MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE EIGHTY NINTH MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 14 MARCH 2002
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr T Gallagher
Mr T Hamilton
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr J Fee
Mr O Gibson
Ms P Lewsley
Mr B McElduff
Mrs C Darrah (Committee Clerk)
Mrs V Artt (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Ms M Austin (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr D Stevenson (Executive Support)
Ms S O'Neill (Administrative Support)
The Committee met at 10.33 a.m. in private session.
The Chairman informed members of the death of the Deputy Chairman, Mr Sammy Wilson's mother on 12 March 2002. Members asked the Chairman to write on behalf of the Committee expressing their condolences to Mr Wilson and his family.
1. Minutes of the Meetings of 4 March and 7 March 2002
The minutes of the meetings of 4 March 2002 and 7 March 2002 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
- Copies of letters to the Minister of Education and the Department on a number of issues discussed at the Committee meeting held on 7 March 2002 had been circulated for information. The Committee agreed that the response in relation to the Capital Building Programme 2002 should be copied to the Minister for Finance and Personnel for information, given the relevance of the comments concerning funding requirements.
- A copy of a response from the Minister of Education to the Committee's second letter on the draft video and supporting materials for the consultation exercise on the Review of Post-Primary Education had been circulated. The Chairman advised members that a copy of the video was available in the Committee office and that arrangements to view it could be made with the Clerk.
- Information provided by the Education and Library Boards, the Department of Regional Development and the Department of Education on relevant issues in the proposed Regional Transportation Strategy had been circulated. Following a short discussion the Committee agreed a response to the Committee for Regional Development on the matter subject to one amendment and one addition.
- A draft Committee press release in relation to the pending Capital Building Programme 2002 announcement was circulated. Following a short discussion the press release, which would be issued to coincide with the announcement, was agreed with one amendment.
3. Chairman's Business
(i) The Chairman informed members that he had received a letter from a Mr Stephen Elliott regarding a reference quoted in the Department of Education's report, "The Effects of the Selective System of Secondary School Education in Northern Ireland" and copies had been circulated. The Committee agreed to seek clarification of the matter.
(ii) Copies of the indicative timescale for the 2002/2003 Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review and the guidance issued to Departments had been circulated. The Chairman informed members that a seminar on the Budget 2002 had been arranged for 20 March 2002 to which all members were invited and relevant background information from a previous seminar was available on request. The Chairman also advised members that arrangements had been made for Departmental officials to attend the Committee meeting scheduled for 11 April 2002 to discuss the Education draft position report.
(iii) The Chairman informed members that a letter from The Ulster New Zealand Trust wishing to make a presentation to the Committee had been circulated. The Committee agreedthat the Clerk should identify a suitable date and arrange for the organisation to meet the Chairman and Deputy Chairman and other available members.
(iv) The Chairman advised the Committee that the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education had written inviting two members to attend its Annual Conference on Saturday 27 April 2002. It was agreed that members interested in representing the Committee at the event should contact the Clerk.
(v) A copy of an invitation to all members of the Committee from the New Opportunities Fund to the Out of Hours Learning Celebration of Achievement and Final Announcement of Grants on 20 March 2002 had been circulated. The Chairman advised any members who wished to attend to contact the Clerk who would inform the organisers.
4. Discussion with Officials on the Department of Education's Review of School Information and Prospectuses - Public Session
The Chairman welcomed Ms Christine Jendoubi, Mr David Mann, and Mr Ashley Watterworth, to the meeting to discuss the Department of Education's Review of School Information and Prospectuses and the proposals following the consultation exercise. Ms Jendoubi reiterated the Minister of Education's apologies for being unable to attend the meeting. The officials made a short presentation on the main issues raised in the Committee response and the Chairman sought clarification of a number of points. This was followed by a question and answer session. The main areas covered included:
- the publication of a percentage attendance figure in school prospectuses and the need in some instances, for a commentary on this;
- the merits of a model prospectus;
- the publication of AS level results;
- the consequences of parents taking their children on holiday during term-time;
- the requirement for Voluntary Grammar Schools and Grant Maintained Integrated Schools to include arrangements for the provision of milk etc and the need for consistency across schools.
The Chairman thanked the officials for a useful and informative discussion and they left the meeting.
Following a short discussion the Committee agreed that a draft response to the Minister of Education should be prepared for consideration at the meeting scheduled for 21 March 2002.
5. Consideration of the draft Household Response Form and draft Response Booklet for Schools relating to the Review of Post-Primary Education
Copies of the draft Household Response Form and the draft Response Booklet for Schools had been received from the Department of Education on 13 March and were circulated at the meeting. To enable members the opportunity to consider the papers the Committee agreed to hold a meeting on Tuesday 19 March at 1.00 p.m. The Chairman reminded members that the draft documents had been provided in the strictest confidence and had to be treated accordingly.
6. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Tuesday 19 March 2002 at
1.00 p.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings. A meeting was also scheduled for Thursday 21 March 2002 at 12.30 p.m.
7. Any Other Business
Mr McHugh enquired about the position of the Committee Inquiry into Early Years Learning. The Clerk advised the Committee that over seventy-five written submissions had been received and proposals regarding evidence sessions and possible visits would be tabled for discussion at the meeting scheduled for 11 April 2002.
The Committee was adjourned at 11.38 p.m.