Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 07 June 2000
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Gallagher
Ms P Lewsley
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Mr T Benson
Mr J Fee
Mr O Gibson
Mr B McElduff
Mrs G Ardis
Miss J Adair
Mrs C Darrah
Ms C Angelone
The Committee met at 10.48 am in private session.
Mr S Wilson joined the meeting at 10.49 am.
1. Minutes of Meeting of 1 June 2000
The Chairman advised members that, on the instruction of the Clerk of Committees, the minutes of proceedings should record the start and finish times of meetings and the times at which members leave and return to meetings.
The minutes of the meeting of 1 June were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
(i) The Clerk had requested a more detailed breakdown of the allocated cost per pupil on a school by school basis and the information would be circulated in due course.
(ii) The Chairman informed members that he had written to the Offices of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister requesting a response to the letters sent on 3 February.
(iii) The Clerk had written to the Department, the five Education and Library Boards and CCMS regarding the Capital Building Programme timetable and process. Members were advised that an overview should be available for the next Committee meeting.
(iv) The Chairman informed members that he had written to the Minister for Education on 1 June regarding the flying of the Union Flag on Government buildings. Copies of the letter had been circulated. The Minister had not replied.
(v) The Chairman advised members that the budgetary process and appropriation debate would be discussed after the presentation by Departmental officials.
(vi) Arrangements for the presentations agreed by members had been made. The Chairman invited the Clerk to outline the programme for the proposed visit to the South Eastern Education and Library Board Headquarters at Dundonald on Thursday 15 June. The Clerk explained that the visit would begin at 12.30 pm with a buffet lunch and then Board officials would give an overview of the main issues facing them regarding underachievement. Members were advised to inform the Clerk if they had any specific topics they wished Board officials to address. The visit would end at approximately 2.30 pm.
(vii) A summary of the CCEA proposals for changes to the Northern Ireland Curriculum Framework had been circulated.
3. Presentation by Department of Education Officials
The Chairman welcomed Department of Education officials, Mr R Buchanan and Mr D Brittain to the Committee meeting and they gave a presentation on the Department's draft Equality Scheme. It was followed by a detailed question and answer session. The main issues covered included:-
(i) The background to the draft Equality Scheme and the process of drawing it up.
(ii) The consultation exercise and the responses received by the Department to date.
(iii) The lack of quantitative information on costs in the draft scheme and the costs envisaged in carrying out equality impact assessments.
(iv) The relationship between the Department's Equality Scheme and the Equality Schemes of the Education and Library Boards, CCMS etc and the need for "joined up" Government.
(v) The identification of policies which require Equality Impact Assessments, the need for more detail on the policies and the assumptions about policies that will not be subject to such an assessment.
Ms Patricia Lewsley joined the meeting at 11.31 am.
(vi) The need to ensure that the equality perspective is incorporated in all policies and at all levels and becomes part of the culture of the Department.
(vii) How the Department intends to carry out Equality Impact Assessments.
(viii) The lack of detail in the draft Scheme regarding an implementation timetable and details of the implementation process.
At 11.35 am Mrs Eileen Bell left the meeting, rejoining it at 11.40 am.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the presentation and said that this was likely to be an on-going issue and he expected to invite them back at a later date for further discussions. He explained that the Committee would submit it's response to the Department no later than 16 June. The officials then left the meeting.
Following a short discussion the Committee resolved that:
(i) Members would submit written views/comments on the Department's draft Equality Scheme and on the other educational NDPB's Equality Schemes to the Committee Clerk by 5.00 pm on Monday 12 June.
(ii) The Clerk would provide a summary of the views/comments received and draft written responses before the next Committee meeting.
(iii) Members would agree the Committee responses at the meeting on Thursday 15 June.
At 12.05 pm Mrs Eileen Bell left the meeting.
4. NI Curriculum Review
The Chairman advised members that arrangements had been made for officials from CCEA to make a presentation to the Committee on the Curriculum Review on Thursday 22 June. The meeting will be public.
Following a short discussion the Committee resolved that:
(i) It would be useful to have comments/views on the proposals from the people (teachers etc) who will have to implement the Review outcomes. The Clerk was asked to obtain any available information for the next Committee meeting.
(ii) Members would inform the Clerk, in writing by 5.00 pm on Monday 19 June, of any questions they wished to ask to enable the Chairman to agreed the order etc.
5. Chairman's Business
(i) The Chairman congratulated the Deputy Chairman, Mr Sammy Wilson, on his election to the post of Lord Mayor of Belfast.
(ii) The Chairman informed members that an opportunity arose for him to briefly meet with the Minister for Education after his statement in the Assembly on 5 June. He advised that they discussed a range of issues including communication and the Minister gave an assurance that he and his officials would keep the Committee informed of any new issues. The Minister also undertook to reply to the Chairman's letter on key issues in the near future.
(iii)The Chairman informed members that the Committee Office received press cuttings on Educational matters on a daily basis. If any member wished to receive a copy they should contact the Assistant Clerk.
(iv) The Chairman advised members that representatives of term-time staff who are seeking payment of retainer fees during the summer holidays would be coming to Parliament Buildings on Tuesday 13 June. At their request he intended to meet them at 11.30 am and he invited other members to join him if available. Ms Patricia Lewsley registered her wish to attend. Several other members also expressed an interest in joining the meeting. The Committee requested the Clerk to circulate further details of the representatives as soon as possible including whether or not they represented school secretaries.
(v)The Chairman informed members that the Primary Principals' Association of NI which has over 400 members drawn from all types of primary schools (Controlled, Integrated and Maintained) throughout Northern Ireland had requested an early meeting with the Committee. They wished to discuss enhanced funding for primary schools. Given the Committee's busy schedule over the next weeks members agreed that:-
(i) The Chairman and Deputy Chairman should meet the Association in the near future.
(ii) When the Committee is considering funding issues it may be appropriate to invite the Association to make a presentation.
(vi) The Chairman confirmed that all members had seen the 2000/2001 Estimates. He also reminded members that he had written to the Minister on 10 February stating that the Committee had no substantive comments to offer given that the budget proposals were based on inherited plans. The appropriation debate was due to take place next week which gave little time to consider the detail. Members noted that the Committee would have more time available to undertake a fuller scrutiny of the Department's public expenditure plans for the next financial year.
(vii)The Chairman reminded members that Tuesday 13 June was the closing date for tabling oral questions for the Minister of Education. The questions would be answered on 26 June.
6. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Thursday 15 June 2000 and will be followed by a visit to the South Eastern Education and Library Board Headquarters in Dundonald.
The meeting closed at 12.25 pm.
MR DANNY KENNEDY