Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 10.36 am in open session.

The Committee noted the tabled items.

Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson reported on his meeting with the Principal of Howard Primary School, Dungannon, that the Principal would write to the Committee regarding the issue of disability access.

Agreed: The Committee would forward this correspondence, when received, to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Shared Education Programme and the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations had been invited to the Committee’s Stakeholder Event on 29 June 2011.

The Chairperson informed the Committee of the arrangements normally made by committees for dealing with information requests during periods of recess, including FoI requests.

Agreed: the Committee woulddelegate authority to the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson during periods of recess to submit views on the releasing or withholding of information in any non-routine or contentious FoI requests received and that the Committee would be advised of any such requests, the views expressed by the Chairperson and/or Deputy Chairperson and the response issued by the FoI Unit, at the first available meeting following the recess period.

The Chairperson outlined how correspondence received over the summer might be managed.

Agreed: all correspondence would be acknowledged by the Committee Office and the writers informed that the Committee would consider their correspondence at its first meeting in September 2011; a Correspondence Pack would be sent out to Members by email at end of July or more frequently if necessary; any invitations received and Departmental News Releases would be emailed to Members as they are received in the Committee Office; the Clerk would liaise with the Chairperson (or in his absence the Deputy Chairperson) regarding any urgent items that arise and Members would be informed by email of any action required during recess; all correspondence and invitations will be included in the pack for the first meeting in September 2011.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft Minutes of 22 June 2011

The Committee approved the minutes of the 22 June 2011.

3. Matters Arising

  1. The Committee noted correspondence of 8 June 2011 from the SELB regarding information from the education psychology services on the impact of children being allowed an additional year of pre-school and starting school a year late.
  2. The Committee noted correspondence of 9 June 2011 from the BELB clarifying that the response from its Educational Psychology Service on the impact of children being allowed an additional year of pre-school and starting school a year late was not a response on behalf of all E&LB psychology services.
  3. The Committee noted correspondence of 11 June 2011 from Dr L Fawcett requesting information relating to school starting age. 
    Agreed: the Committee would write to Dr Fawcett in the terms of the draft letter at 3.l below to inform her that the Committee is pursuing responses from all E&LBs and, once the Committee has considered all these responses, it would share them with Dr Fawcett; the Committee would commission the legal advice and research referred to in Dr Fawcett’s correspondence.
  4. The Committee noted a list of individuals from an education background who were successful in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2011 Round.
    Agreed: the Committee Office would check whether there were any education sector workers who received honours but have yet to receive letters of congratulations from the Committee.
  5. The Committee noted correspondence of 20 June 2011 from the Committee for Employment and Learning enclosing a list of prize winners from the Sentinus ‘Young Innovators’ event. 
    Agreed: the Committee would write a letter of congratulations to all prize winners which Sentinus would forward to them.
  6. The Committee noted correspondence of 20 June 2011 from the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister enclosing a copy of the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for Department of Education, June 2011.
