MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE FIFTY FOURTH MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 5 JULY 2001
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr O Gibson
Mr T Hamilton
Mrs P Lewsley
Mr G McHugh
Mr B McElduff
Mr K Robinson
Mrs C Darrah
Mrs V Artt
Ms C Angelone
The Committee met at 10.25 a.m. in private session.
1. Minutes of the Meetings of 26 June 2001 and 28 June 2001
The minutes of the meetings of 26 June 2001 and 28 June 2001 were agreed.
2. Matters arising from the Minutes of Proceedings
(i) Copies of the Chairman's letters to the Minister of Education regarding the Review of LMS Funding and the Northern Ireland Teaching Council's call for an independent inquiry into pay levels, salaries, conditions of service and workload of teachers and principals/vice-principals had been circulated.
3. Chairman's Business
(i) Copies of the Chairman's letter to the Minister of Education requesting clarification regarding the delay in issuing the guidance on Relationships and Sexuality education to schools had been circulated. The Department had since sent copies of the proposed circular and guidance. The Committee discussed the Department's request for its views on whether it wished to comment on the guidance before it was issued. Members expressed concern that there had been no indication at an earlier stage of the intention to refer the guidance to the Committee and it had now been referred just before the last meeting prior to the summer recess. Noting that the Department had already indicated that extensive consultation had taken place on the issue the Committee agreed that it would not be appropriate to delay the matter any longer and the guidelines should issue as soon as the Department was satisfied that it was both suitable and adequate.
(ii) The Chairman advised members that he had received correspondence from Dr Richard Barr of the 'Love for Life' project requesting a meeting with the Committee. It was agreed that a meeting would be considered after the summer recess.
(iii) The Chairman informed the Committee that the Minister had replied regarding the proposed Statutory Rule on the General Teaching Council for NI (Constitution) Regulations (NI) and copies of the letter were circulated. The Committee noted that the Minister had accepted the recommendation to increase the Association of Education and Library Boards and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools representation on the Council and to give the Northern Ireland Teacher's Council three extra places. Mrs Bell proposed that the Committee resolve that it now had no objections to the proposed Statutory Rule. The proposal was seconded by Mr Kennedy and agreed by the Committee. Mr Wilson and Mr Gibson wished their continued objections to the proposed Statutory Rule to be recorded.
4. Discussion of the Committee response on the 2002/03 Budget Position
A draft response on the 2002/03 Budget Position outlining the initial views of the Committee had been circulated. Following a discussion the Committee agreed the response with one amendment. The Committee also agreed that a detailed analysis of the budget and spend for the Department and the Education and Library Boards for 2001/02 and 2002/03 should be undertaken within the context of the Programme for Government priorities and targets.
5. Discussion of the Committee Response on the Programme for Government
A draft Committee response on the Programme for Government was discussed and agreed.
6. Discussion of the Committee response on Proposals for a Single Equality Bill
Briefing on proposals for a Single Equality Bill had been circulated. The Committee agreed the content of a response to the initial consultation document. The Committee also noted that the Equality Commission intended to hold inquiries into the present structure of education, the arrangements for the employment of teachers and the options for the narrowing of the exemption relating to teachers under the Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998. The Committee would wish to see the outcome of the inquiries to inform further consideration of the issues. The Committee also agreed to commission further research on the matter.
Mrs Lewsley left the meeting at 10. 50 a.m.
Mr T Hamilton joined the meeting at 11.05 a.m.
7. Discussion of the Proposed Review of School Information and Prospectuses
The Committee discussed the response from the Minister of Education and welcomed his agreement to change the format of the consultation document. The Committee agreed to write again regarding the inclusion of information on NI Averages in the document.
8. Meeting with Mr Nigel Hamilton
Mr Nigel Hamilton, Permanent Secretary, Department of Education joined the meeting. The Chairman, on behalf of the Committee, thanked Mr Hamilton for his co-operation and work and presented him with a small token to mark his move to the Department of Regional Development. Mr Hamilton took the opportunity to formally thank the Chairman, members and the Clerk for the way they had worked with the Department and the courteous treatment of Departmental officials who attended Committee meetings.
9. Discussion with the Specialist Adviser on the Review of Post-Primary Education
The Chairman welcomed the Specialist Adviser on the Review of Post-Primary Education to the meeting. After a full and lengthy discussion it was agreed that he would prepare a first draft report covering the main issues and provide further information regarding the practicalities and resource implications to assist further consideration of the matter.
10. Date and time of next meeting
The Chairman advised members that he may wish to call an extra meeting in the first week in September and if so it would be held on Tuesday 4 September with the normal meeting to take place on Thursday 6 September at 10.15 a.m.
The meeting closed at 12.50 p.m.