Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 21 January 2009

Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings

The Deputy Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.04am in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies were received from Mr Ken Robinson.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 14 January 2009

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 14 January 2009.

Miss McIlveen joined the meeting at 10.07am.

3. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel to all Statutory Committees regarding the December 2008 Monitoring Round including the associated tables detailing departmental reduced requirements, bids and allocations.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence from Ms H McQuaid, Global Dimensions in Schools, responding to previous correspondence from the Department of Education and requesting a meeting with the Committee and the Department.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of Ms McQuaid’s letter to the Department of Education for its comments on the issues raised and write to Ms McQuaid advising her accordingly and that the Committee would consider her request for a meeting once the Department’s response had been received.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence from Dr E Dermott, Governing Bodies Association NI on the Education Bill and the role of the ESA.

(d) The Committee noted the response from the Department of Education to the Committee’s letter of 22 December 2008 regarding participation in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science study.

(e) The Committee noted the response from the Department of Education to a letter forwarded by the Committee from Ms L Gallagher on St Mary’s High School, Brollagh, Belleek.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Gallagher enclosing a copy of the Department’s correspondence.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence from Ms A Hamill on travel to school difficulties.

Agreed – the Committee agreed that it would request a detailed account from the Department of the procedure currently operating to determine whether pupils are eligible for school transport assistance to encompass a summary of the findings and conclusions of the last review in September 1997, and inform Ms Hamill accordingly.

(g) The Committee noted a paper provided by the Commission for Catholic Education which was discussed with the Chairperson of the Committee for Education at a meeting on 12 January 2009.

(h) The Committee noted the response from the Department of Education to the Committee’s letter regarding industrial action by members of the NASUWT.

(i) The Committee noted the response from the Department of Education to the Committee’s letters regarding the decision to close Maghera High School.

Agreed – the Committee would request that the Minister, when she comes to Committee in relation to Sustainable Schools Policy, addresses the decision to close Maghera High School by way of an example of how the Policy should inform those making development proposals and the Department’s decision on such proposals.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Education regarding the launch of the Department’s, and the Department for Employment and Learning’s, joint Strategy and Implementation Plan for Careers Education, Information, Advice & Guidance including an invitation to the launch of their joint Strategy.

Agreed – The Committee agreed that any Member wishing to attend would let the Clerk know.

Mr Poots joined the meeting at 10.11am 
Mrs O’Neill joined the meeting at 10.12am

4. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted an invitation to Members to a viewing of the CCEA’s Annual ‘True Colours’ Art Exhibition on 2 February 2009.

Agreed – The Committee agreed that any Member wishing to attend would let the Clerk know.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence from Dr I McMorris, Chairman of the Board of Governors, Lagan College on the lack of funding for the pay settlement and implementation of the job evaluation process for classroom assistants in the grant-maintained integrated sector.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Dr McMorris enclosing a copy of the Department of Education’s response of 30 December 2008 on this issue.

(c) The Committee noted an invitation to the Chairperson from Mr B McNeany, Deputy Chief Executive, Early Years, to a reception in the Long Gallery on the findings of the Keyhole ‘Early Intervention’ Autism project.

Agreed – The Committee agreed that any Member wishing to attend would let the Clerk know.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety regarding that Committee’s Inquiry into Obesity and the attached letter from that Committee’s Chair to the Minister.

Agreed – The Committee agreed to forward the letter to the Minister of Education.

(e) The Committee considered an invitation from the University of Ulster to the launch of a report evaluating the introduction of Local and Global Citizenship into the NI Curriculum.

Agreed – The Committee agreed that any Member wishing to attend would let the Clerk know.

(f) The Committee noted the South Eastern Education and Library Board’s Annual Report and Accounts 2007-2008.

(g) The Committee noted two Departmental press releases entitled ‘Excellence in Education should be available to all – Ruane’ dated 19 January 2009 and ‘Ruane praises Christian Brothers’ contribution to education’ dated 20 January 2009.

