Legacy Report

REMIT, POWERS AND MEMBERSHIP OF THE COMMITTEE

The Committee for Education is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Standing Order 48.

Statutory Committees have been established to advise and assist the appropriate Minister on the formation of policy in relation to matters within his/her responsibilities. Specifically, the Committee has power to:

  • consider and advise on departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • consider relevant secondary legislation and take the committee stage of primary legislation;
  • call for persons and papers;
  • initiate inquiries and make reports; and
  • consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister for Education.

The Committee has 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and a quorum of 5. The membership of the Committee is as follows:

Mr M Storey (Chairperson)
Mr D Hilditch (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr D Bradley
Mrs M Bradley
Mr J Craig
Lord Empey
Mr T Lunn
Mr B McCrea
Miss M McIlveen
Mr J O’Dowd
Mrs M O’Neill

The Committee focused throughout the mandate on a number of strategic policy issues/proposed changes affecting education, working with varying degrees of success on the scrutiny of issues such as:

  • Transfer from Primary to Post-Primary Schools– in July of 2008 the Committee formally responded to the Minister of Education’s May 2008 proposals, providing views from 18 key education stakeholders plus each of the 5 Political Parties represented in the Committee. Despite widely differing views on the issue, the Committee was able to highlight to the Minister a growing concern by some Parties that a period of reflection is necessary before any permanent arrangements are put in place, and that the development of academic streams could have academic schools within clusters of schools. The Minister took her policy of Transfer 2010 (2011) forward and this remains an issue for some school sectors.
  • Education Bill – The Committee agreed a comprehensive Report to the Assembly on the Committee Stage of the Education Bill (NIA 3/08), which included recommended amendments on a number of key concerns/ issues raised by education stakeholders during its extensive scrutiny of the Bill and associated policy changes.
  • Primary School and Preparatory Department Funding – the Committee pressed DE to increase funding to Primary Schools, leading to some £27million going directly to Primary Schools budgets in 2010/11. The Committee also questioned the DE proposal to discontinue funding to Preparatory Departments, leading to the Minister announcing a reduction in funding by one third, rather than the removal of all funding.
  • Budget 2010 – 11 – The Committee undertook detailed scrutiny of the Education Budget 2010-11, which included the Department’s capital budget position - with the Committee continuing to press for clarification regarding selection criteria, with the decision by the Minister to proceed in 2010/11 with 13/14 school builds. This Committee’s scrutiny also led to the Minister’s decision to reduce spend (£24.3million) in 2010/11 on SEN Capacity Building (to 8million).
  • Budget 2011-15 – Following limited information received from the Department regarding a breakdown of spending plan proposals (and priorities) and the impact of major saving proposals, the Committee agreed an interim response on the Draft Education Budget 2011-15 which was submitted to the Committee for Finance and Personnel. Evidence was then received from the Committee hosting a key educational stakeholder event, enabling the Committee to make a more substantive final response on 15 February 2011 - which was submitted to the Committee for Finance and Personnel and the Minister of Education.
  • Special Education Needs and Inclusion Proposals and Consultation –Widespread stakeholder concerns with this DE led consultation resulted in the Committee hosting a major stakeholder event with a panel of key stakeholders presenting concerns and questioning senior DE officials. The Committee called upon the Minister to extend the consultation period - which was extended twice. The Committee also submitted a comprehensive response to the consultation.
  • Early Years (0-6) Draft Strategy Consultation – The Committee engaged in extensive scrutiny of this Draft Strategy, which received a high level of stakeholder concern, leading again to the Committee organising a major stakeholder event, a decision by the Minister to extend the consultation period, a Committee Motion supported by the Assembly and again a comprehensive response on the Consultation.
  • Committee Inquiry into ‘Successful Post Primary Schools Serving Disadvantaged Communities’ – The Committee, in recognising the significant challenge for some schools in Northern Ireland of addressing underachievement, conducted an extensive Inquiry on what makes a school successful , taking evidence directly from 10 schools, DE, ETI, RTU, E&LBs and CCMS, leading to the publication of the Committee’s Report on the Inquiry with 16 wide ranging and challenging recommendations for DE – which received the Assembly approval through a Committee motion on 21 March 2011.

