MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE HUNDRED AND FOURTH MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 152, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON TUESDAY 25 JUNE 2002
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr J Fee
Mr T Gallagher
Mr T Hamilton
Mr A Maginness
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Mr B McElduff
Ms S McClelland (Committee Clerk)
Mrs V Artt (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Ms M Austin (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr D Stevenson (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr C Henderson (Clerical Officer)
The Committee met at 1.05 p.m. in private session.
The Committee agreed that, in lieu of flowers, a donation should be made to St Mark's Church, Ligoniel as a mark of respect, following the death of the mother of Mrs Christine Darrah.
The Chairman welcomed Ms S McClelland as Acting Clerk.
1. Minutes of the Meeting of 18 June 2002
The minutes of the meeting of 18 June 2002 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
(i) A copy of a letter to the Minister of Education regarding the reduction of funding to Hollybank Primary School, which had been circulated, was noted.
(ii) The Committee noted a copy of a letter to the Minister of Education supporting the Youth Council for Northern Ireland's proposals for additional baseline funding for distribution to Regional Voluntary Youth Organisations, which had been circulated.
(iii) The Committee agreed that no amendment was required to a response to the Chairman of the Employment and Learning Committee regarding the consultation document 'Essential Skills for Living' which had been circulated. A briefing paper on the consultation document provided by the Assembly Research and Library Services had also been circulated.
3. Chairman's Business
(i) The Chairman informed the Committee that the Second Stage of the Education and Libraries Bill was scheduled for debate in Plenary session of the Assembly on 2 July. After a short discussion members agreed that only the Chairman should speak in the debate.
(ii) A copy of a response from the Minister of Education regarding financial assistance available to schools that have been subject to acts of vandalism had been circulated. During a short discussion on the allocation of the additional resources, the Committee noted that these had been made available on the basis of parliamentary constituencies and that four schools in the North Eastern Education and Library Board area were outside one of the designated areas and had not therefore received additional funding. The Committee agreed to request clarification from the Minister of Education on the basis for the allocation of the additional resources.
(iii) The Chairman advised members that a response from the Minister of Education regarding the Independent Inquiry into Teacher's Pay and Conditions had been received. The Committee noted that the membership of the Inquiry should be finalised shortly and agreed to request details of the membership and timetable.
(iv) A copy of a response from the Minister of Education regarding the proposed timing of his formal response to the Committee Report on the Proposals for a Common Funding Formula had been received. The Committee noted that the Minister intended to provide his response in the very near future and agreed that, if he felt it was necessary and there was a precedent for doing so, the Chairman should convene a meeting of the Committee during the summer recess to discuss this or any other urgent matter which might arise.
Mr Wilson joined the meeting at 1.10 p.m.
(v) The Committee noted a response from the Minister of Education regarding nursery school provision in the Craigavon area.
(vi) The Chairman advised members that he had received a response from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister in relation to the Review of Public Administration. The Committee noted that all educational bodies listed in its response on the proposed Terms of Reference would be included in the Review and, that while the Committee of the Centre would take the lead, the Education Committee would be consulted on any issues that would impact on education.
(vii) The Chairman informed the Committee that he had received a response from the Minister of Education regarding the financial crisis facing the North Eastern Education And Library Board. The Committee noted that the Board had recently been allocated approximately £1million specifically to address class size problems at Key Stage One and that further consideration would be given to seeking assistance from the Northern Ireland Block once an assessment of the financial situation at the Board had been completed. Following a short discussion, the Committee agreed to request clarification of the source of the additional funding and of its availability to the other four Education and Library Boards.
(viii) The Chairman advised the Committee that he had received a letter from Mr Gerry McGinn, Permanent Secretary, Department of Education regarding the postponement of the Committee visit to Rathgael House. The Committee agreed that the Clerk should make the necessary arrangements for the visit to take place early in the Autumn session.
(ix) The Chairman informed the Committee that he had met with Mrs Joan McLeod, Head of Mathematics at Campbell College to discuss the position regarding the availability of EDEXCEL GCSE examinations to schools in Northern Ireland. The Committee noted a response from the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment on the matter and agreed to discuss the issue again once a response had been received from the Minister of Education.
Mr Gallagher and Mr Hamilton joined the meeting and Mr Fee left the meeting.
4. Committee Business
(i) The Committee discussed a possible response to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the resource aspects of the Executive Position Report. Following a short discussion, members agreed to forward comments to the Committee Office for inclusion in a draft response.
(ii) The Committee considered a draft response to the Minister of Education on the proposals for the Capital Allocation Process and following discussion agreed the response without amendment.
5. Evidence session on Early Years Learning with Representatives of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools
The Committee discussed the time available to hold the scheduled evidence session on the Committee's Inquiry into Early Years Learning and agreed that the session should be postponed until after the summer recess when sufficient time would be ensured to take evidence on the written submission to the Inquiry submitted by CCMS.
Mr Maginness left the meeting at 1.30 p.m.
6. Briefing by Representatives of the Southern Education and Library Board on the funding of education services - Public Session
The Chairman welcomed Ms M Alexander, Chairman, Mrs H McClenaghan, Chief Executive, Rev Father M McVeigh, Vice-Chairman, Alderman A Hatch, Board Member, Mr P McAleavey, Board Member and Principal of St Patrick's High School, Keady and Mr T Herron, Head of Corporate Services to the meeting to discuss the financial situation across the five Education and Library Boards.
Mr McHugh joined the meeting at 1.40 p.m.
The representatives gave an overview of the current and projected financial position of the Southern Education and Library Board. A question and answer session followed which covered a number of points including:
- the above inflation increases affecting the schools centre budget ;
- the increase in numbers of children with special needs attending mainstream and special schools;
- the increasing number of schools expected to be in deficit by March 2003;
- the hidden costs to schools of Department of Education initiatives including Classroom 2000;
- the increase in class sizes at Key Stage Two due to funding shortages;
- the need for funding to be increased for core services instead of short term initiatives; and
- the background to the current review of concessionary travel in the Southern Education and Library Board area.
The Chairman thanked the representatives for a very informative and useful discussion and assured them of the Committee's intention to raise the matter of funding for all Education and Library Boards with the Minister of Education.
Mrs Bell and Mr Gallagher left the meeting at 2.30 p.m.
7. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 27 June 2002 at 10.30 a.m. in the Library, Enniskillen.
The Committee was adjourned at 2.35 p.m.