MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE SEVENTEITH MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135 PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2001
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr O Gibson
Ms P Lewsley
Mr B McElduff
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Mr T Gallagher
Mrs C Darrah
Mrs V Artt
Miss P Bradley
Ms C Angelone
The Committee met at 10.30. a.m. in private session.
1. Minutes of the Meeting of 8 November 2001
The minutes of the meeting of 8 November 2001 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
- Copies of the response from the Department of Education to the request for a breakdown of the implementation costs of the Threshold Assessment Scheme and other information on issues arising from the discussion on the draft Budget 2002/03 had been circulated. The Committee noted the response and agreed that the Chairman should write to the Minister of Education regarding the Reviews of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies and the School Support Programme and to request further information on the number of teachers who had progressed to the upper pay scale as a percentage of the total applicants.
3. Chairman's Business
- The Chairman informed members that an invitation had been received from Tor Bank School asking the Committee to visit the school and meet teachers and pupils. Given its very heavy workload the Committee agreed that a visit would not be possible in the near future but that representatives and pupils from the school should be invited to an informal meeting in Parliament Buildings.
- The Chairman advised the Committee that he had met informally with representatives of British Telecom recently to discuss a number of educational projects. During the meeting the representatives offered to give a presentation to the Committee on the projects and developments to modernise and Join-Up Government. The Committee agreed in principle to visit BT Tower in Belfast on 13 December 2001 and instructed the Clerk to prepare a draft programme for consideration at the next meeting.
Mr McElduff joined the meeting at 10.36 a.m
- The Committee briefly discussed the outcome of the September Monitoring Round. Noting that a number of inescapable bids from the Department of Education had not been met, the Committee agreed to seek clarification of the position from the Department of Education and what action would be taken to address the situation.
4. Consideration of Committee Responses
- Copies of a draft Committee response to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the Consultation Paper on a Commissioner for Children had been circulated. The Committee considered further information on the promotion of language and a number of additions proposed by members. Following a detailed discussion, the proposed additions were not accepted and the response was agreed.
- A draft Committee response to the Taskforce on Employability and Long-Term Unemployment discussion document had been circulated and was agreed.
- The Chairman advised members that the Memorandum on the Proposed Children (Leaving Care) Bill had been referred to the Committee by the Clerk of the Health, Social Service and Public Safety Committee for views. The Committee agreed a response.
- A consultation document entitled 'Audit and Accountability in the Public sector in Northern Ireland' had been referred to the Committee by the Department of Finance and Personnel. The Committee considered and agreed a response which highlighted a number of general audit/accountability issues.
Ms Lewsley joined the meeting at 11.05 a. m. and Mrs Bell joined at 11.20 a.m.
5. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Tuesday 20 November at 12.30 p.m. in Room 152, Parliament Buildings, to consider the Proposals for a Common Funding Formula. A meeting of the Committee was also scheduled for 22 November at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
6. Discussion on the Draft Programme for Government/Public Service Agreement - Public Session
The Chairman welcomed the Minister of Education and Departmental Officials, Mr McGinn, Mr Peover and Mr Jackson to the meeting. A detailed discussion took place followed by a question and session. The main issues raised included:
- the achievement of targets regarding Capital Building, maintenance work and the reduction in the number of temporary classrooms;
- school funding issues;
- whether a target should be included regarding a Review of the pay levels, salary structure, workload and conditions of service for teachers and Principals/Vice- Principals;
- the reduction in the targets for improving standards of numeracy and literacy;
- progress towards the targets in the Department's New TSN Action Plan;
- the slippage in the targets for reducing the percentage of persistent non-attenders and the establishment of a Strategy to engage disaffected young people in learning;
- the proposed timescales for Disability Rights in schools and Anti- Bullying legislation;
- the monitoring and evaluation of the pre-school education policy to measure its effectiveness;
- the timescale for the proposed Review of Public Administration;
- the progress made on the Public Private Partnership package announced in March 2001 ;
- the timescale for the publication of the draft Service Delivery Agreement.
The Committee also briefly discussed the changes recently introduced to the Viability Criteria for Post-Primary Irish Medium and Integrated Schools with the Minister.
The Chairman thanked the Minister and officials for a useful discussion and they left the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 12.20 p.m.