The Committee has approached its work in the following ways:

  • School Visits/Committee Meetings in Schools - the Committee visited a total number of 14 schools throughout the mandate on a number of key issues – this included 8 formal meetings. For example, the observation of how SEN schools and nurture units operate; taking of evidence from 10 individual schools on the Committee’s Inquiry and the engagement between schools in Area Learning Communities.
  • Committee Motions to the Assembly- the Committee brought forward to the Assembly three Committee Motions - Primary School Funding, Education and the Economy and the Draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy -providing key information on its web page to all Members of the Assembly. This demonstrated the importance the Committee attached to stakeholder concerns on each of these areas and enabled the Committee to achieve early and direct responses from the Minister for Education – for example, the Minister held meetings with the Health and Junior Ministers from OFMDFM to consider broadening her Early Years Strategy.
  • Informal Receptions – The Committee received numerous requests from education organisations to meet with the Committee over various concerns in this mandate. The Committee held four Long Gallery Informal Receptions where the Committee invited up to 35 educational organisations to a Reception splitting the Committee Membership into small groups to ensure that each organisation got to speak directly to some Members for 10-15 minutes.
  • Great Hall Stakeholder Events – the Committee decided that due to the high level of stakeholder concern with the Department’s SEN and Inclusion proposals and the Early Years (0-6) Draft Strategy consultations, that it would host Committee Events in the Great Hall (with over 160 attendees) ensuring a platform for all key stakeholder organisations and parents to share their concerns with and directly question senior DE officials. The Committee also saw this as an important way to inform itself of stakeholder concerns and its formal consultation response to DE, and assisting the Department with its consultation – for example, identifying options and finding a way forward, as appropriate.
  • Long Gallery Committee Meeting – the Committee held a formal Committee meeting in the Long Gallery taking evidence from and questioning 12 key stakeholders on the all important issue of the Draft DE Budget 2011-15 – some 60 attended, including the most senior education sector representatives.
  • Committee Web Pages - the Committee sees it as important to ensure that the public and all education interests were kept up to date by placing all Committee key responses and correspondence immediately on its web pages.
  • ‘Back to Back’ Evidence sessions – On the Education Bill the Committee held numerous evidence sessions with key education stakeholders which were immediately followed by evidence sessions from senior DE officials to address stakeholder concerns and opportunities for Committee Members to question both parties – this proved both effective and efficient in terms of best use of Committee time.
  • Joint Events /Meetings with other Statutory Committees – the Committee joint hosted a large event on STEM in Parliament Buildings with the Committee for Employment and Learning and the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. Also, a joint meeting with the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety was also held with representatives the Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health.

Issues and Matters that the Incoming Committee for Education may wish to consider:

  • Numeracy and Literacy Strategy - the Committee took several briefing sessions from DE officials and the Literacy and Numeracy Taskforce on this important subject and awaited the publication of this Strategy, where the public consultation began 31 months ago. The Committee learned on 16 March 2011 that the Strategy is to be published on 22 March 2011 and would recommend that this merits scrutiny.
  • SEN and Inclusion Policy Proposals and Consultation – This consultation closed at the end of January 2009 and the Committee still awaits the publication of analysis of consultation responses and policy proposals on the way forward. The Committee’s response to the consultation registered major concerns from both the Committee and key stakeholders - this is available on the Committee’s webpage. Again, the Department’s final proposals would merit scrutiny.
  • Early Years (0-6) Draft Strategy – the Committee awaits the analysis and publication of the responses to the Consultation which concluded end January 2010, with numerous concerns raised by the Committee and key stakeholders – again the Committee’s response is available on its webpage and the final Strategy merits scrutiny
  • Food in Schools Policy – the Committee awaits the publication of the analysis of the consultation responses and the proposed way forward.
  • Draft Government STEM Strategy– Progress on implementation of the DE aspects of this important Draft Strategy merits scrutiny – particularly consideration of the need for an appropriate input from the business sector.
  • Committee’s Education Bill Report - this Bill was not moved to Consideration Stage by the Minister as concerns reflected on this Bill amounted to 97 amendments tabled, 6 clauses no stand part, including the Committee’s own clause amendments and recommendations in respect of the need for Regulations and resolution of some controlled sector issues. The Committee’s Report also expressed concerns on some issues on a second draft Education Bill. The whole area of a single education authority for efficient and effective administration of education and to raise education standards merits considerable Committee Scrutiny.
  • Convergence Delivery Plan – there is merit in continued scrutiny of Convergence Delivery Plan put in place by Minister when she did not move the Education Bill, particularly the Committee’s concerns that progress on implementation of this is now ‘glacial’ with little evidence of delivering the significant savings forecasted.
  • Draft DE 2011-15 Education Budget – This is perhaps the most important area for a future Committee. The Committee and some Members raised numerous and significant concerns around issues such as savings in the Aggregated School Budget, and much reduced capital budget. The Committee’s and some Members’ concerns and key points/questions were put to the Minister of Education on 15 February 2011 and merits follow up. The Committee also awaits the outcome of the Joint PEDU and DE Efficiency Review. The Committee’s key objectives are to ensure that education, particularly schools, frontline services are protected and that there is greater delegation to school budgets - the latter also relates to the suggested comprehensive review of the Common funding formula for schools and the current Local Management of Schools arrangements. The Common Funding Scheme: proposed changes for 2011/12 are currently out to EQIA consultation on two proposals – these close 15 April and 11 May 2011.
  • Transfer from Primary to Post-Primary School– the controversial issue of transfer from primary to post primary schools remains a key issue that merits Committee follow up and continued scrutiny. The Cross Party Education Advisory Group’s Portfolio of Advice on numerous issues surrounding Transfer has been forwarded to the Department and a response on this remains outstanding.
  • Committee’s Inquiry into ‘Successful Post Primary Schools Serving Disadvantaged Communities’- The Committee’s Inquiry Report was published on 14 March 2011 and debated in and approved by the Assembly on 21 March 2011. It has 16 recommendations for DE and merits follow up on the Department’s response and implementation.
Appendix One