  7. The Committee noted correspondence of 23 June 2011 from the Department of Education on the progress made to date on the 13 school building projects announced by the previous Minister of Education on 5 August 2010.
  8. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 23 June 2011 from the Department of Education to Ms G McTier regarding school admissions.
  9. The Committee noted an apology from Mr P Hewitt in relation to the Committee Stakeholder Event on 29 June 2011.
  10. The Committee noted proposed content for media coverage in relation to the Committee Stakeholder Event on 29 June 2011. 
    Agreed: the draft media items were approved;
  11. The Committee noted correspondence of 28 June 2011 from the Minister for Education in relation to the information requests in the Chairperson’s letter of 15 June 2011.
  12. The Committee noted a draft letter to Dr L Fawcett – see 3.c above.
  13. The Committee noted again correspondence of 25 March 2011 from the Department of Education regarding issues raised by Mrs L Saunders on the findings of the Information Commissioner on the collection and sharing of information from schools with the Department and the E&LBs (previously noted at the Committee meeting of 25 May 2011 when it was formally resolved to request access to the relevant background correspondence and bring it back to Committee) and now noted correspondence from Mrs Saunders of 17 June 2011 to the present Committee for Education on the publication of the Committee’s minutes on the Assembly website, the handling of her previous correspondence and protocols for handling Committee correspondence, and 21 March 2011 and 14 March 2011 to the 2007-11 Committee for Education, on a number of subjects including:
    • the comments of Chairperson of the Department’s Audit and Risk Committees and the Chief Executive of WELB on the DE & WELB Internal Audit Report on the Strategic Direction and Governance of C2K, as recorded in the minutes of the WELB Audit Committee meeting on 16 December 2010;
    • the legal basis for the collection and sharing of information from schools with the Department and E&LBs, the breadth of the power and the impact of an amendment to that power previously proposed by the Department;
    • an ICT seminar scheduled for 25/3/11 to be addressed by the Director of C2K.
    Agreed: the Committee would submit the issues raised by Mrs Saunders in her email of 21 March 2011 and related correspondence to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), via the Public Accounts Committee, for his comment, and, when the Committee has considered the C&AG’s views, the Committee would provide Mrs Saunders with a copy of same. 
    Agreed: the Clerk would draft, and the Chairperson would clear, a letter to Mrs Saunders regarding the handling of Committee correspondence.
  14. The Committee noted the following correspondence to the 2007-11 Committee for Education, received after that Committee’s final meeting:
    1. Correspondence dated 15 March 2011 from the Minister for Education commenting on the ‘portfolio of advice provided by an Education Advisory Panel (EAP) to a Cross Party Education Group examining post-primary transfer.’
    2. Correspondence dated 18 March 2011 from the Department of Education on the delay in completion of Post Project Evaluations (PPEs) in respect of DE.
    3. Correspondence dated 18 March 2011 from the Department of Education on school transport issues.
    4. Correspondence dated 21 March 2011 from the Department of Education on the appointment of a STEM Champion.
    5. Correspondence dated 21 March 2011 from the Minister for Education on the 2007-11Committee for Education’s response on the draft Education Budget.
    6. Correspondence dated 22 March 2011 from the Department of Education enclosing an analysis report on the consultation on the Department’s draft Community Relations, Equality and Diversity in Education Policy together with a copy of the Final Policy.
    7. Correspondence dated 23 March 2011 from the Department of Education on a new school build for Dromintee Primary School.

