Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 18 May 2007
Venue: Room 135, Parliament Buildings
The meeting opened at 10.30am in public session.
There were no apologies.
2. Chairperson’s Introduction
The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Chairperson and other members to the first meeting of the Committee.
3. Committee Staff
The Chairperson introduced the Committee staff to members.
4. Declarations of Interest.
The Chairperson reminded members that, under Standing Order 64(4) a member must declare, before taking part in any proceedings of the Assembly or its Committees, any pecuniary interest or benefit of whatever nature which is relevant to the debate or proceedings, whether such pecuniary interest or benefit is held by the member or an immediate relative. The Committee noted details of interests declared by members prior to the meeting. In addition, Miss McIlveen declared that she was a member of the Education Committee on a local council.
5. Powers and Operations of Statutory Committees.
The Committee noted the guidance paper ‘The Powers and Operations of Statutory Committees for Chairpersons and Members’. In particular, the Committee noted the guidance regarding absolute privilege and sub-judice.
6. The Role of the Chairperson.
The Committee noted the guidance paper ‘The Role of the Chairperson’.
7. The Role of the Committee Office.
The Committee noted the guidance paper ‘The Role of the Committee Office’.
8. The Role of Research.
The Committee noted the paper ‘Providing an Effective Research Service to Committees’. Mr Moore, Senior Research Officer, confirmed that individual members could avail of the services provided by Research.
9. Subordinate Legislation.
The Committee noted the paper ‘Guidance on Handling Subordinate Legislation (Statutory Rules) for Chairpersons and Members of Statutory and Standing Committees’. The Committee agreed the following motion:
The Committee for Education resolves, under Standing Order 41 to delegate to the Examiner of Statutory Rules the technical scrutiny of statutory rules referred to the Committee under the above mentioned Standing Order.
The Committee further resolves that in carrying out this function the Examiner shall be authorised to report his technical findings on each statutory rule to the Assembly, through the Business Office, and to the relevant Department, as well as to the Committee itself and to publish his report.
10. Receipt of Committee Papers
The Chairperson reminded members to complete the proforma provided and return it to the Committee Office. The Chairperson advised members that links to bulky papers may be emailed to them at specified email addresses. Appropriate extracts from such papers, e.g. executive summaries, will be included in the meeting packs.
The Clerk confirmed that members should receive papers for the meetings on either a Monday or a Tuesday each week. Where briefing documents relevant to the meeting have been received later than this the Committee Office will contact members direct to arrange delivery.
Rt. Hon. J Donaldson MP joined the meeting at 10.40am
11. Briefing from the Department of Education
The Committee agreed to allow television cameras to film a few moments of the meeting upon the arrival of the Minister and her officials.
The Minister and her officials joined the meeting at 11.06am.
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Education, Caitríona Ruane, Mr Will Haire, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education, together with Dr Eddie Rooney and Dr Robson Davison, Deputy Secretaries from the Department of Education.
The Minister made a statement regarding the challenges facing education after which she answered questions on a number of issues, including the Entitlement Framework and the Revised Curriculum, Special Educational Needs, English as an Additional Language, Integrated Education, Literacy and Numeracy, Independent Christian Sector schools and the shortage of teaching places for newly-qualified teachers. The Chairperson thanked the Minister for her attendance at the meeting.
The Minister left the meeting at 12.00pm
Mr Robinson left the meeting at 12.01pm
Mr Storey left the meeting at 12.02pm
Rt. Hon. J Donaldson left the meeting at 12.05pm
Rt Hon. J Donaldson rejoined the meeting at 12.08pm
The Chairperson invited the officials to give a presentation on the structure, functions and key priorities of the Department, following which they answered questions on a number of issues, including the Entitlement Framework, the Transfer to Post-Primary Education, Sustainable Schools Consultation, English as an Additional Language, and the Literacy and Numeracy Taskforce.
The Department agreed to provide the Committee with further information regarding the selection of the North Eastern Education Library Board to lead the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service in the provision of English as an Additional Language. The Department also gave an assurance that the Directions for the Entitlement Framework will be forwarded to the Committee in sufficient time to allow for a detailed scrutiny prior to the relevant Commencement Order being made.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their attendance at the meeting.
Mr Storey rejoined the meeting at 12.21pm.
The officials left the meeting at 12.32pm.
The Chairperson advised members that the Committee had already received a considerable number of requests from groups and schools to meet with the Chairperson and/or Committee, and that it would not be possible use the weekly Committee meeting to meet such individual requests. Following discussion, it was agreed that the Clerk would prepare a paper setting out options for facilitating requests from individual groups or schools.
The Committee considered a number of items of correspondence received:
I. The Committee agreed that the Clerk or a colleague should attend an event being held by the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education on 22 May, to give an overview on the procedures, role and functions of the Committee. Mr Bradley, Mrs Bradley, Mr Butler, Mr Lunn and Mr McCrea confirmed they will be attending the event (pm).
II. The Committee considered the request to visit Carntall Primary School in Clogher, and agreed that the Clerk should write to the Principal to advise that a visit may be considered at a later date.
III. The Committee noted the request for a meeting with the Chairperson or Committee from the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO). In considering the forward work programme, the Committee agreed that the INTO should be invited, along with other teachers’ trade unions, to make a presentation to the Committee at a later date.
IV. The Committee considered the request for a meeting with a delegation representing the South Eastern Education and Library Board Primary School’s Principals Group. The Committee agreed that it would consider inviting the group to attend an informal lunchtime meeting in Parliament Buildings at a later date.
V. The Committee considered the request to meet with representatives from Strabane Grammar School and Strabane High School. The Committee agreed that it would consider either inviting the group to attend an informal lunchtime meeting or arranging a visit to the schools at a later date.
VI. The Committee considered the letter from the Chief Executive of the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB), inviting the Chairperson to attend an informal lunch and meeting with Board Members. In considering the forward work programme, the Committee agreed that the Chairperson would not accept the invitation, as the SELB would have an opportunity to give a presentation to the Committee with other Education and Library Boards at a later date.
VII. The Committee considered a letter from the Chief Inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate requesting a meeting with the Committee. The Committee agreed to invite the Chief Inspector and her colleagues to give a brief presentation to the Committee at its meeting of 1 June 2007.
VIII. The Committee considered the request to visit Currie Primary School in North Belfast. The Committee agreed that the Clerk should write to the Principal to advise that a visit may be considered at a later date.
IX. The Committee considered the request to visit Priory Integrated College, Holywood. The Committee agreed that the Clerk should write to the Principal to advise that a visit may be considered at a later date.
X. The Committee noted the correspondence arising from the Committee on the Programme for Government’s Report on School’s Admission Policy.
13. Draft Timetable and Outline Work Programme
The Committee agreed an outline draft forward work programme for the next five meetings. A number of members were concerned that the Committee is scheduled to meet on Friday mornings as members usually conduct constituency business on Fridays. Following discussion, it was agreed that the Chairperson will liase with the Clerk regarding the options that may be available to the Committee, and the Committee will discuss further at a later date. The Committee agreed that the next two meetings will be held on Friday 25 May 2007 and Friday 1 June 2007, as the Minister and officials have already agreed to give evidence on these dates.
14. Press Release
The Committee considered a revised draft press release and agreed it.
15. Date, time and place of next meeting.
The next meeting will be held on Friday, 25 May 2007 at 10.30am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.55pm.
Mr Sammy Wilson MP
Chairperson, Committee for Education.
1st June 2007