Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings
The meeting commenced at 10.32 am in open session.
The Committee noted the tabled items.
The Chairperson informed Members that the Minister of Education is planning to make a statement to the Assembly on Monday 26 September 2011 and that the Minister will brief the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson on the contents of his statement in advance.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Draft Minutes of 14 September 2011
The Committee approved the minutes of the 14 September 2011.
3. Matters Arising
- The Committee noted correspondence of 13 September 2011 from the Department of Education enclosing a response from the Minister for Education to APTIS regarding budget concerns.
Agreed – The Committee would write to inform the Minister that the Committee was supportive of all schools affected by the issues raised by APTIS and asking to be informed of the outcome of the Minister’s meeting with APTIS.
Agreed – the Committee would write to APTIS to express the Committee’s support for all schools affected by the concerns raised and inform APTIS that the Committee had asked the Minister to keep it informed on the outcome of his meeting with APTIS.
Agreed – the Committee would request the Department to provide a breakdown on mobile classroom use by sector and E&LB.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 13 September 2011 from the Department of Education enclosing a response from the Minister of Education to the Omagh Learning Community regarding budget concerns.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister to indicate that it is sympathetic to the concerns raised by the Omagh Learning Community and would write to inform Omagh Learning Community accordingly.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 16 September 2011 from the Chairperson of the Committee for OFMdFM regarding the lack of democratic representation on the SEELB.
Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Minister for Education on behalf of the Chairperson of the Committee for OFMdFM and ask to be copied in on the response.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 16 September 2011 from the Department of Education enclosing additional information on sensory processing disorder.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 19 September 2011 from the Committee for OFMdFM enclosing the September 2011, Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for the Department of Education.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 14 September 2011 from Mr Ian Houston regarding prompt payments.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to request a breakdown of E&LBs performance on prompt payments and to ask the Department to respond to the issues raised in this correspondence, and Mr Houston’s correspondence of 7 September 2011, at the briefing on 12 October 2011 regarding Budget.
- The Committee noted correspondence 8 September 2011 from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) regarding the Memorandum of Reply (MoR) on a PAC Report entitled ‘The management of Substitution Cover for Teachers: Follow-up Report.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister of Education to ask him what action he proposed taking on foot of the resolution of the Assembly in relation to the employment prospects of newly qualified teachers on 20 September 2011.
Agreed – the Committee would also write to request:
- that the information in Figure 3 of the Department’s MoR, showing a breakdown of substitution cover by category, be supplemented by columns showing each category cost as a percentage of total salary costs in 2009/10 and 2010/11.
- an analysis of trends emerging across categories of substitution cover and the specific steps being taken by DE/E&LBs to address these trends;
- that the Department position in relation to the robustness of the breakdown provided in Figure 3, in light of the somewhat qualified reliance which officials believed could be placed on them, and whether the Public Accounts Committee should be advised of any reservations the Department may have;
- details of what action, if any, is planned to assess (for example by sampling, external audit etc) the robustness of the categorisation of substitution cover and to ensure its robustness in the future;
- In this context the Committee agreed to request a copy of the guidance from DE/E&LBs to schools on how substitution cover should be classified in the returns from which the information in Figure 3 is compiled.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 9 September 2011 from the NAHT regarding pre-school education.
Agreed – the Committee would commission Assembly Research to produce an evaluation on the various issues raised by the NAHT regarding pre-school education and would write to the NAHT to inform them of this.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 12 September 2011 from the Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards enclosing a Report detailing new policies screened by the E&LBs.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 9 September 2011 from the Ulster Teachers’ Union requesting a meeting with the Committee to discuss the issues that were debated at their recent conference.
Agreed – the Chairperson would meet with the UTU on behalf of the Committee to discuss issues around education policy.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 15 September 2011 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on monitoring post project evaluations.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to request an explanation on why it is responsible for 77% of outstanding PPE’s due before the 1 April 2010.
- The Committee noted correspondence from Coleraine Primary Principals’ Group regarding convergence and primary funding.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to request that they respond directly to the Principals Group on the issues raised in its correspondence and copy DE’s response to the Committee.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Principals’ Group to inform them of this decision.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 14 September 2011 from Councillor T Jeffers regarding transport assistance.
Agreed – the Committee would write to Councillor Jeffers to inform him that it had written to the Department of Education on 14 September 2011 to ascertain whether there were any plans to review the policy on home to school transport, indicating that a number of Committee Members were of the view that now was the time for such a review to support the Executive’s commitment to achieving sustainability and promoting modal shift.
Agreed - the Committee would inform Councillor Jeffers the Committee was unable to become involved in individual cases due to limited resources and its work priorities.
