Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 07 September 2007

Venue: Room 135, Parliament Buildings

The meeting opened at 10.31am in public session.

1.    Apologies

One apology was received as above.

2.    Minutes of the Meeting of 29 June 2007

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 29 June 2007.

3.    Matters Arising from the Minutes

The Committee noted the contents of the letter and papers from Gavin Boyd, the Chief Executive (Designate) of the Education and Skills Authority (ESA), which included information with regard to ESA expenditure on consultation.

Agreed – the Committee will return to these papers when Mr Boyd is before the Committee later in September.

4.    Correspondence

The Committee agreed that the Informal Reception held in the Long Gallery on 2 July had been a success, and thanked the Committee Office staff for organising the event. The Committee agreed to consider holding a similar event towards the end of the year or early in the New Year as necessary. The Chairperson reminded members that a number of items of correspondence arising from the event had been issued during the summer recess. The Chairperson asked members to notify the Clerk with any further points of action arising from the event.

(a) The Committee noted letter from the Youth Council for Northern Ireland requesting the opportunity to give a presentation to the Committee. 
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.

(b) The Committee noted the contents of the letter from S McNeill. 
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.

(c) The Committee noted the letter from the Prince’s Trust regarding funding for its xl Programme. 
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response. 
Agreed – the Committee to forward a copy of the correspondence to the Department for comment.

(d) The Committee noted the letter from the Drelincourt School. The Committee also noted that the Minister of Education had decided not to approve the development proposal for the school. 
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.

(e) The Committee noted the Department’s response regarding the Armstrong Primary School.

(f) The Committee noted the letter from the Department regarding funding for Young Enterprise Northern Ireland. 
Agreed – the Committee would raise this issue with Departmental officials during the discussion on the Education Budget.

(g) The Committee noted the invitations for the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson to attend the launch of the new website for the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education on Friday 21 September 2007.

(h) The Committee noted the reply from the Department regarding Conlig Primary School.

(i) The Committee noted the reply from the Department regarding Mitchell House Special School.

(j) The Committee noted the Voluntary Grammar Schools Budget Statement 2007/08 Financial Year.

(k) The Committee noted the Department’s response to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure regarding funding proposals for an Ulster Scots Academy.

(l) The Committee noted invitation to the meeting of the Joint Consultative Forum on Thursday 18 October 2007.

(m) The Committee noted the reply from the Belfast Education and Library Board regarding Sydenham Primary School. 
Agreed – the Committee to write to the Principal of Sydenham Primary School.

(n) The Committee noted the letter from the Department regarding Down High School.

(o)The Committee noted the letter from the Department regarding Priory Integrated College.

(p) The Committee noted the response from the Belfast Education and Library Board regarding the Chinese Language School Northern Ireland. 
Agreed – the Committee to forward the correspondence to the North Eastern Education and Library Board for comment.

(q) The Committee noted the letter from the Belfast Education and Library Board regarding Suffolk Primary School.

(r) The Committee noted the letter regarding Magilligan Field Centre. 
Agreed – the Committee to write to the Department to request background briefing on the Magilligan Field Centre.

(s) The Committee noted the contents of the letter from Q.L.C.
Agreed – the Committee to forward a copy of the correspondence to the Department for comment.

(t) The Committee noted the consultation on the Department’s Draft Disability Action Plan.

(u) The Committee noted the Early Years Manifesto from the Early Years Strategic Alliance.

(v) The Committee noted the information provided by the Ulster Teachers’ Union regarding Primary School Funding and the Revised Curriculum. 
Agreed – the Committee to forward a copy of the information to the Department for comment.

(w) The Committee noted the Departmental Press Releases from August 2007.
Agreed – the Committee to write to the Minister regarding the cost implications of: (1) the amalgamation of St Joseph’s Primary School, Ahoghill, and St Patrick’s Primary School, Aughtercloney; and (2) the approval of funding for 3 new Irish-Medium primary schools.

