End of Session Report 12 May 2011 – 31 August 2012

Committee: Committee for Education

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Monday, 12 November 2012

ISBN: Only available online

REMIT, POWERS AND MEMBERSHIP OF THE COMMITTEE

The Committee for Education is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and, under Standing Order 48.

Statutory Committees have been established to advise and assist the appropriate Minister on the formation of policy in relation to matters within his/her responsibilities. Specifically, the Committee has power to:

  • consider and advise on departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • consider relevant secondary legislation and take the committee stage of primary legislation;
  • call for persons and papers;
  • initiate inquiries and make reports; and
  • consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister for Education.

The Committee has 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and a quorum of 5. The membership of the Committee is as follows:

Alliance

Trevor Lunn

Democratic Unionist Party

Mervyn Storey (Chairperson)

 

Jonathan Craig

 

Michelle McIlveen

 

Brenda Hale

Sinn Féin

Daithí McKay

 

Phil Flanagan

 

Michaela Boyle

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Sean Rogers 3

Ulster Unionist Party

Danny Kinahan (Deputy Chairperson) 1,2

 

Jo-Anne Dobson

1 With effect from 31 January 2012 Mr Mike Nesbitt replaced Mr David McNarry

2 With effect from 17 April 2012 Mr Danny Kinahan replaced Mr Mike Nesbitt as Deputy Chairperson

3 With effect from 23 April 2012 Mr Sean Rogers replaced Mr Conall McDevitt

KEY ACTIVITIES, OUTPUTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

INTRODUCTION

The Committee focused on a number of key issues during the first session of the new mandate including:

  • Special Educational Needs (SEN) & inclusion;
  • Viability Audit & Area Planning;
  • School Transport, Health & Safety;
  • Literacy & Numeracy;
  • Pre-school education; and
  • Administration of medication in schools.

In addition, the Committee considered budget issues and the Department’s commitments under the Programme for Government.

The Committee completed an Inquiry into the operation and contribution of School Councils.

The Committee also scrutinised two Statutory Rules.

  • Teachers Superannuation (Amendment) Regulation (NI) 2012; and
  • Pre-School Education in Schools (Admissions Criteria) (Amendment) Regulation (NI) 2012.

 

The Committee held 42 meetings in Parliament Buildings, 40 of which were wholly in public session and 2 which were partly in public session. 


Committee Visit to the Limavady Area Learning Community

INQUIRIES

In October 2011 the Committee launched an inquiry into School Councils.  The purpose of this inquiry was to examine the experience, operation and contribution of School Councils in Northern Ireland, with a view to identifying ways to support and enhance their work.  The Committee also sought to identify other methods of pupil participation which are currently in use, mindful that one method may not fit all schools.

The Committee initially issued a questionnaire to all schools in Northern Ireland - receiving 289 responses. A number of schools were then invited to participate in 7 focus groups, to allow the Committee to gather pupils’ views on this issue.

The Inquiry Report was published on 12 September 2012 and can be found at the following link: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Assembly-Business/Committees/Education/Reports/

The Inquiry Report recommendations included:

  • the development of Departmental guidelines to encourage school management support for school councils or other similar bodies which encourage pupil participation;
  • a requirement for the Department to encourage the formation of a joint Council between schools involved in Area Learning Communities;
  • training to be  provided for pupils and staff who take part in councils and other methods of participation, e.g. minute taking, chairing meetings and report writing;
  • school councils to be given a say in matters that are central to students' daily life in school;
  • membership of school councils to be rotated to allow opportunities for a wider range of pupils; and
  • school councils to report to the school governors; to facilitate this, a dedicated governor to be allocated this duty, or another appropriate formal mechanism put in place.

 

LEGISLATION

No primary legislation was introduced during the 2011-2012 session.

The Committee considered subordinate legislation that increased the level of teachers’ superannuation contributions.  After taking evidence from relevant stakeholders, the Committee agreed that it was content with this amendment to existing Regulations. 

The Committee also scrutinised subordinate legislation which effected a change in the admissions criteria for pre-school education.

BUDGET SCRUTINY

Throughout this session the Committee has considered budgetary issues to be among its key concerns. The Committee received briefings and raised several issues with the Department of Education regarding key issues such as the Common Funding Formula, Monitoring Rounds, Additional Monies, Aggregated School Budget and Capital Budget. 