5. Subordinate Legislation – Proposed SEND Statutory Rule

Sean Ward, Raising Standards Division, Paul Murray, Raising Standards Division and Roger McCune, Head of Accreditation, CCEA, joined the meeting at 10.15 am.

Officials gave a short presentation on the substance and purpose of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Relevant Qualifications, Reasonable Steps and Physical Features) (Amendment) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2009. They answered Members’ questions on a number of issues, including: the circumstances when an exemption might be granted, how the granting of exemptions is monitored and the issue of what is recorded on qualification certificates regarding any exemption granted.

The Chairperson joined the meeting at 10.17am

The Deputy Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 10.25am.

Agreed – The Committee agreed that it was satisfied with the proposed statutory rule at this policy stage and that officials would keep the Committee informed about any proposals it is developing on how exemptions may be recorded on qualification certificates.

The Chairperson took the Chair at 10.26am

6. Departmental Briefing on Education Bill

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration and Joe Reynolds, Review of Public Administration Team, joined the meeting at 10.27am.

The officials gave a presentation on the proposed roles and responsibilities of Sectoral Organisations and answered questions on a number of issues, including: papers provided by ESAIT to stakeholders; the role of Sectoral Organisations in the area-based planning process for schools; the lack of any existing body representing schools in the controlled sector and the necessity of providing support for developing such a representative body; the role of TRC, and other churches in the controlled sector body; the Department’s efforts to encourage the formation of such a body; the protection for the Catholic ethos of schools and the respective roles of Trustees and boards of governors in relation to ethos and as the “submitting authority” of Employment and Management schemes; evolution of the sectoral bodies and potential school movement between sectors; the inability of integrated schools to change status, equality issues between sectors and progress on the EQIA; the ethos of different controlled schools including the rights of individual children and the community served by the school; the ability of schools, such as controlled grammars, to opt for greater autonomy; the challenge role for sectoral bodies to ESA; the danger of sectoral bodies ‘withering on the vine’ and an alternative structure based on criteria such as ‘inner-city schools’, cutting across existing sectoral boundaries; the importance of Ministerial and Executive decisions on certain policies including area planning in determining the outcomes of the system being put in place by the Bill.

Mr Lunn left the meeting at 11.21am 
Mr Lunn rejoined the meeting at 11.28am 
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 11.29am 
Mr Bradley rejoined the meeting at 11.40am

The officials gave a presentation on the ESA as the Single Employing Authority and a Review of Employment Opportunities for Teaching Staff and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the ‘voluntary principle’ enunciated by the GBA and the efforts by the Department to address the concerns of the GBA; the level of autonomy of schools in the appointment and dismissal of staff and the nature of the ESA ratification of schools’ decisions; the control that the ESA may exercise through approval of mandatory Schemes of Employment and the right to require a Board of Governors to reconsider a decision; the level and range of support services which will be available from ESA, including procurement expertise; the freedom for schools to group together to provide or purchase services such as those currently provided by CASS; the tension between the degree of accountability and control appropriate to a publicly funded school and the ‘voluntary principle’; the nature of any evidence of inconsistency in the voluntary grammar sector; the legal liability of individual members of boards of governors; the effect of the exclusion of teacher recruitment from the Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998 (“FETO”) and the likelihood of positions coming within the ’essential nature of the job’ FETO exception if the FETO exclusion were removed; how the teaching certificate in religious education requirement may be used, the accessibility and nature of courses leading to the certificate and whether these contributed to ‘structural inequality/barriers’.

Mr McCausland left the meeting at 11.59am 
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 12.02pm 
Mr Poots exits the meeting at 12.25pm 
Mr Poots rejoined the meeting at 12.28pm

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.32pm.

Agreed - the Committee agreed that it would write to the Department requesting an update on the EQIA/screening currently nearing completion and factual information on the use of teaching certificates.

7. Education Bill - Extension of Committee Stage

Members considered the Committee’s draft motion to extend the Committee Stage of the Education Bill. This included the length of time needed for the Committee Stage in light of the first and second Education Bills being one legislative programme , that the second bill would not be available for some time, the need for the Committee to have confidence in the entirety of the legislative programme and the Department’s target date of 1 January 2010 for the Bill to come into effect.

