Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 27 June 2008
Venue: Room 135, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.07am in public session.
There were no apologies.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 20 June 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 20 June 2008 with one amendment.
3. Matters Arising
a. The Chairperson advised that letters will be drafted based on the feedback from the Informal Reception on 26 June 2008, and circulated to all Committee Members for agreement in advance of issue.
Agreed – the Committee agreed that it is not appropriate to meet with commercial organisations or consultancy groups lobbying for funding, and to recommend that such groups contact the Department of Education directly.
b. The Committee noted the Department of Education’s background briefing paper on the Extended Schools Programme 2008/09.
c. The Committee noted the response from the Minister on the Review of Public Administration (RPA) policy on the composition of School Boards of Governors.
Agreed – the Committee will request an update from the Department on this, together with any legal advice received regarding this matter. The Committee will ask the Transferors’ Representative Council for comment on the letter, and also invite officials to provide an update on a number of RPA policy issues at a Committee meeting following the Summer Recess.
d. The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding Crossroads Primary School, Kilrea.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation.
e. The Committee noted the response from Early Years regarding the provision of external commercial services.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to Ms G Spiers.
f. The Committee noted the response from the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) regarding the timetable for the dissemination of the Analysis Report on the Pre-consultation on the Future of Controlled/Voluntary Post-Primary Education in Fermanagh.
g. The Committee noted the response from the WELB regarding the application for a Road Service Operators Licence.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Federation of Passenger Transport NI Ltd.
h. The Committee noted the correspondence regarding Towerview Primary School.
i. Agreed – the Committee approved the draft request to the Department for follow-up information arising from the Departmental briefing on Area-Based Planning at the Committee’s meeting on 20 June 2008.
Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 10.21am.
Mr Poots joined the meeting at 10.22am.
Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 10.25am.
a. The Committee noted the correspondence from the Committee for Social Development regarding the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy and the associated request for a written briefing note from the Department on this issue.
b. The Committee noted the paper from H Dewar, Honorary Organising Secretary/Initiator of Learn and Grow.
c. The Committee noted the copy correspondence from the Chairman of the Governing Bodies Association (GBA) to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education regarding the proposed Education and Skills Authority (ESA) and its role as the employer of all staff in schools.
greed – the Committee will request a copy of the response issued to the GBA.
d. The Committee noted the correspondence regarding AccessNI from the Committee for the Environment.
e. The Committee noted the correspondence from T Madill regarding transfer to post-primary education.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.
f. The Committee noted the correspondence from Mr F Connolly BPharm MPS.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Department for comment.
g. The Committee noted the correspondence regarding cross-cutting disability issues from the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning to the Minister of Education.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Minister.
h. The Committee noted the report from the South and East Belfast District Childcare Partnership, ‘Planning Integrated Services to Support Children and Families.’
i. The Committee noted the correspondence from the Institute of Engineering and Technology, ‘Mathematics the Lingua Franca of Career Opportunities and a Strong Economy.’
j. The Committee noted the correspondence regarding funding for the new contract arrangements for classroom assistants in the integrated sector from R B Hannam, Chair of the Finance Committee of Saints and Scholars Integrated Primary and Nursery School, Armagh.
Agreed – the Committee will ask the Department for clarification on this issue as a matter of urgency.
k. The Committee noted a number of items of correspondence from parents of children in Ballywalter Primary School regarding underfunding in the Primary Sector.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response.
l. The issue of the payment of back pay following the new pay deal for school cleaners was raised.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the Education and Library Boards for details of the current position regarding this matter.
m. The Committee noted seven Departmental Press Releases: ‘Minister Launches “Every School A Good School: A Strategy for Raising Achievement in Literacy and Numeracy”’; ‘Pupil:Teacher Ratios in Grant Aided Schools in NI 2007/08’; ‘Conlig Primary School to Close’; ‘Rights of Irish-Medium Schools Should be Respected and Supported – Ruane’; ‘Irish-Medium Unit at St Brigid’s College, Derry, to be Phased Out’; ‘Minister Announces Appointment to the Southern Education and Library Board’; and ‘ Guiness Primary School, Ballynahinch, to Close.’
5. Departmental Briefing on Nursery School Provision and Placements
Louise Warde-Hunter, Head of Early Years, Youth and School Finance; and Patricia McVeigh, Early Years Division, Department of Education, joined the meeting at 10.30am.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 10.30am.
The officials gave a presentation on nursery school provision and placements and answered questions on a number of issues, including: funding and equality issues for the community and voluntary pre-school sector; access to Special Educational Needs assistants in all pre-school sectors; qualifications of the pre-school workforce, quality of provision and assessments by the Education and Training Inspectorate; pre-school admissions criteria and social disadvantage; the geographic spread and availability of funded places; the effective use of infrastructure, particularly spare capacity in primary schools; and the Review of Pre-School Education and the timescale for publication of the Early Years Strategy.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 11.01am.
The officials agreed to write to the Committee on a number of points arising from the briefing, including: a geographic breakdown of supply and demand for preschool places; and the number of children afforded priority under specific admissions criteria.
The Chairperson thanked the officials and they left the meeting at 11.24am.
Mr Poots left the meeting at 11.24am.
Miss McIlveen left the meeting at 11.24am.
The meeting moved to closed session at 11.24am.
6. Committee Discussion on Transfer to Post-primary Education
Mr Poots rejoined the meeting at 11.26am.
Members noted and discussed the draft note of the Committee’s discussion on transfer to post-primary education at its meeting on 20 June 2008.
Miss McIlveen rejoined the meeting at11.35am.
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 11.39am.
Agreed – the Clerk will include the amendments and additions proposed by Members in a revised draft, to be discussed and agreed at the Committee’s meeting on 4 July 2008 prior to issue to the Minister.
Agreed – Members will submit any addendums to Party papers to the Committee Secretariat by Wednesday 2 July, for circulation to all Committee Members
7. Committee Motion
The Committee considered the draft press release on the Committee’s motion, ‘Primary School Funding’, scheduled for debate in the Assembly on 1 July 2008 from 12.30pm (indicative timing).
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft press release, with amendments.
8. Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted the draft RPA policy paper, ‘Area-Based Planning of the Education Estate.’
Agreed – the Committee will invite Departmental officials to give a briefing on this at its meeting on 4 July 2008.
Members discussed the issue of holding the Committee meeting on an alternative day following the Summer Recess.
Agreed – the Clerk will provide a paper outlining the alternative options available for consideration at the Committee’s meeting on 4 July 2008. A draft paper on the Committee’s Forward Work Programme will also be provided for discussion on 4 July 2008.
9. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Friday 4 July 2008 at 10.00am in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.25pm.