Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 10 September 2008
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.02am in public session.
There was one apology.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 4 July 2008
Agreed –the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 4 July 2008.
Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 10.04am.
Mr O’Dowd joined the meeting at 10.04am.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted the letter from the Clerk to the Department of Education regarding inter-departmental coordination on autism.
The Committee noted the response from the Chief Executive (Designate) of the Education & Skills Authority (ESA) regarding issues raised at the National Association of Head Teachers’ (NI) Roadshow in March 2008.
The Committee noted the response from the Department regarding the annual pupil profile report.
Agreed –the Committee will forward a copy of the response to Mrs T Bassett.
The Committee noted the response from the Department regarded a Good Relations Audit.
Agreed –the Committee will forward a copy of the response to Ms Y Naylor.
The Committee noted the response from the Minister of Education regarding the order of preference in admissions criteria for post-primary schools.
The Committee noted the copy letter from the Department to Newcastle Primary School regarding admissions criteria for Shimna College.
The Committee noted the briefing paper from the Department on its contribution to the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response to the Committee for Social Development on the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy, with one amendment.
The Committee noted that the correspondence from Mr P Moules regarding school vetting procedures had been forwarded to the Department during the summer recess for urgent investigation and comment on the issues raised.
The Committee noted the letter from Councillor P McCarthy regarding a Youth Centre project in the Markets Area of Belfast.
Agreed –the Committee will ask the Department for an update regarding the grant application for this project.
The Committee noted the invitation from Lifelong Learning UK (NI) to the launch of the Sector Skills Agreement for the Lifelong Learning sector in NI on 24 September 2008 in Lisburn.
The Committee noted the invitation to the ManAlive Health Conference on 9 September 2008 in Belfast.
The Committee noted the invitation to the conference, ‘Improving the Life Chances of Children in Care’, in London on 25 November 2008.
The Committee noted the request for members of the Committee to meet with a group of women from Ballybeen Women’s Centre on 6 October 2008.
Agreed –the Clerk will make the necessary arrangements for the meeting.
The Committee noted the Equality Commission for NI’s Newsletter, ‘Equality Focus Aug/Sept 2008’.
The Committee noted the letter from an Education Welfare Officer regarding a pay and grading review.
Agreed –the Committee will ask the Department for an update on this matter.
The Committee noted three Departmental press releases: ‘Ruane Discusses Success of Sports Programme with IFA’; ‘Young Scientist Contributes to Future Success for Young People and Society’; and ‘Minister Meets with Fermanagh Principals.’
Mr Lunn joined the meeting at 10.10am.
5. Subordinate Legislation
The Committee considered the following proposed statutory rule: Grammar Schools (Charges) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008.
Agreed –following clarification from Departmental officials that such fees are in respect of capital work and equipment, the Committee agreed that it had no objection to the proposal.
6. Departmental Briefing on Primary School Funding
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary; Louise Warde-Hunter, Head of Early Years, Youth and School Finance; and Roisin Lilley and Ken Reid, Schools Finance Branch, Department of Education, joined the meeting at 10.14am. The officials gave an update presentation on the progress in addressing the issue of increasing funding to primary schools.
Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 10.25am.
The officials answered questions on a number of issues, including: difficulties in clarifying the extent to which the funding differential between primary and post-primary pupils will be reduced; the percentage of the Education Budget delegated to schools in NI compared to England, Scotland and Wales; the need to reduce the number of earmarked funding streams; increasing flexibility and autonomy to enable school principals to meet the needs of their individual schools; increasing inflationary costs such as energy and utility bills and the impact these will have on any additional monies for primary schools; and the membership of the Local Management of Schools (LMS) Steering Group.
The officials agreed to provide the Committee with more information on a number of issues, including: energy and heating costs; proposals for earmarked funding streams that could be incorporated into mainstream school funding; the effect of extra funding on the percentage of funding delegated to schools; and to consider the membership of the LMS Steering Group in respect of teaching staff.
The officials also offered to facilitate a workshop for Members on the LMS Common Funding Formula.
Agreed –Members wishing to attend a LMS workshop should notify the Clerk.
The Chairperson thanked the officials and they left the meeting at 11.00am.
7. Departmental Briefing on September In-Year Monitoring
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary; Eugene Rooney, Head of Development and Infrastructure; and Gillian Uprichard, Financial Planning and Control Branch, Department of Education, joined the meeting at 11.00am.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 11.00am.
The officials gave a presentation outlining the September monitoring round proposals for the Department, and answered questions on a number of issues, including: inescapable pressures and prioritisation of bids; energy and utilities costs and the impact of the announcement today of further price increases; administrative and legal costs; costs associated with redundancies and outstanding pay agreements; and the youth service budgets.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for and they left the meeting at 11.24am.
The Committee noted the correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding bids relating to Children and Young People’s priorities.
Agreed –the Committee approved the draft response, welcoming the Department’s proposed bid for £5 million for the Extended Schools programme.
8. Departmental Briefing on Sustainable Schools Policy
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary; Eugene Rooney, Head of Development and Infrastructure; John Williamson, Programme Delivery Support Unit; and David Beck, Education and Training Inspectorate, joined the meeting at 11.26am.
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 11.26am.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 11.28am.
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 11.30am.
Mr Lunn rejoined the meeting at 11.30am.
The officials gave a presentation on the Sustainable Schools Policy and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the time taken to provide the Committee with the Policy document following the end of the consultation period in April 2007; the enrolment thresholds and potential number of school closures; the Entitlement Framework and the need for school collaboration at post-primary level; Irish-medium and Integrated schools sectors; and the importance of ensuring the process is well managed, with consideration given to all six criteria, rather than simply to enrolment thresholds.
Mrs Bradley rejoined the meeting at 11.39am.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 11.40am.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 11.58am.
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 12.03pm.
Mr Bradley rejoined the meeting at 12.09pm.
Agreed – to enable the Committee to provide a response to the Department on the Sustainable Schools Policy, Members will provide a paper to the Clerk giving their respective Party’s comments by Friday 19 September 2008.
9. Forward Work Programme
Agreed –the Committee will, where possible, hold meetings in schools or educational venues outside Parliament Buildings on a more regular basis.
Agreed –the Committee approved the draft outline for the visit and Committee meeting to be held in Holy Cross College, Strabane, on 24 September 2008.
Agreed –Mr David McNarry MLA will attend the Committee’s meeting on 17 September 2008 to present his proposed Private Members Bill, ‘Community Use of School Premises’ and a draft letter to the Department requesting a comprehensive brief on the proposal.
Agreed -the Committee noted the correspondence from the Department regarding the Committee’s work programme September – December 2008 and agreedthat a number of items should be included in the Committee’s Forward Work Programme.
Agreed –Members will notify the Clerk of any additional items they propose should be included in the Forward Work Programme.
10. Any Other Business
The Chairperson congratulated the Model Primary School in Newtownards on its achievement of a Becta ICT award.
11. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 17 September 2008 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.25pm.