Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 10 February 2000
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Benson
Mr T Gallagher
Mr O Gibson
Ms P Lewsley
Mr K Robinson
Mr J Fee
Mr B McElduff
Mr G McHugh
Mrs G Ardis
Mr F McMahon
Mrs C Darrah
Mr W Lavery
Mrs S Murphy
1. Minutes of the Meeting of 3 February 2000
The minutes of the meeting of 3 February were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
ii. The Clerk had requested a more detailed breakdown of the allocated cost per pupil on a school by school basis. The information would be circulated to members as soon as possible. Given the extensive amount of information, however, consideration would have to be given to the analysis/presentation of it.
ii. The Chairman informed members that, as agreed, he had written to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister expressing the Committee's concern that the guidance on procedures for North/South Ministerial Council meetings resulted in a communication gap that needed to be addressed. Copies of the letters had been circulated. Copies of the reply from the Minister of Education to the Chairman's letter of 2 February on the matter had also been circulated.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was an important issue for all Committees and the principle needed to be addressed. The Committee also agreed that there was a need for a clearly defined working relationship between the Committee and the Minister.
3. Forward Work Programme
The Chairman informed members that copies of a draft forward work programme had been circulated for consideration. A lengthy discussion ensued concerning visits, priority issues and topics of enquiry. The Committee agreed the following:
(i) Issues that the Committee will consider in the near future will include the selection process, funding and underachievement.
(ii) Appropriate visits should be arranged in March/April to inform the Committee on the selection process.
(iii) Outside visits in general should have a focused agenda and should include a short meeting with teachers, parents, members of the Board of Governors etc. to discuss issues of concern.
(iv) For each visit the Clerk will provide a profile of the school/organisation outlining its size, background, etc.
(v) The Committee meeting of 24 February when the INTO/UTU and NASUWT will give presentations should be an open meeting.
(vi) The Clerk will arrange presentations on issues concerning Special Schools and Irish-Medium Schools by appropriate organisations.
4. Committee Enquiry
The Chairman proposed that the Committee should proceed with a formal enquiry into Underachievement and members accepted this. Following a wide-ranging discussion on the issue it was agreed:
(i) The Committee needed to clearly define underachievement before deciding on the scope of the enquiry and drawing up terms of reference for it.
(ii) To inform the Committee the following organisations/representatives should be invited to discuss the issue of underachievement:
- Department of Education officials
- Academic representatives
- Primary level representatives
(iii) The Clerk will commission available research papers on the subject.
(iv) The Clerk will identify/obtain information on examples both within Northern Ireland and further afield that may be informative.
5. New Targeting Social Need Draft Action Plans (TSN)
The Chairman informed members that the consultation period on the new TSN draft action plans had been extended until 28 February. The Committee agreed the following:
(i) It was important that the Committee submit a response on the new TSN draft action plans. If the Assembly was suspended members wished the Clerk to inform the division responsible for new TSN of the views of the Committee.
(ii) Members will consider the draft action plans and submit detailed comments/views to the Clerk by 5pm on Tuesday 15 February.
(iii) The Clerk will provide a summary of the views/comments received and a draft written response for consideration at the Committee meeting on Thursday 17 February.
(iv) Members expressed concern about whether the proposed draft action plans were targeting educational need or, as appeared, targeting social need on a geographical basis.
(v) Members agreed that educational need/underachievement should be the key priority when targeting money and funding should be people-based and not geographically based.
6. Chairman's Business
(ii) The Chairman commented on the announcement by the Minister the previous day, to which Committee members had been invited, on the Capital Building Programme. The Chairman had issued a press release in response to the announcement and copies had been circulated to members. Following a discussion it was agreed:
a. The Committee believed that the Department should give the Chairman and members more prior notice of major announcements.
b. To enable the Committee to properly consider and scrutinise the Capital Building proposals for the next financial year further information was needed on the criteria used by the Education and Library Boards and on their priorities, on the relationship between the Boards' proposals and the Department's proposals and the role of CCMS and other organisations in the process. The Clerk will obtain appropriate information for consideration.
(ii) The Chairman advised members that a draft list of priority issues for the programme for the proposed Boston College visit had been circulated:
Agreed: The list was agreed with the addition of special needs educational provision.
(iii) The Chairman informed members that information on the 2000/2001 budget had been received from the Department of Education and circulated. He reminded members that one of the responsibilities of the Committee was to scrutinise the Department's budget. He also pointed out that, given the date of devolution, this year the allocations were mainly pre-set.
a. The Chairman will write informing the Minister that the Committee has no substantive comments to offer given that the budget proposals were based on inherited plans.
b. The Committee will undertake a full scrutiny of the Department's public expenditure plans for next year. To inform the Committee the Clerk will request a timetable of the budgetary process.
7. Date of Next Meeting
The Committee will meet on Thursday 17 February 2000 at 10.30 am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
8. Any Other Business
The Committee recognised that an urgent problem currently facing schools is the LMS budget.
MR DANNY KENNEDY