MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE NINETY NINTH MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN THE ECOS MILLENIUM CENTRE, BALLYMENA ON THURSDAY 30 MAY 2002
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Gallagher
Mr O Gibson
Mr T Hamilton
Mr K Robinson
Mr J Fee
Mr A Maginness
Mr B McElduff
Mr G McHugh
Mrs C Darrah (Committee Clerk)
Mrs V Artt (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Ms M Austin (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr D Stevenson (Clerical Supervisor)
Miss N Finlay (Clerical Assistant)
Ms G Kane (Assembly Research Directorate )
The Committee met at 10.35 a.m. in public session.
1. Committee Business
Information provided by the Department of Education regarding proposed bids for the next round of Executive Programme Funds for Social Inclusion and Community Regeneration, Children's and Innovation and Modernisation had been circulated. The Committee discussed the information in detail and agreed the priority bids for each fund. The Committee also agreed to request further information regarding the effectiveness of the funding that had already been spent on Numeracy and Literacy and EOTAS (Education Other than at School) Schemes.
2. Evidence Session on Early Years Learning with representatives of the North Eastern Education and Library Board and the North Eastern Education and Library Board Pre-school Education Advisory Group
The Chairman expressed the Committee's pleasure at being in Ballymena for its meeting and welcomed the members of the public who had attended. He indicated that there would be an opportunity for members of the public to speak at the end of the meeting. The Chairman then welcomed Mr Michael Devine, Chairperson PEAG, Miss Rosemary Nicholl, Primary Officer, Mrs Una Crossey, Early Years Officer and Mrs Anne Connolly, Assistant Senior Education Officer to the meeting to give oral evidence on the NEELB and the NEELB PEAG submissions to the Committee Inquiry into Early Years Learning. This was followed by a question and answer session. The main issues discussed included:
- the definition and key principles of Early Years Provision;
- existing Early Years policies and current provision;
- inter-Agency collaboration and how this could be improved;
- the role of parents as educators and how this partnership could be encouraged and supported;
- the resources required to ensure that children with special needs and children in need receive equity of provision;
- the effect on Early Years provision of the NEELB's current financial difficulties;
- how to counter the effects of social inclusion and underachievement; and
- the need for investment in the infrastructure and training and a strategic approach for the future.
Mrs Bell joined the meeting at 11.40 a.m.
Hansard recorded the evidence session for publication in due course
3. Evidence Session on Early Years Learning with representatives of the Northern Childcare Partnership
The Chairman welcomed Mrs Linda Erwin, Northern Childcare Partnership, Ms Karen Young, Causeway Health and Social Services Trust and Mr Colum Conway, NIPPA to the meeting to give oral evidence on the Northern Childcare Partnership's submission to the Committee Inquiry into Early Years Learning. This was followed by a question and answer session. The main issues discussed included:
- the need for an integrated approach in Early Years;
- how to support a seamless transition from Pre-school to Primary school;
- the importance of involving and supporting parents and communities in Early Years learning;
- the importance of the physical environment in children's development;
- how to encourage males role models to be part of Early Years provision;
- equality issues in relation to children with disabilities;
- current provision in rural areas and how this can be sustained; and
- the use of accredited schemes to ensure the maintenance of standards.
Hansard recorded the evidence session for publication in due course.
4. Evidence Session on Early Years Learning with representatives of Homefirst Health and Social Services Trust
The Chairman welcomed Mrs Marie Roulston, Assistant Programme Manager Early Years, Ms Hazel Dougan Principal Officer, Mrs Barbara Wilson, Early Years Team Leader and Mr Robert McPherson, Early Years Team Leader to the meeting to give oral evidence on the Homefirst Health and Social Services Trust submission to the Committee Inquiry into Early Years Learning. This was followed by a question and answer session. The main issues discussed included:
- how to achieve better co-ordination and collaboration in the inspection process;
- equity of esteem for staff in pre-school playgroups;
- how to support parents as first educators;
- the benefits to be gained from various models of good practice;
- the use of research to monitor best practice;
- the need for resources to be targeted at Early Years provision and unmet need to be identified; and
- equal access for all children including those with special needs to pre-school provision.
Hansard recorded the evidence session for publication in due course.
5. Evidence Session on Early Years Learning with a representative of SENSE
The Chairman welcomed Mrs Lorna Milway, Family and Education Adviser to the meeting to give oral evidence on the SENSE submission to the Committee Inquiry into Early Years Learning. This was followed by a short question and answer session. The areas discussed included:
- early identification and assessment of children with severe disabilities;
- the importance of specialist health and educational support for families with children who have multiple disabilities as early as possible to enable parents to play their full role;
- the need for specialist schooling and multidisciplinary support for children with special needs; and
- how to better co-ordinate Early Years provision.
Hansard recorded the evidence for publication in due course.
6. Comments from Individuals
The Chairman invited comments from the public and concerns were raised about how the Pre-School Expansion Programme was working in practice and the effect it was having on community playgroups and rural communities in general.
7. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 6 June 2002 at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
8. Any Other Business
(i) The Chairman informed the Committee of provisional arrangements being made by the Department of Education for a briefing on 20 June 2002 with senior officials of the French Education Department on the French Post-Primary Education system. Members noted the information and agreed to consider the matter again in due course.
(ii) Mr Robinson advised the Committee that he had received a public petition before the meeting regarding Hollybank Primary School in Newtownabbey and its current financial difficulties which he would present to the Assembly.
(iii) Mr Robinson noted that the Minister of Education was visiting Finland to gather information on its Post-Primary Education System. He proposed that the Chairman and Deputy Chairman should also visit to observe its pre-school and Early Years Learning practices which he believed may be the reason for the good results achieved. The Committee agreed that the Clerk should provide research and prepare a list of possible visits for further consideration.
The Committee was adjourned at 13.20 p.m.