Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 01 July 2009
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.34am in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 26 June 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 26 June 2009.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted correspondence of 23 June 2009 from Early Education to the Deputy Chairperson enclosing the most recent research and findings from the leading authorities in the area of pre-school education; extending an invitation to visit any of the Early Education affiliated Nursery Schools across Northern Ireland; and offering to make a presentation to the Committee.
Agreed – the Committee would write to Early Education to advise that they would consider their offer to make a presentation to the Committee when it receives the 0 – 6 Early Years Consultation Strategy from the Department of Education.
The Committee noted correspondence of 26 June 2009 from the Department of Education on Specialist Schools.
The Committee noted correspondence of 29 June 2009 from the Department of Education providing information on the Department’s implementation of the recommendations emanating from the Varney 2 Report.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the information provided by the Department of Education to the Committee for Finance and Personnel.
The Committee noted correspondence of 29 June 2009 from the Committee for Employment and Learning to the Minister of Education requesting a briefing on the Teacher Demand Model.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Employment and Learning’s correspondence to the Department of Education as requested.
The Committee noted correspondence of 30 June 2009 from the Clerk to the Committee providing an update on the publication of Transfer 2010 Guidance, Report of Transfer 2010 Consultation Responses, and Report of EQIA Consultation Responses on the Department of Education website on 26 June 2009.
The Chairperson advised Members that during a meeting with the Minister of Education in advance of her Statement to the Assembly on 30 June 2009, he expressed the Committee’s disappointment and disapproval on the publication of the Transfer 2010 Guidance documents before notifying the Committee.
The Committee noted correspondence of 30 June 2009 from the Department of Education about Government policy on PSHE (relationship and sexuality education).
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Mr William McCrea MP MLA for information.
The Committee noted a paper of 25 June 2009 from the Clerk providing guidance on Statutory Rules.
Agreed - the Committee would write to the Examiner of Statutory Rules requesting guidance on subordinate legislation powers in relation to the Education Bill.
Mr Bradley joined the meeting at 10.37am
The Committee noted an invitation from Queen’s University to a Youth Development Study Dissemination Seminar on 21 September 2009 and a request for a Member of the Committee to make opening remarks at the event.
Agreed – Members would advise Committee staff if they wish to attend the seminar.
The Committee noted correspondence of 25 June 2009 from a Mr Keys on the teacher retirement system in primary schools.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr Key’s letter to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.
The Committee noted a press release of 24 June 2009 from the Department of Education entitled ‘Minister visits Pupils and Principals in Derry’.
The Committee noted correspondence of 29 June 2009 from the Committee for Social Development to the Minister of Education on the Housing (Amendment) Bill.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Social Development’s letter to the Department of Education as requested.
The Committee noted a publication from the School of Education at Queen’s University on the Sharing Education Programme entitled ‘Schools working together’.
The Committee noted two press releases of 30 June 2009 from the Department of Education entitled ‘Final Transfer 2010 Guidance Published’ and ‘Minister announces closure of St Colmcille’s Primary School’.
The Committee noted correspondence of 20 June 2009 from the Committee for Culture Arts and Leisure to the Minister of Education seeking clarification on the provision of Ulster Scots in the education sector.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure’s correspondence to the Department of Education as requested.
The Committee noted a paper of 29 June 2009 from the Clerk advising that the recent publication on 19 June 2009 of the Northern Ireland Audit Office Report on ‘The Pre-school Education Expansion Programme’ has been included in the Spring 2010 forward work programme for the Public Accounts Committee. A Member enquired whether the Committee for Education could examine policy aspects of this report in advance of the PAC scrutiny.
Agreed – the Clerk would seek clarification on this issue for the first Committee meeting in September.
5. Education Bill – Clause by Clause Scrutiny
The Committee continued its clause-by-clause consideration of the Education Bill. The Chairperson invited Department of Education officials in attendance in the public gallery to join the Committee to clarify issues raised in its deliberations on the Bill.
Schedule 1, Paragraph 2
The Chairperson asked officials for an update on the Minister’s thinking on the composition on the membership of the ESA in terms of numbers and whether the membership should be representative of the community it serves. Officials confirmed that it remained the Minister’s view that the representative model is not the correct one to pursue but that the Minister is still considering the number of members.
A member requested, and officials agreed, to provide information requested at an earlier meeting regarding the annual cost of each ESA Member.
Agreed – the Committee to seek legal advice regarding the legal competency of an inclusion to this paragraph to secure as far as practicable representative membership of the ESA.
Schedule 1, Paragraphs 7 and 8
The Chairperson asked officials for an update on the Minister’s position on ESA Committees. Officials confirmed that the Minister was not minded to specify the committee structure of ESA at this time but would consider the latest correspondence from the Committee on this matter.