5.    Subordinate Legislation

(a) The Committee considered the following proposed statutory rule: The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (Approval of Qualifications) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2007.
Agreed – the Committee had no objection to the proposal.

(b) The Committee noted the contents of the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report regarding SR 2007/309 The Education (Core Syllabus for Religious Education) Order ( Northern Ireland) 2007.

(c) The Committee noted the Department’s consultation on Proposals for Draft Regulations to Extend the Special Educational Needs and Disability ( Northern Ireland) Order 2005 to cover general qualifications bodies. 
Agreed – the Committee will request a summary of all responses to the consultation post 19-October 2007 and consider making any comment at that point.

6.    Departmental Budget Briefing

Mr Will Haire, Permanent Secretary, and Ms Catherine Daly, Head of Finance Division, Department of Education (DE), joined the meeting at 10.54am. The officials gave a presentation on the Departmental Budget and the implications of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 (CSR 07). The officials answered questions on a wide range of issues including: the Barnett consequentials for DE arising from the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) CSR 07; the potential resource deficit across the budget period from a projected 1% real terms increase and inescapable pressures; the impact of required efficiency savings; primary school funding levels; monies committed for capital projects; predicted savings from the Review of Public Administration and the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority; Special Educational Needs budget and the value-for-money review; the Department’s position on the classroom assistants issue; funding for Irish-Medium schools; the cost implications of the recently approved funding for 3 new Irish-Medium schools and the review of Irish-Medium education; school transport; sustainable schools and the Bain proposals; funding for the discipline strategy; the inclusion and diversity service; and budget provision for youth services.

Officials agreed to provide the Committee with further information regarding a range of issues raised during the discussion.

Rt. Hon. J Donaldson MP joined the meeting at 10.58am. 
Mr Butler left the meeting at 12.01pm. 
Mr Butler rejoined the meeting at 12.05pm.

The meeting moved into closed session at 12.12pm. Officials and Members discussed further points regarding the Department’s proposed bids and budget priorities for the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting at 1.01pm.

Agreed – the Committee sought further information on a number of the Department’s bids and will to write to the Minister to request details of the Department’s spending priorities in advance of Ministerial discussions on the draft budget.

Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 12.13pm. 
Mr McCrea left the meeting at 12.13pm. 
Ms O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 12.20pm. 
Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 12.21pm. 
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 12.55pm. 
Mr Bradley rejoined the meeting at 12.56pm.

7.    Draft Timetable and Outline Work Programme

The Committee agreed an outline draft Forward Work Programme for the next four meetings.

The Chairperson asked Members to notify the Clerk about any particular issues they believe the Committee should consider including in the Forward Work Programme. The Clerk will then prepare a paper for consideration by the Committee.

Agreed – the Committee will scrutinise the issue of primary school funding during one meeting each month for the autumn session of the Assembly.

8.    Any Other Business

(a) The Committee noted the excellent A Level and GCSE results achieved by pupils in Northern Ireland. The Committee welcomed the standard of education in Northern Ireland and commended both the schools and their pupils for their hard work in achieving such results.

(b) Members noted that the ballot for strike action in the ongoing Classroom Assistants’ dispute closes on Monday 10 September 2007. 
Agreed – the Committee to commission research on the background to the dispute.
Agreed – the Committee to write to the Department requesting as a matter of urgency a fuller explanation of the respective positions of all concerned and what contingency plans have been made by the Department and employers in the event of a strike.

(c) Agreed – the Committee to commission research on the Integrated Development Fund.

(d) Members expressed concern regarding the growing number of representations from concerned constituents on the issue of transfer to post-primary education, and that a decision on the way ahead does not appear to be imminent and is urgently required. 
Agreed – the Committee to write to the Minister to highlight its concern and to urge the Minister to bring forward proposals to the Committee and to provide clarity on the way forward as a matter of urgency – including a timeline setting out key steps and decisions.

9.    Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Friday, 14 September 2007 at 10.30am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.14 pm .

Mr Sammy Wilson MP
Chairperson, Committee for Education
14 September 2007

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