Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 11 March 2009

Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.03am in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 4 March 2009

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 4 March 2009.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee noted correspondence of 6 March 2009 from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety requesting that officials from the Department of Education give oral evidence on its Committee’s Inquiry into Obesity.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to advise that the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety would contact the Department on this matter.

The Committee noted correspondence of 6 March 2009 from St John Ambulance advising that they would forward a copy of the St John Strategy for Schools to the Committee.

The Committee noted correspondence of 5 March 2009 from Bookstart on responses from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Agreed – Committee staff would contact the other Committees on this matter.

The Committee noted correspondence of 4 March 2009 from Creative Youth Partnerships on the launch of Inspiring Creativity in the Long Gallery on 25 March 2009.

The Committee noted correspondence of 4 March 2009 from the Department of Education on the provision of speech and language therapy services at Taughmonagh Primary School and the SEN Review.

Agreed – the Committee would consider this matter further at a future meeting.

The Committee noted correspondence of 4 March 2009 from the Department of Education on the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister’s Report into Child Poverty.

The Committee noted the attendance list and itinerary for the Craigavon Area Schools visit and informal lunch with the Committee for Education on 11 March 2009.

The Committee noted correspondence of 10 March 2009 from the Department for Education on funding provided by the Department of Education for traditional arts.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to ask when the Department will inform the Arts Council for Northern Ireland of its 2009 – 10 budget allocation and on funding for traditional arts.

The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 25 February 2009 from Our Lady’s and St Mochua’s Primary School, Derrynoose to Mr Cathal Boylan MLA on their need for an additional classroom.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education requesting the position in relation to the issues raised.

The Committee discussed the Minister’s announcement on 6 March 2009 regarding the budget allocations to schools and Education and Library Boards for 2009-2010.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to ask what latitude would be given to the Education and Library Boards on the requirement to provide financial spending plans within 2-3 weeks to the Department, given the delay in the budget announcement, and to look at this matter at next week’s meeting.

Ms O’Neil joined the meeting at 10.09am.

4. Correspondence

The Committee noted an invitation from Skill Northern Ireland to attend a seminar on Working to Promote Equality for Disabled Staff on 25 March in Cookstown.

Agreed – Members would advise Committee staff if they wished to attend this event.

The Committee noted an invitation from the Volunteer Development Agency to the launch of their documentary, Respect on 24 March 2009 in Belfast.

Agreed – Members would advise Committee staff if they wished to attend this event.

The Committee noted correspondence of 3 March 2009 from Grove Nursery School enclosing a copy of a letter to the Department of Education on Principal Release Days for Nursery School Principals.

Agreed – the Committee would request the Department of Education to provide the Committee with a copy of the Department’s response letter to Grove Nursery School’s letter.

The Committee noted correspondence of 5 March 2009 from the Committee for Employment and Learning requesting that a letter on the DE/DEL Review of Teacher Education is forwarded to the Minister of Education.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the letter to the Department of Education as requested.

The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 5 March 2009 entitled Minister highlights importance of integrated education week.

The Committee noted correspondence of 4 March 2009 from Mr William Haughan on Statutory Assessment for his son.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request an update on this matter.

The Committee noted an invitation from Mr Barry Turley to an Autism event on 11 March 2009 in the Long Gallery.

Agreed – Members would advise Committee staff if they wished to attend this event.

The Committee noted an invitation from the Gerry Rogan Initiative Trust (GRIT) to a conference on Corporate Social Responsibility on 26 March 2009 in Belfast.

Agreed – Members would advise Committee staff if they wished to attend this event.

5. Education Bill – Evidence Sessions

The Committee agreed that Mr Nelson McCausland would chair the meeting in the absence of the Chairperson, Mr Mervyn Storey and the Deputy Chairperson, Mr Dominic Bradley.

Mr Storey left the meeting at 10.11am and Mr McCausland took the Chair.

Governing Bodies Association

Dr Evelyn Dermott, Chair of Governing Bodies Association, Brett Lockheart, Member of GBA Executive Committee and Finbar McCallion, Honorary Secretary joined the meeting at 10.12am.

Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 10.16am. 
Mr Elliott joined the meeting at 10.20am.

The witnesses gave a presentation on the Education Bill and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: why the GBA has not met with the Department further to the Minister’s invitation of 24 February; if Clause 8 (2) is clearly set out in model employment schemes and associated guidance and was subject to full consultation with submitting authorities and possible independent appeals systems and/or subject to regulations and control of the Assembly, whether this would remove some of GBA’s concerns in this regard; concerns regarding the bureaucracy involved with such proposed mechanisms; the assertion that ESA will be costly; loss of school autonomy; legal responsibility for employment matters and contracts of employment; the upholding and preservation of school ethos; interpretation of the law consistent with the ethos of the school; whether there would be legal barriers to schools being represented at employment tribunals; examples of provisions of anti discrimination and fair employment legislation that ought not to apply to schools; whether powers are being delegated to Boards of Governors; whether or not the intentions of the Bill are adequately reflected within the detail of the legislation; definition of accountable autonomy; accountability for public funds.

