MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE EIGHTIETH MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON TUESDAY 29 JANUARY 2002
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Gallagher
Mr T Hamilton
Ms P Lewsley
Mr B McElduff
Mr K Robinson
Mr G McHugh
Mr S Wilson
Mrs C Darrah
Mrs V Artt
Ms S O'Neill
The Committee met at 12.45 p.m. in private session.
1. Minutes of the Meeting of 17 January 2002
The minutes of the meeting of 17 January 2002 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
- The Committee noted the Chairman's letter to the Minister of Education supporting the bid by CCEA for additional capital funding for improvements to its computer systems.
- Copies of a response from the Department of Education to the Committee's request for further information regarding several bids in the December Monitoring Round had been circulated. The Committee agreed that further information regarding the general practice of Departments submitting bids to assist organisations to counteract the effect of low interest rates should be sought from the Department of Finance and Personnel.
- The Committee noted that the Minister of Education had not yet reached a decision with regard to the Unions call for an independent inquiry into teachers' salaries, conditions of service etc following his meetings on 13 December 2001. He had agreed to keep the Committee informed of progress.
- Members noted the Chairman's letter to the Minister of Education regarding his undertaking to consult with the Committee on the proposed video and pamphlet on the Review of Post-Primary Education.
3. Chairman's Business
- A note of the meeting the Chairman, Deputy Chairman and other Committee members had had with representatives of the National Association of Head Teachers regarding pay differentials for Principals and Vice-Principals had been circulated. In view of the issues raised at the meeting and the subsequent vote for industrial action by NAHT members, the Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Education expressing concern regarding the current situation and seeking urgent action to resolve the matter. The Committee also noted a letter received from a School Principal on the difficulties being faced due to the situation.
- The Committee noted a statement from the Irish National Teachers' Organisation regarding the recommendations on the Treatment of Teachers' Salaries included in the Committee Report on the Proposals for a Common Funding Formula.
- A copy of a letter from the Principal of Stranmillis University College regarding the inadequate condition of the College Buildings in general and the Henry Garrett Building in particular had been circulated. Members expressed concern regarding the long-term implications for teacher training and agreed to refer the matter to the Committee for Employment and Learning as it fell within its remit.
- The Chairman informed members that arrangements had been made for he and the Deputy Chairman to meet informally with representatives of Tor Bank Special School to discuss the capital building needs of the school. He invited any available members to attend the meeting.
Mr Gallagher left the meeting and Mrs Bell joined the meeting at 1.00 p.m.
4. Discussion with Department of Education officials on the Consultative Paper on the Proposals for a Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults Bill - Public Session
The Chairman welcomed Departmental officials Mrs Christine Jendoubi, Mrs June Ingram and Mr Mervyn Gregg to the meeting. The officials outlined the current position regarding the consultative paper. This was followed by a question and answer session. The main issues covered included:
- the interdepartmental working group established to consider the outcomes from the consultative exercise;
- Department of Education current practice with regard to background checks;
- the proposed provisions relating to prohibitions and restrictions on those applying to work, or working, as teachers and others working in schools including bus and taxi drivers;
- the need for detailed supporting guidance for employers on any new regulatory requirements;
- the sharing of information with other jurisdictions including the Republic of Ireland; and
- the timescale for the required primary and subordinate legislation.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the useful discussion and they left the meeting.
Following a short discussion the Committee agreed to write to the Department of Education seeking further information on a number of points and to request information regarding the membership and remit of the PECS working group.
5. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 31 January 2002 at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
6. Any Other Business
- The Committee briefly discussed problems schools were facing with the unsatisfactory performance of the Examinations Body, Edexcel and agreed to raise their concerns with the Minister of Education.
- The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Education regarding the apparent shortage of mathematics teachers, particularly in Secondary Schools.
- The Committee noted the large number of letters being received on the Review of Post-Primary Education and the Burns Proposals and agreed that letters received by individual members should be copied to the Clerk for transmission to the Department of Education in due course.
The Committee was adjourned at 1.40 p.m.