MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE EIGHTY FIRST MEETING OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 31 JANUARY 2002
Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Gallagher
Mr T Hamilton
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson
Mr J Fee
Mr O Gibson
Ms P Lewsley
Mr B McElduff
Mrs C Darrah
Mrs V Artt
Ms S O'Neill
The Committee met at 10.30 a.m. in private session.
1. Matters Arising
The Committee noted the Chairman's letter to the Assembly Business Committee regarding a number of points concerning the debate on the Committee's Report on the Proposals for a Common Funding Formula.
Copies of a response from the Department of Education concerning the timing of the Schools Capital Building Programme 2002 announcement had been circulated. Following a short discussion the Committee agreed to request further clarification regarding the date of the announcement.
2. Chairman's Business
The Chairman informed members that Ballynahinch Regeneration Committee had written requesting a meeting with the Committee regarding the capital building needs of Assumption Grammar School, Ballynahinch. The Committee agreed that the Clerk should arrange for representatives to meet with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman and other available members to discuss the matter.
Mr Gallagher joined the meeting at 10.35 a.m.
The Committee noted a letter from the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers welcoming the implementation of the Threshold Assessment Scheme.
The Chairman informed the Committee that the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres (Northern Ireland Region) had written regarding the ineligibility of Outdoor Educational Resource Staff to apply for an award under the Threshold Assessment Scheme. The Committee noted that Professional staff at Outdoor Educational Centres were paid on teachers' salary scales and previous pay rises had been honoured and implemented and agreed to write to the Minister of Education seeking clarification of the position.
A note of the meeting with representatives of the Love for Life project regarding its Schools Programme and possible development areas had been circulated. The Committee agreed to support the case for longer term funding for the Programme.
An invitation to all Committee members to attend the launch of the Department of Education's Revised Equality Impact Assessment Timetable and the Education and Library Boards'/Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards' Report on the Screening of Policies had been received. Members agreed to inform the Clerk if they wished to represent the Committee at the Launch.
The Chairman advised members that bids could be submitted for detailed research work to be commissioned. The Committee agreed that a bid for research to assist in considering the Review of Post-Primary Education and the Burns Proposals would be appropriate and instructed the Clerk to prepare draft Terms of Reference.
The Committee noted a letter from the Minister of Education dated 31 January which agreed to provide the Committee with a copy of the video regarding the consultation on the Review of Post-Primary Education for consideration and comment before it was finalised. The Committee agreed to place the matter on the agenda for the meeting scheduled for 14 February 2002 and request confirmation that the draft pamphlet would also be made available to the Committee for comment.
3. Discussion with Department of Education officials on the Draft Service Agreement - Public Session
The Chairman welcomed Departmental officials Mrs June Ingram and Mr Neil Jackson to the meeting. The officials outlined the nature of the Service Delivery Agreements, the timeframe covered and the relationship with the Programme for Government and Public Service Agreements. A question and answer session followed during which the main issues covered included:
- the need to agree achieveable targets with main service providers;
- the language used in the document including references to Customer Service;
- the variation in the timescale of some targets and the need for consistency;
- the achievability of the targets to reduce the backlog of high priority maintenance work given the reduction in the budget for this year;
- the amended targets regarding reducing multiple suspensions, the provision of alternative in-house provision within schools and the availability of funding;
- performance targets regarding the School Support Programme;
- the expected benefits from the use of management tools such as the Balanced Scorecard;
- the reduction of targets in literacy and numeracy at Key Stage 3 and the issue of funding provided for the achievement of targets;
- teacher training arrangements for Classroom 2000;
- Pre-school education targets and the need for quality control measurements; and
- the proposed review of management structures within the Department of Education.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the useful discussion and they left the meeting.
Following a short discussion the Committee agreed that a draft response to include the issues covered and a number of other matters should be prepared for consideration at the next meeting.
4. Committee Response to the Review of School information and Prospectuses - Private Session
The Committee considered information on the responses to the Review of School Information and Prospectuses and agreed its position on a number of issues. Members agreed to consider a draft response based on the discussion at the next meeting of the Committee.
5. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 7 February 2002 at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Committee was adjourned at 11.55 a.m.