep the Committee informed of any prosecutions and follow-up carried out in relation to failed inspections.

- That the Clerk would provide Danny Kinahan with all relevant background information in relation to this issue including the presentation from the Federation of Transport.

Mr Lunn left the meeting at 10.52am.

2.3. The Committee noted correspondence of 16 March 2012 from the Chairperson of the All Party Group on Rugby regarding funding.

Agreed -

- To write to the Department to express disappointment that rugby will not receive separate funding given that it is referred to as one of the three main sports in N.I, and to ask what liaison there has been with other relevant departments regarding the issues raised.

- To request that the Department provide an update on the Sports Strategy.

2.4. The Committee noted correspondence of 15 March 2012 from the Minister for Education regarding the Education Maintenance Allowance.

2.5 The Committee noted correspondence of 20 March 2012 from the Middletown Centre for Autism thanking the Committee for their visit.

2.6. The Committee noted correspondence of 21 March 2012 from the Department of Education regarding the SEN and Inclusion Review.

Agreed - To ask the Department to provide the following information in advance of 9 May briefing:

- Whether it is intended that the new proposals will be cost neutral.

- What provision is being made under the new policy in relation to the GTC bursary and training for teachers dealing with SEN.

- Seek an assurance that dedicated support will continue in mainstream schools for SEN.

- The criteria used to determine which cases are outsourced and the number of cases which are outsourced for assessment and associated costs.

2.7. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 21 March 2012 from the Minister for Education to the Chairperson of the Committee for OFMdFM regarding proposals to reform the NI Ombudsman Office.

2.8. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 20 March 2012 from the Minister for Education to Dolores Kelly, MLA regarding the laying of a Public Petition entitled ‘Save Drumcree College’.

2.9. The Committee noted correspondence of 26 March 2012 regarding pre-school places, and considered it with item 3.10.

2.10. The Committee noted correspondence of 27 March 2012 from the Department of Education regarding the number of children not in education, the number of children accepted into the Northern Ireland education system with an SEN statement received in another jurisdiction and the number of children issued with a statement in Northern Ireland but are being educated elsewhere.

2.11. The Committee noted correspondence of 27 March 2012 from the Department of Education regarding PEDU 2.

2.12. The Committee noted correspondence of 27 March from the Department of Education regarding equality for funding provision for inset training.

Agreed:

- To forward the responses received from the Area Learning Communities as well as the department’s response to OCR Ireland for information and further comment.

- To ask CCEA how much funding has been returned over the last six years.

Mr McDevitt left the meeting at 11.02am.

Mr Lunn re-joined the meeting at 11.05am.

2.13. The Committee noted correspondence of 29 March 2012 from the Department of Education on ASCL regarding education commitments in the draft PfG.

2.14. The Committee noted correspondence of 13 March 2012 from the Assembly and Executive Review Committee regarding a review of parts III and IV of the Northern Ireland Act in the context of the Size of the NI Assembly and the number of Departments.

2.15. The Committee noted correspondence of 29 March from the Committee for OFMdFM regarding the proposed abolition of the Department for Employment and Learning.

Agreed – that the Clerk will draft a response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister following consideration of the response from the department, taking into account any comments from members.

2.16. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 April 2012 from the Committee for Justice regarding the Child Poverty Act 2010.

2.17. The Committee noted correspondence of 5 April 2012 from the Department of Education regarding an error in the CCEA mathematics paper.

Agreed

- To forward the response from the Department to Mr Nicholson, and inform him that it is satisfied that the matter has been resolved satisfactorily.

- To request a copy of the action plan from CCEA .

- To request that the Department monitor and review the implementation of the action plan.

Mr McDevitt re-joined the meeting at 11.25am.

3. Correspondence

3.1. The Committee noted an invitation of 5 March 2012 from the NEELB inviting the Committee to their TV studio to view the work that has been carried out on the Department of Education’s Every School A Good School Website.

Agreed – that members would inform Committee staff if they wished to visit the studio.

3.2. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 13 March 2012 from Beechlawn School to all parents/guardians of pupils in Year 12 regarding post-16 provision at the school.

3.3. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 15 March 2012 from Portora Royal School to the Chief Executive of the WELB regarding collaboration with Collegiate Girls’ Grammar School.

3.4. The Committee noted correspondence of 23 March 2012 from the Speaker regarding the laying of a Public Petition on the possible closure of the Woodlands Speech and Language Centre.

3.5. The Committee noted various pieces of correspondence from parents regarding the potential closure of St Aidan’s High School, Derrylin.

