Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 15 February 2008
Venue: Room 135, Parliament Buildings
The Deputy Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.34am in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 8 February 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 8 February 2008. Members also agreed that the visit to St Mary’s College and the informal session with pupils had been very much a success. The Committee thanked both the school and the staff from the Committee Office for organising the visit.
3. Matters Arising from the Minutes
(a) The Committee noted the response from the Department and the response from the South Eastern Education & Library Board regarding Mr B Haughan’s correspondence. The Committee also noted further correspondence from Mr Haughan.
(b) The Committee noted the fuller report on Caitríona Ruane’s meeting with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning, Scotland, on 12 December 2007.
(c) The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding Priory Integrated College, Holywood.
(d) The Committee noted the final version of the Committee’s letter to the Minister together with the points for clarification regarding both her statement on Transfer and admissions criteria to the Committee on at its meeting on 31 January 2008 and the written answers to the Committee’s December 2007 list of questions.
(e) The Committee noted further correspondence from J Kelly.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the North Eastern Education & Library Board for comment.
(f) The Committee noted the final version of the Committee’s letter to the Speaker regarding its concerns about the Minister’s working relationship with the Committee.
(g) The Committee noted the update from the Department on the 2007-08 financial year February Monitoring Round.
(h) The Committee noted the notification from the Department on the Minister’s announcement of allocations to schools and Education & Library Boards for 2008-09. The Committee also noted the associated press release, ‘Education Minister Puts More Money Into Schools.’
(i) The Committee noted the Departments letter regarding the Literacy and Numeracy Taskforce and the Departmental press release, ‘Ruane Establishes Literacy & Numeracy Taskforce.’
(j) The Committee noted the Department’s response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister’s Inquiry into Child Poverty.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the response to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
(a) The Committee noted the letter to the Department from the Committee for the Environment regarding road safety.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Department.
(b) The Committee noted the letter from Mr C Gault regarding teachers’ pensions.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.
(c) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Acting Principal of Moy Regional Primary School on behalf of the school’s Board of Governors, St John’s Primary and the Management Committee of the Moy Area Playgroup. The Committee also noted that representatives had been invited to its Informal Reception in Parliament Buildings on 18 February 2008.
(d) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment regarding the Call for Evidence on the Varney Review of the Competitiveness of Northern Ireland.
Agreed – the Committee will request a copy of any response the Department might make with respect to the Review.
(e) The Committee noted the letter to the Minister from J McLoughlin regarding Physical Education in primary schools.
Agreed – the Committee will request a copy of the response issued to Ms McLoughlin by the Minister or the Department.
(f) The Committee noted the Education and Library Boards correspondence, ‘Equality Impact Assessment – Implementation of the Job Evaluation Schemes.’
(g) The Committee noted the contents of the correspondence from Mr W Graham.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.
(h) The Committee noted the contents of the correspondence from Love for Life regarding contraception in schools.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Department for clarification of the points raised.
(i) The Committee noted the correspondence from the RNIB NI regarding access to textbooks by blind and partially-sighted children.
Agreed – the Committee will ask the Department for a position report on this matter with details of planned actions and timescales.
(j) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Buddy Bear Trust.
Agreed – the Committee Office will circulate the correspondence to all Members.
(k) The Committee noted two Departmental press releases: ‘Education Minister Starts the Day with a Healthy Breakfast’; and ‘Ruane Attends Post-Conflict Teachers’ Capacity Building Programme.’
5. Departmental Background Briefing on the Current Transfer System & Statistics
Dorothy Angus, Head of Safeguarding and Supporting Children Division; and Paul Price and Stephen Orr, Open Enrolment and Transfer Procedure Branch, Department of Education, joined the meeting at 11.00am. The officials gave a presentation on the current transfer system, demographic changes and related statistics and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the impact of age and gender factors on performance; temporary variations in enrolment numbers; special circumstance procedures; transfer for pupils with statements; transport funding issues; open enrolment and catchment areas; and the legislation prohibiting the use of academic selection.
Mr Storey joined the meeting at 11.43am.
The Deputy Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.44am.
6. Presentation by the Assembly Research & Library Service on Transfer to Post-Primary Education at Age 14
The Committee’s Senior Researcher, Assembly Research & Library Service, joined the meeting at 11.44am and outlined the key points arising from research and studies regarding transfer at age 14 and the Craigavon two-tier system.
Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 11.55am.
The Senior Researcher answered questions on a number of issues, including: the time taken to move to the two-tier system of education in Craigavon, and the financial implications of the change; the use of ‘norm referencing’ rather than ‘criteria referencing’ for assessing pupil performance; the comparability of results between the Craigavon two-tier system and the rest of Northern Ireland; and the ability of parents and pupils to ‘opt out’ of the system.
Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 12.06pm.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the Department to request information on the number of pupils within the Dickson-plan catchment area who choose to attend schools outside the area.
The Deputy Chairperson thanked the Senior Researcher for an informative briefing which ended at 12.17pm.
7. Forward Work Programme
The Deputy Chairperson reminded Members that the Informal Reception will be held in the Long Gallery from 4.00pm to 6.00pm on Monday 18 February.
Agreed – the Committee approved the associated draft press release.
The Deputy Chairperson reminded Members that, to enable the Committee to provide an interim response to the Department’s consultation, ‘Every School a Good School’, Members should discuss the policy proposals with their party colleagues in advance of the Committee’s meeting of 29 February 2008.
The Committee discussed the draft Work Programme. Members noted that the Minister had stated at the Committee’s meeting on 31 January that she would engage with the Committee in advance of making a statement to the House on Area-Based Planning. However a meeting with the Minister was not as yet scheduled.
Ms O’Neill rejoined the meeting at 12.25pm.
Mr Butler proposed the following:
That the Committee writes to the Minister of Education with a view to arranging a closed meeting, not limited by time, to cover a range of issues including, inter alia: the working relationship between the Committee and the Minister; the Minister’s Vision Statement; and Area-Based Planning.
Mr Robinson proposed the following amendment:
That the Committee considers the proposal further on receipt of a response from the Minister to the Committee’s letters of 8 and 15 February 2008, together with responses to the points of clarification put to the Minister/Department.
Question put as amended.
The Committee divided: Ayes 7; Noes 2.
Dominic Bradley, Mary Bradley, Trevor Lunn, Basil McCrea, Michelle McIlveen, Mervyn Storey, Ken Robinson.
Paul Butler, Michelle O’Neill
Question as amended accordingly agreed.
8. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Friday 22 February 2008 at 10.30am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.40pm. .