Agreed – the Clerk to draft an enabling provision to Paragraph 7 to provide for regulations which would specify the structure of the ESA local committees and other committees. There was some discussion about whether the enabling provision should include the phrase ‘The Department shall’ rather than ‘The Department may by regulations make provision . . . ’.
Clauses 4 and 5
The Chairperson requested an update on the proposal to bring forward regulations with model schemes and guidance to bring clarity to the employment relationships envisaged in the Bill. Officials confirmed that on considering the matter further, the Minister is persuaded that an enabling power and regulations would be a sound approach and would be bringing forward an amendment to that effect. Officials confirmed that they would provide the Committee with a paper on the scope and wording of the draft regulations within the next few days. Members discussed whether such regulations should be made subject to positive or negative Assembly control mechanism. Officials confirmed that the Minister would consider Member’s views on whether the regulations should be subject to positive or negative Assembly control.
Mr McCallister left the meeting at 11.04am
Controlled Sector Advocacy Body
The Chairperson asked officials for an update on the first meeting of the controlled sector advocacy body. Officials agreed to provide a list of those who were invited and a list of the 15 who attended. Officials confirmed that the second meeting of the group will take place in the third week in August 2009.
Controlled Sector Ownership Body
Members discussed concerns regarding equality issues previously raised by the Committee. Officials confirmed that the Minister’s position on this remains as in her 17 June 2009 letter to the Committee.
The Committee considered Clause 13. Members discussed the responsibilities of the ESA Director with authority in this area; whether a reference to the duty within paragraph 37 of the Education Northern Ireland Order 1998 should be included in this Clause (as suggested by the GTC NI); whether there will be any major change in the provision of advisory and support services to schools as a result of this Clause; whether this Clause provide for the corporate and professional development of teachers; whether the functions of the Regional Training Unit will fall with the responsibilities of ESA; concerns that the provisions can be interpreted as ESA having a command and control approach; and whether an amendment can be drafted to better convey the original intentions.
Agreed - The officials agreed to provide the Committee with an explanation of the intention of the Clause and consider whether the wording of the clause could be amended to give clarity on some issues raised.
Members went on to discuss: whether Clause 13 addresses private/voluntary sector’s pre-school provision; the lack of clarity regarding the intention of the Bill within the detail of this clause; and whether this clause covers the professional development of school librarians.
The officials confirmed that the Committee’s concerns regarding Clause 2 (4) raised at last week’s meeting on the wording ‘(so far as they are capable of being so exercised)’ had been referred to Legislative Council for advice.
The Committee considered Clause 14 without substantive comment.
The Committee considered Clause 15. Officials confirmed that for technical reasons it was not possible to combine within a single provision education and youth services as suggested by the South Eastern Education and Library Board.
The Committee considered Clause 16 without comment.
The Committee considered Clause 17 without comment.
The Committee considered Clause 18 without substantive comment.
The Committee considered Clause 19. Members discussed: examples of the types of commercial activities ESA might be engaged in; and the issue of excess receipts.
Agreed - Officials agreed to establish whether an appropriation-in-aid provision is contained in the Libraries Bill and if so, to consider with DFP whether a similar provision is necessary in the Education Bill at Clause 19 or elsewhere. Officials further agreed to provide the Committee with examples of existing or former education bodies who engaged in commercial activities and examples of the activities North Eastern Education and Library Board stated they had to forgo in the past due to the lack of this type of provision for commercial activities.
The Committee considered Clause 20 without substantive comment.
The Committee considered Clauses 21 and 22. Officials confirmed the position that the Minister does not support the option of retaining an element of the Education and Library Board even in part to address equality issues in relation to the controlled sector ownership body.
The Committee considered Clause 23. Members discussed: an issue raised by the Teachers’ Unions regarding a lack of integration between the Department of Education and the Department of Employment and Learning in education provision for 14 – 19 year olds; whether the inclusion of a general duty to promote the ‘mental well-being’ of children and young persons should be included in the provisions of Clause 23, substitute Article 3, paragraph 1 (b); and the perceived ‘Cinderella’ status of youth service provision.
Agreed - Officials agreed to bring to the attention of the Minister the suggestion made by some Members to include a duty to promote the ‘mental well-being’ of children and young persons within the provisions of Clause 23, substitute Article 3 paragraph 3 (b).
Agreed – the Committee would forward papers considered at a recent informal meeting between Members of the Committee and the NI Association of Mental Health to Departmental officials for information.
Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department of Education to remind them of the issues raised during the course of discussions and any actions agreed.
6. Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted the Committee’s forward work programme.
The Chairperson proposed and Members agreed that the Committee should meet twice during the first week in September, that is 8 and 9 September, to progress with the scrutiny of the Bill and commence the Committee’s consideration of its draft report on the Bill.
7. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The Committee noted that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Tuesday 8 September 2009 at 10.00am, Room 144, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.08pm.