The Committee has been mindful of the difficulties faced in the education sector during the current economic climate and has borne this in mind when dealing with the Department throughout the session to ensure that best use is made of the resources available.

The Committee was given an overview of the Department’s financial position and the impact of budgetary pressures on schools.  The Committee agreed to write to the Department for further information on various areas of concern including details of extra funds announced by the Minister and how this would be allocated across the sector. The Committee also engaged with each of the Boards to ascertain the pressures they face and how the additional funding will assist in alleviating this.

In addition, the Committee requested a more detailed breakdown of what funding was / was not contractually committed in respect of the Department’s capital funding.

POLICY SCRUTINY

The Committee continued to exercise its scrutiny role over a wide range of Departmental policies, both those currently in place and those under development.

The Committee was particularly focused on the Department’s review of the Special Educational Needs policy, and welcomed the Minister’s engagement with the Committee and stakeholders during the consultation process.

The Committee voiced concern with the Department in relation to its Administration of Medication to Pupils in Schools policy; after extensive engagement with stakeholders and teaching unions, the Committee secured agreement from the Department that the policy would be reviewed.

The Committee has continued to press the Department for a co-ordinated and comprehensive Early Years, 0-6 strategy and will continue to do so in the coming session.

The Committee also reviewed and commented on: Viability Audits; the Teacher Education Review; Community Use of Schools; the withdrawal by the Department of Circular 1979/10 and its impact on the future of the NI Youth Forum; Literacy & Numeracy; and School Transport - Health and Safety issues.

The Committee will be continuing its scrutiny of these issues in the coming session.

Committee for Education visit to the Limavady Area Learning Community

VISITS

During the session the Committee made a number of visits. These included a visit to the campus of Fleming Fulton; Glenveagh; Harberton;and Oakwood Special Schools. The Committee also visited the Middletown Centre for Autism – this visit was designed to inform Members’ consideration of the Department’s Special Educational Needs proposals and related funding.  The Committee also visited Bombardier Aerospace and schools in the Limavady Area Learning Community.

Education Committee Members at Fleming Fulton Special School

Education Members at the Middletown Centre for Autism

On behalf of the Committee, the Chairperson attended the Shared Education Conference; the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition; and the Sentinus Young Innovators Event.

INFORMAL MEETINGS AND EVENTS

The Committee held a total of 7 events and informal meetings.  During the session the Committee received a number of requests from organisations to meet with them to discuss key issues such as Special Educational Needs; the administration of medication and full service community schools. 

Education Members at the Administration of Medication Event

The Committee also set up informal sessions to discuss individual issues that organisations wished to raise. A large event with over 60 stakeholders was held to discuss the key issues facing the education sector in the coming years.  These informal evidence-gathering events will inform the Committee’s scrutiny of policy in the current mandate.

Education Committee Members chatting to stakeholders at Event

The Committee also attended an informal meeting with a delegation of Senators from the Parliament of the Czech Republic and, alongside the Committee for Enterprise Trade and Investment, met with members of the House of the Oireachtas Select Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education to discuss common themes.

Committee Expenditure

Details of Committee expenditure for the session are contained at Appendix A.

Contact Details

Anyone wishing to contact the Committee for Education should do so at the following address:

The Clerk to the Committee for Education
Room 241
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
Belfast
BT4 3XX
Email: committee.education@niassembly.gov.uk

ANNEX A 

Committee for Education

Expenditure for the period 12 May 2011 – 31 August 2012

Budget area

 

Details

Expenditure

Committee Travel - committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings

 

Includes the cost of committee visits to:

 

  • Bombardier Aerospace;
    • Fleming Fulton, Glenveagh, Harberton   

 and Oakwood Special Schools;

  • Middletown Centre for Autism;
  • Limavady Area Learning Community;
  • Sentinus Young Innovator Awards;
  • Shared Education Conference.

 

 

 

£1853.67

Printing of committee reports

Includes the cost of committee reports on:

 

  • Inquiry into School Councils

 

£680.73

General expenses

 

Cost of refreshments for committee meetings, working lunches, seminars, room hire, witness expenses, and conference fees for members.

 

£3018.64

 

Total Expenditure

 

 

 

£5553.04

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