Agreed

- To seek clarification from the Department at their briefing in relation to the Viability Audit and how the Minister plans to deal with schools that are achieving academically but do not meet all the criteria set out in the Viability Audit.

- To write to parents informing them of the agreed action above.

- To ask the Department at next week’s briefing what system of communication is in place in relation to Area Planning reports and the process by which boards of governors keep parents informed. 

3.6. The Committee noted correspondence of 24 March 2012 from Ms McAlister regarding the Dickson Plan in the Craigavon Area.

Agreed – to invite Ms McAlister to the Committee’s Area Based Planning and Viability Audit event later this session.

3.7. The Committee noted correspondence from APTIS regarding their response to the Department of Education’s area planning guidance.

Agreed – to re-consider this correspondence under the Department’s briefing session on the Viability Audit.

Mr McDevitt left the meeting at 11.41am.

3.8. The Committee noted correspondence of 27 March 2012 from the Committee for Justice regarding the draft Community Safety Strategy.

Agreed –

- That the Clerk would amend the draft response and email to members for their comment.

- To forward the response as amended to the Committee for Justice.

3.9. The Committee noted correspondence of 28 March 2012 from the Committee for OFMdFM enclosing a copy of the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for the Department of Education for March 2012.

3.10. The Committee noted correspondence from parents regarding the allocation of pre-school places.

Agreed -

- to forward the correspondence to the department for comment at a policy level requesting:

- An update on the statistics for successful 1st choice and 2nd choice placement as well as those who were unsuccessful.

- An analysis as to whether it is appropriate for children to travel outside their local area to attend pre-school given that the Minister actively encourages children to take up primary and post primary school places locally.

- That the Department take urgent action to review the pre-school application process.

Agreed – that the clerk discuss with Assembly Research Services a draft terms of reference for a possible inquiry into pre-school places and to liaise with the Sub-Group on Children and Young People.

3.11. The Committee noted correspondence of 5 April 2012 from Save the Children regarding the impact of poverty on young children’s experience of school.

Agreed – the Committee would invite Save the Children to one of its future stakeholder events.

3.12. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 April 2012 from the Fermanagh Trust inviting the Committee to visit the shared education programme in Fermanagh.

Agreed- that Danny Kinahan and Trevor Lunn would attend the Fermanagh Trust and that other members would inform Committee staff of they wish to attend.

3.13. The Committee noted correspondence of 11 April 2012 from SIPTU regarding a dispute between the Department of Education and An Droichead regarding funding.

Agreed - the Committee would forward SIPTU’s correspondence to the Department asking for their comments on a policy level for examples such as this.

- The Committee would write to SIPTU advising them of this.

3.14. The Committee noted the following invitations:

  • NAHT – Annual Conference on 17 & 18 May 2012;
  • Department of Education – NI Civil Service Live Event on 24 April 2012; and
  • Barnardo’s NI – Seminar to explore the potential of building a community schools strategy for Northern Ireland on 29 May 2012.

3.15. The Committee noted the following Department of Education News Releases previously emailed to Members:

  • Education Minister addresses Millennium Volunteers;
  • Minister announces closure of Ballkeigle Primary School;
  • O’Dowd visits school and outdoor education centre in South Down;
  • Attendance at grant-aided primary, post-primary and special schools 2010/11: Detailed statistics;
  • O’Dowd approves closure of Redburn Primary School;
  • Department of Education statement on pre-school admissions;
  • Minister agrees co-educational provision at Cygnet Preparatory School, Bangor;
  • O’Dowd approves part-time nursery unit at Tonagh Primary School, Lisburn.

4. NCB Northern Ireland briefing on the Committee’s Inquiry into School Councils

Celine McStravick, Director and Gill Hassard, Participation Officer joined the meeting at 12.02pm and provided the Committee with a briefing on their participation support for schools programme.

Mr Lunn left the meeting at 12.23pm.

Mrs Dobson left the meeting at 12.29pm.

Mrs Dobson re-joined the meeting at 12.36pm.

5. Departmental Briefing on the Teacher Education Review

Marie McGrellis,Nicole Breslin and Niamh McGough, ambassadors for Save the Children joined the meeting at 12.40pm and provided the Committee with a briefing on School Councils and other ways children can engage and contribute in schools.

Agreed – that the ambassadors would provide additional information to the Committee regarding social media and how it is used in a positive way to promote their work.

6. Forward Work Programme

Members considered and agreed the draft forward work programme.

7. Any Other Business

8. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 25 April 2012 at 10.30 am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.15pm.

Mervyn Storey MLA
Chairperson, Committee for Education
25 April 2012

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