The Chairperson proposed an extension date of 30 September 2009. Mr O’Dowd proposed an alternative extension date of 1 June 2009.

Question put: That the draft motion ‘Extension of Committee Stage: Education Bill (NIA Bill 3/08)’ be amended to read “That, in accordance with Standing Order 33(4), the period referred to in Standing Order 33(2) be extended to 1 June 2009 in relation to the Committee Stage of the Education Bill (NIA Bill 3/08) ”

The Committee divided, Ayes 2; Noes 7.

AYES

Mr O’Dowd, Ms O’Neill

NOES

Mr Bradley, Mr Lunn, Mr McCausland, Mr McCrea, Miss McIlveen

Mr Poots, Mr Storey

The proposal accordingly fell.

Question put: That the draft motion ‘Extension of Committee Stage: Education Bill (NIA Bill 3/08)’ be amended to read “That, in accordance with Standing Order 33(4), the period referred to in Standing Order 33(2) be extended to 30 September 2009 in relation to the Committee Stage of the Education Bill (NIA Bill 3/08) ”

The Committee divided, Ayes 7; Noes 2.

AYES

Mr Bradley, Mr Lunn, Mr McCausland, Mr McCrea, Miss McIlveen

Mr Poots, Mr Storey

NOES

Mr O’Dowd, Ms O’Neill

Agreed - The Committee agreed that the draft motion ‘Extension of Committee Stage: Education Bill (NIA Bill 3/08)’ be amended to read “That, in accordance with Standing Order 33(4), the period referred to in Standing Order 33(2) be extended to 30 September 2009 in relation to the Committee Stage of the Education Bill (NIA Bill 3/08) ” and that the amended motion be submitted for consideration by the Business Committee to agree a debate by the Assembly in accordance with Standing Orders.

8. Budget Briefing and Strategic Stocktake

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Catherine Daly, Head of Finance Division, Eugene Rooney, Head of Development and Infrastructure Division and Gillian Pritchard, Financial Planning and Control, joined the meeting at 12.46 pm.

The Chair pointed out to officials that the papers for this session had only reached the Committee Office yesterday evening at 6.15 pm and that Members had only had sight of them this morning and no time to consider them properly. Mr McGrath apologized.

The officials gave a presentation on a range of finance issues including the Strategic Stocktake 2009-11, Forecast Outturn 2008-09, Efficiency Delivery Plans, Investment Delivery Plan Update, Asset Disposals and Legal Challenge (to the procurement framework) and answered questions on a number of issues including: the Department’s pressures and bids in the Strategic Stocktake; provision for implementation of the outcome of the Early Years Policy Review; non-itemised pressures regarded as de minimis expenditure; the presentation of figures and information in the Department’s briefing papers; how ‘savings in administration’ are determined and the delay in efficiency savings resulting from delay in the establishing of the ESA; the legal costs and damages incurred in defending the challenge to the procurement framework.

Mr Bradley left the meeting at 1.07pm 
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 1.17pm 
Mrs O’Neill left the meeting at 1.17pm 
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 1.31pm

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 1.32pm.

Agreed - The Committee agreed to request officials to return to Committee on 4 February 2009 to discuss in more detail some of the issues raised.

9. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and approved the amended Forward Work Programme incorporating the changes agreed at the meeting on 14 January 2009.

Mr McCrea left the meeting at 1.33pm

10. Any Other Business

Agreed - The Committee noted and agreed the draft wording of the joint letter of invitation from the Committee for Employment and Learning, the Committee for Education and the Committee for Enterprise Trade and Investment, to the STEM event to be held on 18 February 2009 in the Long Gallery.

Agreed - The Committee agreed to place the Department of Education Strategic Stocktake briefing papers on the Committee website.

11. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The Committee agreed that the next meeting will be held on Wednesday 28 January 2009 at 10.00am in Room 144, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.35pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
28 January 2009

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