Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 22 October 2008
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.09am in public session.
1. Presentation by the Belfast Education and Library Board
Gerry Carson, Vice Chairperson; David Cargo, Chief Executive; David Megaughin, Chief Finance Officer; and Sam Skillen, Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB), joined the meeting at 10.09am. The witnesses gave a presentation on concerns regarding a projected BELB Budget shortfall.
Mr McCausland joined the meeting at 10.15am.
Mr O’Dowd joined the meeting at 10.20am.
Mr McCausland declared an interest as a member of BELB.
The witnesses answered questions on a number of issues, including: the potential impact to the delivery of frontline services; inflationary pressures; contact and interaction with the Department to manage the shortfall; concerns with the approval of the initial financial scheme and the departure from the recommendations of the Jack Report on Financial Management in Education and Library Boards; the legal position of Board members in respect of Financial Memorandum; the impact of the Common Funding Formula (CFF) on the BELB budget and the need for balance to take account of urban and rural needs; Youth budgets and weighting applied to Targeting Social Need (TSN) factors; economies within the maintenance budget and the possible conversion of maintenance projects to capital works schemes; proceeds from the disposal of capital resources; flexibility and technical changes in the budget; and the need for consideration of Special Educational Needs (SEN) weightings for areas of deprivation.
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 10.55am.
Mr Lunn rejoined the meeting at 10.57am.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 11.04am.
Apologies are detailed above.
3. Minutes of the Meeting of 15 October 2008
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 15 October 2008.
4. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted further correspondence from St Comgall’s College Support Group.
Agreed – the Committee will forward a copy of correspondence issued by the Committee to the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools on 17 October 2008 to St Comgall’s College Support Group.
(b) The Committee noted the copy response from the Department to the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation regarding engagement with teachers’ unions on policy development.
(c) The Committee noted update correspondence from the Department regarding a statutory assessment of J Haughan.
(d) The Committee noted the response from the Department’s Permanent Secretary regarding Committee correspondence for which responses were overdue. The Chairperson informed the Committee that he had met with Will Haire, Permanent Secretary, on 21 October 2008 to discuss this issue. Mr Haire assured the Chairperson that internal procedures would be put in place to ensure that future correspondence is replied to promptly and Departmental briefing papers are provided to the Committee in a timely manner.
The Committee also noted correspondence between the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group and the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister on the interaction between Assembly Committees and Departments.
(e) The Committee noted the press statement from the South Eastern Education and Library Board, ‘Board Clarifies Position – Movilla High School, Industrial Dispute.’
(a) The Committee noted the correspondence from Amnesty International regarding a Human Rights Education Conference to be held on 6 November 2008 in Belfast.
(b) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group regarding the publication of Members’ attendance at Committee meetings.
(c) The Committee noted the correspondence from the Department regarding the Revised Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting and leaflets issued to parents.
(d) The Committee noted the correspondence from the West Belfast Partnership Board regarding a public discussion, ‘Moving to the Big School’ to be held on 23 October 2008 in Belfast.
(e) The Committee noted eight Departmental press releases: ‘Ruane – Bilingualism Global Passport to Success’; ‘Joint Statement from Department of Education and Belfast Education and Library Board’; ‘Ruane Encourages Children to Pick up Their Favourite Book’; ‘Ruane Congratulates Principals’ Strong Leadership’; ‘We Are Failing Too Many Children – Ruane’; ‘Ulster-Scots Report Launched’; ‘Opportunity to Learn Another Language’; and ‘Minister Launches Children’s Consultation on “Every School a Good School: A Strategy for Raising Achievement in Literacy and Numeracy.”’
Agreed – the Clerk will find out whether the Department of Education or the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is the lead Department for the Education and Training Inspectorate’s evaluation of the work of the Curriculum Development Unit for Ulster-Scots.
6. Departmental Briefing on the BELB Budget Shortfall
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary; and Catherine Daly, Head of Finance Division, joined the meeting at 11.08am.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 11.08am.
Mr McCausland rejoined the meeting at 11.10am.
The officials gave a presentation on the Department’s position with regard to the BELB’s projected budget shortfall and answered questions on a number of issues, including: DE cooperation with BELB to manage pressures; the approval in March of the budget and the departure from the Jack Report’s recommendations – particularly no reserve; the need for flexibility to move money between funding streams; the need for weightings applied to factors such as TSN in the CFF, the youth budget and the justification for the 10% deprivation weighting, and the need for review of youth funding; the need to reduce the number of earmarked funding streams; the absence of weighting for SEN in the CFF and the link between deprivation and SEN; and the level of underspend by BELB in the 2007-08 financial year.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 11.35am
Mr Bradley rejoined the meeting at 11.58am.
The officials agreed to write to the Committee on a number of points raised during the discussion, including: details of the review of youth funding; the 10% weighting applied to TSN within the youth budget; the link between SEN and deprivation; and the BELB’s budget underspend for the 2007-08 financial year.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing which ended at 12.00pm.
7. Departmental Briefing on Primary School Funding
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary; Catherine Daly, Head of Finance Division; Louise Warde Hunter, Head of Early Years, Youth and School Finance Division; and Roisin Lilley, Schools Finance Branch, joined the meeting at 12.00pm. The officials gave an update briefing on the progress in addressing the issue of increasing funding to primary schools and answered questions on a number of issues, including: plans to include earmarked funding streams within the CFF; school surpluses and deficits; the measurement of deprivation within funding formulas; the potential for the use of zoning to determine funding for areas of social need; discussions with other Departments such as Social Development and Health, Social Services and Public Safety in tackling deprivation; and the Terms of Reference for the review of the funding formula.
The officials agreed to provide the Committee with a simplified breakdown of weightings and factors included within the Common Funding Formula. The officials will also provide the Committee with the Terms of Reference for the review of the funding formula when agreed by the Minister.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.28pm.
8. Departmental Budget Briefing
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary; Catherine Daly, Head of Finance Division; Eugene Rooney, Head of Development and Infrastructure; and Gillian Uprichard, Financial Monitoring & European Branch, Department of Education, joined the meeting at 12.28pm. The officials gave a brief presentation on the key points of the Education budget and answered questions on a number of issues, including: the impact of legal challenges to the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) Framework on the ability of the Department to deliver planned capital schemes; the possibility of progressing projects outside the CPD Framework; the resource implications of the Early Years Strategy and the review of Irish-Medium education; and make bids within the in-year monitoring process.
The officials agreed to provide the Committee with copies of the Budget Stocktake return to the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP), the Efficiency Delivery Plans and the Investment Delivery Plans when finalised in the near future.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.54pm.
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft response to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on DFP’s Review of Budget Logistics.
9. Forward Work Programme
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft press release and the draft press notice for the Committee’s visit and meeting in Ballymena Academy on 5 November 2008.
Agreed – the Committee will invite representatives from Special Schools in the South Eastern Education and Library Board area to give a general presentation on challenges and concerns for Special Schools at its meeting on 12 November 2008.
Agreed – the Committee approved the revised draft Forward Work Programme.
10. Any Other Business
Agreed – Members will forward Party responses to some potential developments to the Minister’s proposals for transfer to post-primary education discussed at the Committee’s meeting on 1 October 2008 to the Clerk as soon as possible.
11. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 5 November 2008 at 10.00am in Ballymena Academy.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.00pm