The Committee has 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and quorum: of 5. The membership of the Committee is as follows

Alliance

Mr Trevor Lunn

Democratic Unionist Party

Mr Jonathan Craig 1,7,9

 

Miss Michelle McIlveen

 

Mr Mervyn Storey (Chairperson) 3

Democratic Unionist Party

Mr David Hilditch (Deputy Chairperson) 4,7,8

Sinn Fein

Mr John O'Dowd 2

 

Ms Michelle O'Neill

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr Dominic Bradley

 

Mrs Mary Bradley

Ulster Unionist Party

Mr Basil McCrea

 

Lord Empey 6,10

1 With effect from 31 March 2008 Mr Nelson McCausland replaced Mr Jeffrey Donaldson as a member of the Committee for Education.
2 With effect from 20 May 2008 Mr John O’Dowd replaced Mr Paul Butler as a member of the Committee for Education.
3 With effect from 10 June 2008 Mr Mervyn Storey replaced Mr Sammy Wilson as Chairperson of the Committee for Education.
4 With effect from 17 June 2008 Mr Edwin Poots replaced Mr Sammy Wilson as a member of the Committee for Education.
5 With effect from 26 January 2009 Mr Tom Elliott replaced Mr Ken Robinson as a member of the Committee for Education.
6 With effect from 22 June 2009 Mr John McCallister replaced Mr Tom Elliott as a member of the Committee for Education.
7 With effect from 14 September 2009 Mr Jonathan Craig replaced Mr Edwin Poots and Mr Alastair Ross replaces Mr Nelson McCausland as members of the Committee for Education.
8 On 12th April 2010 Mr David Hilditch was appointed as Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Education.
8 On 12th April 2010 Mr Dominic Bradley ceased to be Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Education.
8 On 13th April 2010 Mr Jonathan Craig ceased to be a Member of the Committee for Education.
9 With effect from 13th September 2010 Mr Jonathan Craig replaced Mr Alastair Ross as a member of the Committee
10 With effect from 8th November 2010 Sir Reg Empey replaced Mr John McCallister

Appendix two

Committee for Education

Committee meetings & visits

Session
Number of meetings held
Percentage minutes public
Percentage minutes closed
Number of meetings held outside Parliament Buildings
Number of committee visits
2007
7
100%
0
0
2007/2008
40
77.94%
22.06%
1
1
2008/2009
37
95.92%
4.08%
4
4
2009/2010
33
91.43%
8.57%
0
4
2010/11
29
97.6%
2.4%
3
4

Bills

Session
Name of Bill
Committee report (Ordered to print)
2009/2010 Education Bill 30.09.09

Statutory Rules

Session
Number agreed by Committee
2007
2
2007/2008
3
2008/2009
2
2009/2010
5
2010/11
1

Committee Inquiries

Session
Name of report
Committee Report (ordered to print)
Date debated in Plenary
2010/11 Successful Post Primary Schools Serving Disadvantaged Communities 14.03.11 21.03.11

Committee Reports (excluding Bill and Inquiry reports)

Session
Name of report
Date (date approved by Committee)
Date debated in Plenary (if appropriate
2008/2009 End of Session 2008-2009 11.11.09  
2009/2010 End of Session 2009-2010 09.11.10  
2010/11 End of Session 2010-2011 16.03.11  
2011 Legacy 16.03.11  

Budget Scrutiny

Session
No of evidence sessions.
2007
1
2007/2008
6
2008/2009
10
2009/2010
12
2010/11
15

Primary Legislation Scrutiny

Session
No of evidence sessions.
2007
0
2007/2008
2
2008/2009
37
2009/2010
6
2010/11
1

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