MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE EIGHTY SIXTH MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 28 FEBRUARY 2002
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mr T Gallagher
Mr O Gibson
Ms P Lewsley
Mr B McElduff
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Hamilton
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Mrs C Darrah (Committee Clerk)
Mrs J McMurray (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr D Stevenson (Executive Support)
Ms S O'Neill (Administrative Support)
The Committee met at 10.48 a.m. in private session.
The Deputy Chairman took the Chair.
1. Minutes of the Meetings of 19 February 2002 and 21 February 2002
The minutes of the meetings of 19 February 2002 and 21 February 2002 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
(i) A copy of a letter to the Department of Education requesting information on the relevant issues in the proposed Regional Transportation Strategy had been circulated for information. The Committee noted that letters had also been sent to the five Education and Library Boards regarding the consideration of staggering school opening and closing times.
(ii) A copy of a response from the Minister of Education regarding the Review of School Information and Prospectuses had been circulated. The Committee agreed that the Minister should be invited to the meeting scheduled for 14 March 2002 to discuss the matter.
(iii) The Committee noted a response from the Minister of Education regarding the quality control mechanisms in the threshold assessment process and agreed to request further information.
(iv) A copy of a response from the Minister of Education on the eligibility of staff employed in Outdoor Education Centres to apply for the Threshold payment had been circulated. The Committee noted that the Joint Negotiating Committee would be considering the matter and agreed to advise the Chairman of the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres accordingly. The Committee also agreed that it wished to be kept informed of progress to ensure a speedy resolution of the matter.
(v) A reply from the Minister of Education regarding the supply of mathematics teachers had been circulated. Members agreed to consider the response at the meeting scheduled for 7 March 2002.
(vi) Information provided by the Department of Education to questions raised during a discussion on the Proposals for a Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults Bill had been circulated and was noted.
(vii) Further information from the Department of Education regarding the February Monitoring Round and the accruals accounting treatment which applied to certain elements of the Classroom 2000 project had been circulated. Following a short discussion the Committee agreed to request further information on the timetable of the Classroom 2000 project, the budget for it and progress to date.
3. Chairman's Business
(i) The Deputy Chairman advised members that copies of a letter from the Health, Social Services and Public Safety Committee regarding its Report on the Delivery of Cancer Services in Northern Ireland and the recommendations that fell within the Education Committee's remit had been circulated. Following a short discussion the Committee agreed to respond welcoming the recommendations and highlighting that one of them was in line with proposals that the Department of Education had recently consulted upon to improve compulsory nutritional standards for School Meals.
(ii) The Deputy Chairman informed members that an invitation had been received from the School of Psychology at Queen's University to attend a public lecture on Wednesday 6 March at 5.30 p.m. by Professor David Perkins, Harvard University regarding "Building Intelligent Schools".
(iii) The Deputy Chairman informed members that letters from a number of organisations wishing to make presentations to the Committee had been circulated. The Committee agreed that the Clerk should identify suitable dates and arrange for each organisation to meet the Chairman and Deputy Chairman and other available members. One of the meetings relevant to Early Years Learning would be incorporated into the Committee Inquiry on the subject.
(iv) Copies of two letters from the Ulster Teachers' Union regarding resolutions passed at the Reconvened 2001 Annual UTU Conference had been circulated. The Committee noted that the resolutions related to teachers' pay and conditions of service and a response from the Minister of Education on these issues was still outstanding.
(v) The Deputy Chairman informed members that two meetings had taken place with representatives of schools to discuss Capital Building needs and relevant information would be circulated as soon as possible. The Committee discussed the viability of schools making their facilities available to the wider community and agreed that the issue should be incorporated in the response on the 2002 Capital Building Programme.
4. Consideration of a Draft Response on the 2002 Capital Building Programme
The Committee agreed to hold a meeting on Monday 4 March 2002 at 4.00 p.m. to consider two letters from the Minister of Education regarding the proposed video and supporting materials on the Review of Post-Primary Education. The Committee also agreed to defer consideration of the draft response on the 2002 Capital Building Programme until that meeting.
The Committee moved into public session
5. Discussion with Officials on the Department of Education's New TSN Action Plan and Equality Scheme
The Deputy Chairman welcomed Mr Terry Smyth and Mrs Gillian Ardis, officials from the Department of Education to the meeting to up-date the Committee on progress regarding the Department's New TSN Action Plan and its Equality Scheme. The officials gave a presentation on the New TSN Action Plan. A question and answer session then took place which covered the following issues:
- how the effectiveness of the new TSN policy would be measured and evaluated;
- the training of staff;
- the achievement to date of the targets in the action plan and the slippage concerning some of the targets; and
- the need to focus on priorities when up-dating the plan.
The Committee agreed to put further specific questions in writing and that arrangements should be made for a presentation by the EU Intermediary Funding Body YESIP.
The officials made a short presentation on developments with the Department's Equality Scheme. This was followed by a discussion on a number of issues including:
- how an Equality Impact Assessment is carried out;
- the screening process and the basis for deciding the order for policies to be assessed; and
- the availability of information on individual equality impact assessments.
The Committee agreed that a further presentation on Equality Impact Assessments would be useful.
The Deputy Chairman thanked Mr Smyth and Mrs Ardis for their comprehensive presentations and they left the meeting.
6. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Monday 4 March 2002 at 4.00 p.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Committee was adjourned at 12.13 p.m.