4. Correspondence

  1. The Committee noted correspondence of 7 June 2011 from Energy Efficient Lighting regarding fluorescent lighting costs.
  2. The Committee noted correspondence of 16 June 2011 from the Charity Commission Northern Ireland enclosing new guidance for campaigning and political activity.
  3. The Committee noted correspondence of 20 June 2011 from the Department of Education regarding the Common Funding Scheme 2011-12 under the Local Management of Schools arrangements. 
    Agreed: the Committee would commission an Assembly Research briefing paper on this subject and an oral and written briefing from Departmental officials for September 2011.
  4. The Committee noted correspondence of 20 June 2011 from the Department of Education on May 2011 – Outturn and Forecast Outturn.
  5. The Committee noted correspondence of 23 June 2011 from the Department of Education regarding draft DE Revised Equality Scheme, Audit of Inequalities and Action Plan.
    Agreed: the Committee would commission an Assembly Research briefing paper on this subject and an oral and written briefing from Departmental officials for September/October 2011.
  6. Subject to the matters specifically agreed below, Members noted the following conferences, invitations and meeting requests:
    • NEELB–Invitation to the ‘Shared Education - The Next Steps’ conference on 28 September 2011in the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick; Agreed: the Committee would attend this conference and the Clerk would report back to the first Committee meeting in September on options for the Committee attending/participating in this conference.
    • Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists – Requested dated 16 June 2011to meet with Committee to discuss their ‘Giving Voice’ campaign; 
      Agreed: the Committee would write to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists to inform them that they would be invited to a Committee Stakeholder Event in autumn 2011.
    • Minister of Finance and Personnel - Invitation to the NIRTA Summer Business and Parliamentary Reception on 30 June 2011 in Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.
    • The Committee noted correspondence of 22 June 2011 from Fleming Fulton School inviting the Committee to visit the school. 
      Agreed: the Committee would visit Fleming Fulton School and the Clerk would prepare a draft programme for the Committee’s consideration.
    • Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities - invitation to a seminar on 20 June 2011 to mark the launch of its report on racial equality in post-primary schools.
  7. Members noted the following publications:
    • Department of Education – Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance Implementation Plan Update Report.
    • Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards – Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2011
  8. Members noted the following press releases previously emailed to Members:
    • Education Minister praises special education sector.
    • Vocational training can cook up better career opportunities – O’Dowd.
    • Education Minister celebrates success in our schools.
    • Education Minister agrees to closure of Vere Foster Primary School.
    • Minister concerned at further examinations error.
    • Education Minister presents prizes at St Mary’s Gortnaghey PS, Dungiven, and honours Vice Principal’s 40 years of commitment.
    • Appointment of members to the Education and Library Boards.
    • St Teresa’s Primary School, Lurgan celebrates 50 th Anniversary.
    • Youth Work is an important part of the education system – O’Dowd
    • O’Dowd highlights important role of GAA in schools.
    • O’Dowd and Farry hold first bilateral meeting.
  9. The Committee noted correspondence dated 23 June 2011 from Mr H Ritchie on the DEL budget for higher education. 
    Agreed: the Committee would refer this correspondence to the Committee for Employment and Learning and inform Mr Ritchie accordingly.
  10. The Committee noted correspondence received in the Committee office on 27 June 2011 from Soroptimist International’s Downpatrick club on the use of its Carbon Footprint leaflet as an educational use in schools. 
    Agreed: the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education for its views on this initiative and inform this group accordingly.
  11. The Committee noted a request of 24 June 2011 from the Committee for Employment and Learning to forward correspondence on the teacher demand model to the Department of Education; 
    Agreed: the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education and request to be copied in on the Department’s response.
  12. The Committee noted correspondence of 28 June 2011 from the Public Accounts Committee on its forward work programme.
  13. The Committee noted correspondence of 27 June 2011 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on End Year Flexibility Replacement Scheme.
  14. The Committee noted correspondence of 27 June 2011 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Executive’s Review of Financial Process.

5. Departmental Briefing – Procurement Modernisation

Mr John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Mrs Caroline Gillan, Director of Procurement Modernisation and Dr Suzanne Kingon, Procurement Modernisation Team provided an oral briefing on procurement modernisation and answered Members questions.

6. Departmental Briefing – CCEA Expenses

Mr John McGrath, Deputy Secretary and Mr Gavin Boyd, Interim Chief Executive of CCEA provided an oral briefing on CCEA expenses and answered Members questions.

Agreed: Mr Boyd agreed to provide the Committee with information about the differences between the existing CCEA salary scales and the proposed salary scales, including performance related pay, which constituted a breach of the CCEA’s rules of governance/Financial Memorandum and led to Department’s intervention.

Mr T Lunn left the meeting at 12.58pm

The Committee moved into closed session at 1.15pm

7. Committee Discussion – Priorities and options for Committee Reviews or Inquiries, visits and events

The Committee received a briefing from Assembly Research on a range of possible areas of interest for the Committee.

Agreed: the Committee would carry out thematic work in relation to Shared Education; the Committee would look at the role of school governors and schools councils with a view to carrying out a review or inquiry in these areas.

8. Written Departmental Briefing – Reform of Education Administration and RPA

The Committee noted a Department of Education written briefing on Reform of Education Administration and RPA.

9. Written Departmental Briefing – Area Planning and Sustainable Schools

The Committee noted a Department of Education written briefing on Area Planning and Sustainable Schools.

10. Written Departmental Briefing – Performance against PSA targets

The Committee noted a Department of Education written briefing on DE performance against PSA targets.

11. Any other business

A member reminded the Committee that Departmental officials at the Committee meeting on 15 June 2011 had promised the Committee a briefing paper on Sensory Processing Disorder.

Agreed: the Committee would write to remind officials that they had agreed to email this paper to the Committee on the afternoon of 15 June 2011.

12. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 7 September 2011 at 10.30 am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.37pm.

Mervyn Storey MLA 
Chairperson, Committee for Education
7 September 2011

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