Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 03 February 2000
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Benson
Mr J Fee
Mr O Gibson
Ms P Lewsley
Mr B McElduff
Mr K Robinson
Mr T Gallagher
Mr G McHugh
Mrs G Ardis
Miss L Tracey
Mrs C Darrah
Mr W Lavery
Mrs S Murphy
1. Minutes of the Meeting of 27 January 2000
The minutes of the meeting of 27 January were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
(i) The Chairman advised members that the Department of Education had provided information on the allocated cost per pupil in schools. The information had been circulated to members prior to the meeting.
Agreed: The Clerk will request a more detailed breakdown of the figures on a school by school basis.
(ii) The Chairman informed members that he had written to the Minister for Education, enclosing members' comments, on the 2000/2001 Capital Building Programme. Copies of the letter had been circulated.
(iii) The Chairman informed members that, at the request of the Ulster Teachers' Union, they would give a joint presentation with the Irish National Teachers' Organisation to the Committee on Thursday 24 February.
(iv) The Clerk was in the process of drawing up a programme and terms of reference for the agreed Committee enquiries on underachievement and funding. Details would be circulated for consideration in due course.
(v) The Chairman advised members that the date of the proposed visit to primary schools in the Newtownabbey area had been changed from Thursday 10 February to Thursday 17 February.
3. North/South Ministerial Council - Sectoral Meetings
The Chairman informed members that it had been drawn to his attention that an educational sectoral meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) was taking place today (3 February). He had not been informed of the meeting either by the Minister or the Department of Education. The Chairman explained that he understood that a number of working groups would be proposed at this NSMC meeting to look at areas which the Committee intended to consider and that were of great importance. Under the Belfast Agreement education was an area of co-operation, however, the Chairman had grave concerns that the Committee had not been briefed on the issues to be discussed or members given the opportunity to put forward their views to the Minister prior to the meeting. He had, therefore, expressed these concerns in a letter to the Minister on 2 February.
Following a discussion during which the Clerk outlined the current procedures regarding NSMC meetings it was agreed:
(i) The situation appeared to run contrary to the Minister's written commitment to consult with the Committee and provide detailed information and briefings.
(ii) If the Committee is to have an input into policy and decision-making it is very important that there is an opportunity to put views to the Minister before discussion takes place with other parties and jurisdictions.
(iii) Those present fully endorsed and supported the action taken by the Chairman.
(iv) The Chairman will write to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister expressing the Committee's concern that the guidance to be used by Departments on the procedures for NSMC meetings results in a communication gap which needs to be addressed.
4. Presentation by the Governing Bodies Association (NI)
The Chairman welcomed Mr Henry Algeo, Chairman, the Rev. Dr Fergus McArdle, Vice Chairman, Sister Patricia Rodgers, Member of the Executive Committee, Mr Finbar McCallion, Member of the Executive Committee and Mr John Miskelly, Clerk. They gave a presentation outlining the background and aims of the Association and it's main concerns. The issues covered included the post-16 curriculum, the transfer procedure, promotion of excellence and funding issues including the financing of Capital Development and the funding formula.
5. Presentation by the Catholic Heads Association
Mr Roddy Tierney, Chairman, Mr John Stuart, Vice Chairman, Sister Christopher Hegarty, Secretary and Sister Maureen Carville, Minutes Secretary were welcomed to the meeting by the Chairman. They gave a presentation outlining the Association's aims and key priorities. A question and answer session followed. The areas covered included the transfer procedure, the financing of capital buildings, education technology, performance tables, the post-16 curriculum and representation on statutory/consultative educational bodies.
6. Chairman's Business
- The Chairman advised members that he and the Committee Clerk had met with the Director of the Irish Institute, Boston College, Dr Sean Rowland, and the Irish representative of the College, Ms Sara McDonnell, on 1 February. A note of the meeting had been circulated. The timescale of the proposed visit to Boston was now early autumn.
- The Chairman advised members that he had issued a press release in response to the Minister's announcement on 1 February on the secondary level performance tables. The press release had congratulated school pupils and teachers on the improved examination performance but had highlighted the concerns of the Education Committee regarding the question of underachievement. Copies of the press release had been distributed.
- The Chairman informed members that, at their request, he had met with representatives of Ballytober Primary School during their visit to Parliament Buildings to campaign to save their school kitchen. He had undertaken to highlight to the North Eastern Education and Library Board that the issue had been raised with the Committee.
Agreed: Following a discussion on the handling of individual cases as opposed to the wider issues it was agreed that members would inform the Clerk of any approaches/representations they received. A decision could then be taken on the approach to be adopted.
7. Date of Next Meeting
The Committee will meet on Thursday 10 February 2000 at 10.30 am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
MR DANNY KENNEDY