Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 17 September 2008
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.05am in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 10 September 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 10 September 2008.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted further correspondence from a number of Education Welfare Officers regarding a pay and grading review, and that the Committee has already written to the Department on this matter.
(a) The Committee noted the request from Advice NI to give a presentation on improving the uptake of Free School Meals and Clothing Allowance.
(b) Agreed – the Committee will invite Advice NI to give a presentation on progress on this at a later date.
(c) The Committee noted the response from the Department to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on its Report into Renewable Energy and Alternative Land Use.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the response to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development.
(d) The Committee noted the response from the Minister to its letter regarding the Minister’s updated proposals for transfer to post-primary education.
Agreed – the Clerk will make arrangements for the Committee meet with the Minister on transfer in closed session.
(e) The Committee noted the response from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding equality legislation and teachers’ employment.
Agreed – the Committee will invite representatives from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to give a presentation on the exemption of teachers from fair employment and treatment legislation at a later date.
Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 10.11am.
(a) The Committee noted the OECD Report, ‘Improving School Leadership – Volume 1: Policy and Practice.’
Agreed – the Committee will consider this and an OECD report on the Scottish education system at a later date. The Committee will also request a Research Briefing on education systems comparable to those currently proposed for Northern Ireland by the Minister of Education.
(b) The Committee noted the correspondence from Early Education Northern Ireland.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response advising that a visit to a nursery school will be considered at a later date in the Committee’s programme of visits.
Agreed – Members wishing to attend the conference on 4 October 2008 in Antrim should notify the Clerk.
(c) The Committee noted the request for Love for Life to give a presentation on the health/education interface pertaining to Relationships and Sexuality Education in schools.
Agreed – the Committee will invite representatives from Love for Life to give a presentation at a later date.
(d) The Committee noted seven Departmental press releases: ‘Education is Reaching for the Stars’; ‘Ruane Urges Young People to Take Up Their Right to Vote’; ‘ A United Approach Can Help Those Living With Bullying’; ‘Irish Medium Language Vital for Education System’; ‘Integration a Key to Success for All Our Peoples – Ruane’; ‘Ruane Revisits College to Open New Building’; and ‘Minister Approves Integrated Status for Ballymoney Model Primary School.’
5. Presentation by St Comgall’s College Support Group
Agreed – the Committee agreed to allow television cameras to film a few moments of the meeting upon the arrival of the representatives of St Comgall’s College Support Group and Larne Borough Council.
The Chairperson welcomed Councillor Roy Craig, Chair Larne Borough Council Education Sub-Committee; Alan O’Shea, Secretary to St Comgall’s College Support Group; and Geraldine McGahey, Chief Executive, Larne Borough Council, to the meeting at 10.22am. The Chairperson reminded the witnesses that the Committee is unable to scrutinise individual Development Proposals in any detail. However, as an example of ongoing school estate rationalisation proposals, the Chairperson invited the witnesses to give a presentation on the overall educational policy issues regarding Development Proposal No. 239, and how the issues may relate to current and future area-based planning processes and to the Department’s proposed Sustainable Schools policy.
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 10.47 am.
Mr Lunn rejoined the meeting at 10.58am.
Following the presentation, the witnesses answered questions on a number of issues, including: the impact of the proposed amalgamations on Larne Learning Community; the level of support from parents, other schools in Larne and the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB); engagement and consultation with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS); concerns regarding area planning, the social impact on the community and integrated education, and the availability of the Economic Appraisal, including weightings applied to ‘Qualitative Factors’, particularly with regard to ‘Community Acceptability’; and transportation issues and costs.
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 11.12am.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for their presentation and reminded Members that they were invited to a further presentation by St Comgall’s College Support Group and Larne Borough Council in the Press Suite at 12 noon. The witnesses left the meeting at 11.14am.
Agreed – the Committee will write to the Department, CCMS and the NEELB on each organisation’s role with regard to a number of points, including: the Development Proposal process and its economic appraisal process; Sustainable Schools and area planning policies and learning communities; and the weightings applied to the Assessment of Qualitative Factors. The Committee will also request CCMS to brief the Committee on its role and its position regarding policy issues raised with Development Proposal No. 239.
6. Community Use of School Premises Bill
David McNarry MLA joined the meeting at 11.25am. Mr McNarry outlined the purpose and intent of his proposed Private Member’s Bill, Community Use of School Premises. Mr McNarry answered questions on a number of issues, including: engagement with and feedback from school principals and the wider community; the extent of any previous consultation with the Department; the wording of the Bill and whether participation will be on a voluntary basis; finance and insurance implications for the Department, schools and other groups; definition of the ‘community served by a school’; potential for duplication of services provided by other public bodies such as local Councils; the availability of information from independent studies on similar models of practice; and whether there is a need for a legislative basis or if a new policy might be sufficient.
Mr McCrea left the meeting at 11.22am.
Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 11.23am.
Mr Lunn rejoined the meeting at 11.39am.
Mr McCrea left the meeting at 11.50am.
Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 11.51am.
Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 11.53am.
Mr McCrea rejoined the meeting at 11.53am.
The Chairperson confirmed that comprehensive briefings on the Bill had been requested from both the Department and the Assembly’s Research and Library Service.
Agreed - the Committee will reflect on its position following receipt and consideration of both briefing papers.
The Chairperson thanked Mr McNarry and he left the meeting at 12.05pm.
7. Departmental Briefing on Education Budget Allocations
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary; and Paul Duffy, Financial Planning and Control Branch, Department of Education, joined the meeting at 12.06pm.
The Chairperson advised the officials that Members had not had sufficient time to consider the briefing paper as most had only received it on the morning of the meeting. The Chairperson stated that this had happened with papers required for both meetings since the start of this new session of the Assembly, and that it is a matter of concern to the Committee as it limits the Committee’s ability to effectively scrutinise the work of the Department.
The officials gave a brief outline of the Budget allocations and answered questions on a number of issues, including: Cash Releasing Efficiency Targets, assets disposals and Investment Delivery Plans within the education sector; Aggregated Schools Budgets and inflationary cost increases; the need to present baseline expenditure alongside additional allocations for 2008 - 11; and funding for safety of school buses.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 12.25pm.
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 12.26pm.
Agreed – officials will provide the Committee with the Department’s Efficiency Development Plans and Investment Delivery Plans when finalised in the near future.
The Chairperson thanked the officials and they left the meeting at 12.30pm.
Agreed – the Committee will request a copy of the Department’s monthly forecast outturn data to assist its scrutiny of the education budget.
Agreed – the Clerk will draft a proposal for consideration by the Committee on the content and format of information to be requested from the Department for future briefings and discussions on the Education Budget and allocations.
8. Forward Work Programme
The Chairperson informed the Committee that unfortunately he is unable to attend the visit and meeting at Holy Cross College, Strabane, on 24 September 2008 and confirmed that the Deputy Chairperson will chair the meeting.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft press advertisement and draft press release regarding the Committee’s visit and meeting in Holy Cross College, Strabane.
9. Date, time and place of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 24 September 2008 at 10.00am in Holy Cross College, Strabane.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.40pm.