MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE TWENTY SEVENTH MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2000.
Present: Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Gallagher
Mr O Gibson
Mrs P Lewsley
Mr B McElduff
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Apologies: Mr T Benson
In Attendance: Mrs G Ardis Miss J Adair
Mrs C Darrah Ms C Angelone
The Committee met at 10.36 a.m. in private session.
1. Minutes of Meeting of Thursday 9 November
The minutes of the meeting of Thursday 9 November 2000 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising from the Minutes of Proceedings
- The Chairman advised members that the Clerk had sent the Committee's best wishes to Mr Benson and his family.
- The Chairman, Deputy Chairman and other Committee members had met with representatives of Secondary School Principals to discuss issues surrounding disruptive pupils in schools on Monday 13 November. Copies of a note of the meeting and information handed out by the representatives had been circulated.
- A draft Committee response to the Minister for Education on the Programme for Government and the Budget 2001/02 proposals was circulated. Members agreed to submit their views/comments on the draft reply to the Clerk by 5.00 p.m. on Monday 20 November.
- Information on the proposed allocation and distribution of funding between Travellers and the various ethnic minorities had been requested and would be circulated in due course.
- Copies of the Chairman's letter to the Minister for Education seeking clarification on various matters in the Spending Review and the Committee's response to the Finance and Personnel Committee on the proposed budget had been circulated.
Mr Gallagher joined the meeting at 10.40 a.m.
- The Chairman advised the Committee that he had received a response to his letter to Mr Gerry Burns, Chairman of the Review Body, on the consultation process. Following discussion, members agreed that they needed to see all the submissions and consider the information from the proposed Open Days scheduled for February 2001. It would, therefore, be March at the earliest before the Committee would be in a position to respond to the Review Body. It was agreed that the Chairman should write to Mr Burns seeking further clarification.
3. Chairman's Business
Mr Gibson joined the meeting at 10.44 a.m.
Mr Gallagher left the meeting at 10.45 a.m.
- The Chairman informed members that he had received a letter from the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) requesting that the Committee included in its programme of work, in the near future, a review of education administration. Copies of the letter had been circulated. Following a short discussion, members agreed that the Chairman should write informing INTO that this issue is included in the draft Programme for Government. The Committee is currently seeking a meeting with the Minister to discuss the issue and will seek INTO's views on the matter at the appropriate time.
- The Chairman informed members that he had received a number of letters from the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) regarding resolutions on a wide range of issues passed at its 2000 Conference. The Committee noted that some of the concerns were currently being considered and some were issues for inclusion on the future work programme. Members agreed that, as specific issues were being considered, the views of UTU would be sought.
- The Chief Executive of CCEA had invited all members of the Committee to a dinner. The Chairman advised any members who wished to attend to contact the Clerk who would advise CCEA.
4. Presentation by Assembly Researchers on the Systems of Post-Primary Education in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland (Public Session)
The Chairman welcomed Ms Alison Montgomery and Ms Sandra McElhinney, Assembly Researchers to the meeting. Ms Montgomery gave an overview of the system of post-primary education in Scotland and Ms McElhinney gave an overview of the system in the Republic of Ireland. Both overviews were followed by detailed question and answer sessions. Hansard recorded the evidence for publication in due course.
Mr Gallagher returned to the meeting at 11.03 a.m.
Mr McHugh joined the meeting at 11.25 a.m.
Mr Gallagher left the meeting at 11.25 a.m. and returned at 11.56 a.m.
Mrs Bell left the meeting at 11.25 a.m. and returned at 11.44 a.m.
Mr McHugh left the meeting at 12 noon and returned at 12.10 p.m.
Mr Gibson left the meeting at 12.10 p.m. and returned at 12.13 p.m.
The Chairman thanked Ms Montgomery and Ms McElhinney for an interesting and informative presentation and for answering members' questions and they left the meeting.
5. Discussion of the use of the Private Finance Initiative with officials from the Department of Education (Public Session)
The Chairman welcomed Mr David Woods and Dr Jim Livingstone, officials from the Department of Education, to the meeting. A detailed discussion on the use of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) in schools ensued. Key issues discussed included the involvement and cost of consultants in the PFI process; the use of Public Sector Comparators in ensuring value for money; the value of PFI projects undertaken to date and the estimated value of future projects; the need to develop in-house expertise; contract management and measures for safeguarding the ethos of a school and maintaining standards of service; and the use of 'bundling' projects.
Mr Woods extended an invitation to members to attend a one-day conference to conclude the consultation process. He also confirmed that when the Department came to the Committee to discuss the proposed Capital Building Programme for 2001/02, the PFI proposals would be included.
The Chairman thanked Mr Woods and Dr Livingstone for an informative and helpful discussion and they left the meeting.
Mr Wilson left the meeting at 12.30 p.m.
Mrs Lewsley left the meeting at 12.36 p.m.
Mr Gibson and Mr Gallagher left the meeting at 12.41 p.m.
The meeting went into private session
Members agreed to submit views/comments on the use of PFI in schools to the Clerk by Monday 20 November and a draft response would be considered at the next meeting of the Committee.
6. Discussion of the Committee's handling of the Department of Education's consultation paper reviewing the viability criteria for Irish-Medium and Integrated Schools
A paper outlining proposals on the Committee's handling of the Department of Education's consultation exercise on the review of the viability criteria for Irish-Medium and Integrated Schools had been circulated. Following discussion, members agreed the proposals on how the Committee would handle the issue.
Members also instructed the Clerk to request information on Section 75 implications and any equality impact assessment carried out.
7. Any other Business
- A Northern Ireland Audit Office Report on Pay Flexibilities for School Principals and Vice Principals had issued. The Chairman advised members that the Public Accounts Committee would consider the report and the response by the Department in due course. Copies of the Report are available from the Clerk if required.
- The Chairman informed members that negotiations concerning a retainer fee for term-time workers in schools had broken down. Members agreed that the Clerk would write seeking information on the current situation for consideration at the next meeting of the Committee.
8. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee will be held on Thursday 23 November at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135.
The meeting closed at 12.55 p.m.