Mr McCrea left the meeting at 10.57am.

Mr McCausland thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 10.58am.

Northern Ireland Voluntary Grammar Schools’ Bursars Association

Stephen McConnell, Chair of Northern Ireland Voluntary Grammar Schools’ Bursars Association, John Robinson, Vice Chair of Northern Ireland Voluntary Grammar Schools’ Bursars Association, Shane McBrien, Committee Member and Bursar, St Malachy’s College Belfast joined the meeting at 11.00am.

Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 11.04am. 
Mr Mc Crea left the meeting at 11.10am. 
Mr Storey rejoined the meeting at 11.13am and resumed the chair.

The witnesses gave a presentation on the Education Bill and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: additional voluntary funding through parental and other contributions; parity of staff salaries and terms and conditions; importance of localised management; treatment of auxiliary and support staff; the job evaluation process; examples of differences in job descriptions across schools; public accountability of public funding; auditing controls and requirements; whether it would be appropriate for the Association or representatives from the voluntary grammar sector to meet with the Minister to discuss annual accounts; staff involved with additional educational activities within boarding and preparatory schools; concerns regarding the policy not being reflected in the Bill; ‘catch all’ concerns about Clause 18(1); if Clause 8 (2) is clearly set out in model employment schemes and associated guidance and was subject to full consultation with submitting authorities and possible independent appeals systems and/or subject to regulations and control of the Assembly, whether this would remove some of the Association’s concerns in this regard.

Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 11.26am. 
Mr McCrea left the meeting at 11.28am.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.33am.

Department of Education Response

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration, Eve Stewart, Review of Public Administration joined the meeting at 11.34am.

The officials responded to the presentations given by the Governing Bodies Association and Northern Ireland Voluntary Grammar Schools’ Bursars Association (NIVGSBA) and answered questions from members on a number of issues including the ‘catch all’ provisions within the Bill; whether the provisions in clause 8 including employment schemes and guidance should and can be subject to mechanisms for appeal and/or regulation by the Assembly; concerns that detail in relation to employment arrangements does not appear on the face of the Bill but in the accompanying guidance and schemes of employment; Article 101 and the powers of the Department to direct; lack of clarity in the legislation, employment rights between staff across the education sectors; concerns that the ethos of the schools would be undermined by ESA becoming the employing authority; who has lead responsibility for employment matters at tribunal and who pays for this process; whether ESA will provide equality between the different education sectors; concerns regarding the Ancillary powers of ESA within Clause 18; concerns about increased bureaucracy of ESA and whether a substantial proportion of budget would be spent within ESA and not directly on schools; savings targets regarding management costs and bureaucracy; targets relating to percentage of budget directed to schools; the timescale for ESA budgetary objectives and targets; timescale of rationalisation process; when the full costs of the new regime will be known; progress of the outline business case and final business case for ESA.

Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 11.43am. 
Mr McCrea left the meeting at 11.44am.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.12pm.

Agreed – the Committee would provide copies of the GBA and NIVGSBA briefing papers to the Department of Education.

Agreed – the Committee would provide copies of the Department of Education’s response paper to GBA and NIVGSBA.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education requesting they provide the following:

  • Proposals to address the GBA and NIVGSBA concerns regarding the effect of Clause 8 (2) in relation to schemes of employment and management schemes, perhaps to include a direction to Article 101, and mechanisms of appeal or regulation and control by the Assembly.
  • An indication of the benefit of the ESA in financial terms in relation to a figure or target in the form of an estimate of the percentage increase in the education budget going directly to schools.

Agreed – Committee Secretariat would prepare a draft letter to the Department detailing all Committee issues and requests for information on the Bill to date (already registered with the Department) for consideration at next week’s meeting.

Members noted the interim paper/ spreadsheet prepared by Committee Secretariat grouping stakeholder comments by clause or schedule.

6. Forward Work Programme

The Committee considered and agreed the updated forward work programme.

7. Any Other Business

A Member of the Committee raised an issue arising from the meeting of the Education Committee with the Minister of Education on Transfer 2010 which took place on 10 March 2009.

Agreed – that the Committee would seek legal advice as to whether there is legal impediment to the Minister of Education commissioning and operation of a test from CCEA.

8. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The Committee agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Wednesday 18 March 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.16pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
18 March 2009

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