MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE NINETY THIRD MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 18 APRIL 2002
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr J Fee
Mr O Gibson
Mr B McElduff
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Mr T Gallagher
Mr T Hamilton
Ms P Lewsley
Mr S Wilson
Mrs C Darrah (Committee Clerk)
Mrs V Artt (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Ms M Austin (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr D Stevenson (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms A Montgomery (Assembly Research Directorate for items 4 & 5)
The Committee met at 10.32 a.m. in private session.
1. Minutes of the Meeting of 11 April 2002
The minutes of the meeting of 11 April 2002 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
A copy of the agreed response to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding the Terms of Reference for the Review of Public Administration had been circulated for information.
The Chairman advised members that the Minister of Education would be responding to the Committee's comments on the draft Household Response Form in connection with the Review of Post-Primary Education in the very near future.
A copy of a letter from the Minister of Education regarding the likely timescale for the introduction of proposed new Compulsory Nutritional Standards for School Meals had been circulated. The Committee noted the Minister's intention to initiate further consultation with service providers thus pushing the implementation date back from September 2002 until January 2003. The Minister had undertaken to keep the Committee appraised of developments and provide details of the final outcome of the consultation when available.
The Minister of Education had provided further information on progress with the Classroom 2000 project at the request of the Committee. Members noted that the project appeared to be on course to provide local infrastructure for schools by the beginning of the 2003/04 school year and it was currently within budget.
A copy of a response from the Department of Education providing details of publications referenced in the Department of Education's Report " The Effects of the Selective System of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland" in relation to an inquiry by a Mr S Elliott had been circulated. The Committee agreed that Mr Elliott should be provided with a copy of response and the publications. Members were content to access the publications in the Committee office.
Mr Fee joined the meeting at 10.37a.m.
3. Chairman's Business
A note of the meeting the Chairman and other members had held with representatives of the National Association of Head Teachers to discuss the current position regarding maintenance of pay differentials for Principals and Vice Principals had been circulated. The Chairman advised the Committee that progress was not being made and the NAHT was considering escalating it's industrial action. Given the situation he had arranged to meet the Minister of Education and the Permanent Secretary to clarify the situation and discuss the position. He agreed to keep members updated.
The Chairman informed members that the Chairman of Craigavon Large Controlled Primary Schools Principals' Group had written regarding the effects of the current industrial action being taken by some of the local teaching unions. The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Education to seek information on what action was being taken to resolve the industrial action before considering a response.
The Chairman advised the Committee that an invitation to a reception on 9 May 2002 hosted by the European Commission and the Committee of the Centre to celebrate Europe Day had been received. It was agreed that members wishing to attend the event should inform the Clerk who would make the necessary arrangements.
The Chairman advised members that the Public Accounts Committee was scheduled to hold a public meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education on 24 April 2002 at 10.30 a.m. in the Senate Chamber to discuss the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report on Indicators of Educational Performance and Provision.
The Chairman informed members that arrangements had been made for he and the Deputy Chairman to meet with representatives of "Parents and Professionals and Autism" to discuss service provision and delivery to those within the autism spectrum on Monday 22 April 2002. He invited any available members to attend the meeting.
The Clerk informed members that the Dyspraxia Foundation had requested meetings with both the Education Committee and the Health Committee to discuss the issues surrounding the learning difficulty. The Committee agreed that a joint meeting would be appropriate and requested the Clerk to make the necessary arrangements.
4. Discussion with representatives from the Youth Education Social Inclusion Partnership (YESIP) - Public Session
The Chairman welcomed Mrs Helen McClenaghan, Ms June Trimble, Mr Gregory Butler and Mr Joe Hawkins to the meeting to discuss European Funding Programmes. The representatives gave a detailed presentation on the development of YESIP and the key features of PEACE II Funding. This was followed by a question and answer session covering:
- The differences between PEACE I and PEACE II Funding;
- The aims, objectives, priorities and principles of PEACE II;
- The criteria for assessing projects;
- Monitoring and evaluation arrangements;
- Targeting of areas of greatest need;
- The difficulty for voluntary and community groups to access funding;
- European Social Fund Regulations; and
- Difficulties concerning securing core funding and sustainability.
The Chairman thanked the representatives for the very informative discussion and they left the meeting. The Committee agreed that a synopsis of the points raised during the discussion should be prepared and a copy of the closure report on PEACE I, should be requested from the Department of Education.
5. Briefing by Departmental Officials on the Review of Government Accommodation - Public Session
Mrs Bell joined the meeting at 11.57 a.m.
Further information provided by the Department of Education regarding the perceived lack of neutrality of the location of Rathgael House was circulated.
The Chairman welcomed Mr Neil Jackson and Mr Paul Cartwright, Departmental Officials, to the meeting to discuss the Review of Government Accommodation. The representatives briefly outlined the current position and the key issues. This was followed by a question and answer session which covered:
- The Department's proposal to move location and the reasons for this;
- Utilisation of existing accommodation;
- Accessibility issues and the availability of public transport;
- The location of staff currently working in Rathgael House;
- The perceived lack of neutrality of the location of Rathgael House and the evidence on which this was based; and
- The need to keep staff fully informed regarding any proposals/developments.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the very useful discussion and they left the meeting. The Committee agreed to give further consideration to the issues once a summary of the main points had been prepared.
6. Committee Business - Private Session
A copy of the North/South Ministerial Council Education Sector Communiqué following the meeting held on Thursday 11 April 2002 in Armagh had been circulated. The Chairman informed members that the Minister was scheduled to make a statement to the Assembly on Monday 22 April 2002 on the issues discussed at the meeting.
A draft Committee press release in relation to the meeting arranged for Thursday 25 April 2002 with representatives from the North Eastern Education and Library Board to discuss its serious financial situation was circulated. The Committee discussed and agreed the press release which would be issued prior to the meeting.
A synopsis of the discussion with Departmental Officials on the Draft Budget Position Report was circulated. Members agreed to consider the issues highlighted and submit comments to the Committee Clerk to enable a response to be prepared.
7. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 25 April 2002 at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Committee was adjourned at 12.32 p.m.