MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE EIGHTY SECOND MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2002
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Gallagher
Mr O Gibson
Mr T Hamilton
Mr B McElduff
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Ms P Lewsley
Mr S Wilson
Mrs C Darrah
Mrs V Artt
Ms S O'Neill
Ms A Montgomery (Assembly Research Directorate for
Ms E Regan for items 4and 5)
The Committee met at 10.30 a.m. in private session.
1. Minutes of the Meetings of 29 January 2002 and 31 January 2002
The minutes of the meetings of 29 January 2002 and 31 January 2002 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
A copy of the Chairman's letter to the Minister of Education seeking clarification regarding the pamphlet which was being produced in connection with the consultation exercise on the Review of Post-Primary Education had been circulated for information. The Committee noted that consideration of the draft video would be placed on the agenda for the meeting scheduled for 14 February 2002.
Copies of letters to the Minister of Education on a range of issues discussed at the Committee meetings on 29 and 31 January 2002 had been circulated for information. The Committee noted that other issues discussed were being followed up and responses would be circulated when received.
Copies of a response from the Minister of Education regarding delays in the payment of Threshold Assessment Awards to teachers had been circulated. Following a short discussion the Committee agreed to request clarification of the quality control mechanisms in place to monitor the work of the Assessors.
Copies of the reply from the Minister of Education regarding the proposed changes to the existing LMS Formulae had been circulated. The Committee noted the Minister of Education's commitment to give further consideration to the recommendation made in the context of his consideration of all the recommendations in the Committee Report on the Proposals for a Common Funding Formula.
Copies of a letter to the Department of Education requesting further information regarding the exact timing of the announcement of the Schools Capital Building Programme 2002 had been circulated for information.
3. Chairman's Business
The Chairman advised the Committee of a meeting with representatives of Tor Bank Special School regarding its capital building needs. A note of the meeting had been circulated for information.
The Committee noted a copy of a letter which had been received from St Oliver Plunkett's Primary School to the Minister of Education regarding capital building needs at the school.
Mr Gallagher joined the meeting at 10.40 a.m.
Copies of an invitation to the Chairman to an Irish Medium Conference had been circulated. The Committee agreed that, as the Chairman was unavailable to attend due to a prior engagement, if another member was available they should represent the Committee at the event.
An invitation to all Committee members to attend the Launch of the Creativity Seed Fund had been received. Members agreed to inform the Clerk if they wished to attend the event.
Research requested by the Committee on State Law in the USA regarding school transport had been circulated. A response from the Minister of Education regarding the Committee's letter concerning a fatal school transport accident was circulated at the meeting and the Committee agreed to consider the matter further at the next meeting.
The Chairman advised the Committee that the Department of Education had provided copies of a Report of the Human Rights in Education Conference which had taken place in September 2001.
The Chairman informed the Committee that he had attended the Launch of the Belfast Education and Library Board Report 'Literacy in a Learning City'. The Report contained over 70 recommendations and copies would be circulated to members as soon as possible. The Committee agreed that representatives of the Belfast Education and Library Board should attend a meeting to discuss the issue when the outcome of the Department of Education's Review of Literacy was available.
The Chairman informed the Committee that he had received a letter from the Board of Governors of a Primary School expressing concern regarding the lack of progress on pay differentials for Principals and Vice-Principals. The Committee agreed that the Chairman should respond in a similar manner to earlier correspondence on the matter. The Committee also agreed that correspondence on this issue received by individual members should be forwarded to the Clerk for retention.
4. Briefing by the Assembly Research Directorate on the Consultation Document "Making a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland."
The Chairman welcomed the Researchers to the meeting. They briefed the Committee on the key points in Clauses 10 and 11 of the Consultation Document "Making a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland" and provided comparative information on similar Bills in a number of other countries. Other issues also covered included the hierarchy of law, entrenchment and amendment.
Mr McElduff joined the meeting at 11.15 a.m.
5. Discussion on the Consultation Document "Making a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland" with Representatives of the Human Rights Commission - Public Session
The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Human Rights Commission, Mr Frank McGuinness, Ms Miriam Titterton and Ms Rachel Rebouche to the meeting. Mr McGuinness outlined the background to preparing the Consultation Document focusing in particular on the educational aspects. A question and answer session followed during which the main issues covered included:
- the remit of the Human Rights Commission;
- whether clarification of statements such as 'effective education' was required;
- the inclusion of responsibilities as well as rights in the Bill;
- the question of the exemption under fair employment legislation for teachers;
- the need for a Human Rights education clause and the appointment and training of teachers in human rights education;
- the relationship between the European Convention on Human Rights and the proposed Bill of Rights;
- how the Bill would be enacted in legislation;
- how to achieve future flexibility without jeopardising human rights; and
- the prescriptive nature of the proposals compared to a more general approach setting out the basic principles for public bodies.
The Chairman thanked the representatives of the Human Rights Commission for a useful discussion and they left the meeting.
Mr Gallagher and Mr Gibson left the meeting at 12.15 p.m.
The Committee agreed to request further information on the Consultation Document and to consider the matter again at a future date.
6. Committee Response to the Review of School Information and Prospectuses - Private Session
The Committee considered a draft response on the Review of School Information and Prospectuses. Following a short discussion, the response was agreed subject to a number of amendments.
7. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 14 February 2002 at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Committee was adjourned at 12.35 p.m.