- Subject to the matters specifically agreed below, Members noted the following conferences, invitations and meeting requests:
- GTCNI– Invitation to launch of Report entitled ‘Teachers’ Voice 2010’;
- Carrickfergus College – Invitation to visit school
Agreed – the Committee would write to Carrickfergus College to congratulate them on their recent exam successes. and to invite them to attend a Committee meeting. The Committee also agreed to drop in on their planned visit to Parliament Buildings in February 2012.
- Members noted the following publications:
- Teachers’ Superannuation Resource Accounts 2010-11
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that they be provided with an update on the Scheme.
- Members noted the following press releases previously emailed to Members:
- Education Minister visits St Colman’s Bann Primary School;
- Education Minister visits Derrylatinee St Francis’ Primary School;
- Education Minister commends Lismore Comprehensive.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 19 September 2011 from the Committee for the Environment regarding reducing energy costs and the Environment Committee’s request that this be forwarded to the Department of Education.
Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 20 September 2011 from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure regarding the dual usage of schools.
Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education for a response on the issues raised, to ask what DE’s input into the Sports Matters Implementation Group entailed and to request copies of any relevant papers.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it be provided with an update regarding the Community Use of Schools Working Group set up by the Department, the Group’s Report that was submitted to DE on 15 March 2010, and to ask whether the Minister has had a chance to consider the Group’s recommendations and his views on the way forward.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request details of its asset management strategy, including how assets are scheduled for disposal; to ask how DE deals with the disposal of assets across the different sectors within education; and, to ascertain what responsibility Boards of Governors have in relation to the disposal of assets.
- The Committee noted correspondence of 15 September 2011 from the Consumer Council enclosing a copy of its Annual Report 2010-11.
- The Committee noted an invitation from Sammy Douglas, MLA, Paul Maskey, MLA and Robin Newton, MLA to an event to celebrate the Fostering Achievement Scheme.
5. Common Funding Scheme 2011-12
Trevor Connolly, Finance Director, Paul Price, Schools Access Team, Mark Mawhinney, Teachers Negotiating and Pensions Policy Team and Ken Reid, School Finance Team provided an oral briefing to the Committee on the Department’s Common Funding Scheme 2011-12 and answered Members’ questions.
Agreed – Officials would provide the Committee with greater detail on what is compassed within the Initiatives category referred to in Figure 3 of the Department’s Memorandum of Reply to the PAC’s Follow-Up Report on the Management of Substitution Cover for Teachers. The Committee would also be provided with the guidance issued by DE to assist schools categorise teacher substitution cover under the headings in Figure 3.
Agreed – the Chairperson would share with other Committee Members the answer to an Assembly question he has asked in relation to £52M additional funding for specific initiatives.
The Committee noted, with thanks, Assembly Research Service’s briefing paper on the Common Funding Scheme.
Officials left the meeting at 12.36pm
6. Compulsory School Starting Age
The meeting moved into closed session at 12.37pm
A Legal Advisor from Assembly Legal Services briefed the Committee and answered Members’ questions.
The meeting moved into public session at 12.48 pm.
An Assembly Research Officer provided the Committee with a briefing entitled “Arguments on the school starting age” and the Committee considered previous correspondence from ATL/ParentsOutloud and noted their email of 31 August 2011 and attachments.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to request details of the average number of children with May/June birthdays likely to be impacted by any flexibility in relation to school starting age and would enclose copies of Assembly Research’s briefing paper.
Agreed – the Committee would forward to the Department copies of the correspondence received from the E&LBs’ psychology services and ask for the Department’s response on the views expressed in BELB’s response.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department in light of the legal advice received seeking clarification of the Department’s position.
Agreed – The Committee would write to ATL/ParentsOutloud enclosing copies of the Research Paper, the correspondence from the E&LBs and to inform them of the action taken by the Committee.
7. Forward Work Programme
Agreed -. The Committee would meet on Tuesday 27 September 2011 to receive a briefing from the Minister for Education on his statement to the Assembly on 26 September 2011 – Putting Pupils First: Shaping Our Future – The Next Steps for Education.
The Clerk updated the Committee on progress made in arranging:
- visits to Fleming Fulton and other schools on the same site;
- visit to St Mary’s, Roe Valley, and its sharing education partners;
- visit to Strabane Academy
Agreed – The Committee noted and approved the draft Forward Work Programme.
Agreed – the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson would meet with the Minister for Education on Monday 26 September 2011 to be briefed on his statement to the Assembly on 26 September 2011 – Putting Pupils First: Shaping Our Future – The Next Steps for Education.
8. Any other business
9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The Committee will be attending the shared Education Conference on 28 September 2011 at 9.00am in the Hilton Hotel, Belfast.
Following the special meeting on Tuesday 27 September the next meeting will be held on Wednesday 5 October 2011 at 10.30 am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 13.04 pm.
Mervyn Storey MLA
Chairperson, Committee for Education
5 October 2011