Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 27 May 2009
Venue: Room 144, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 10.06am in closed session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Legal Advice
The Committee noted Legal Advice on the Education Bill.
Agreed – Members to raise any queries they have on the legal advice at the 3 or 10 June 2009 Committee meetings.
The meeting moved into public session.
3. Minutes of the Meeting of 20 May 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 20 May 2009.
4. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 10 March 2009 from the Minister of Education to Sir Kenneth Bloomfield on the Education Bill.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 May 2009 from the Northern Ireland Youth Forum requesting a meeting with the Committee.
Agreed – The Committee would add the Northern Ireland Youth Forum to the list of organisations which the Committee is considering inviting to an informal Committee event in late June 2009.
(c) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 21 May 2009 from the Governing Bodies Association to the Minister of Education regarding Transfer and the ESA.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 21 May 2009 from the Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards, Northern Ireland regarding its Annual Report and Accounts for 2007/08.
Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 10.10am.
(a) The Committee noted an invitation from the Sustainable Development Commission to an event entitled ‘A Green New Deal for Northern Ireland’ on 10 June 2009 in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 May 2009 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on Proposals for Tribunal Reform.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for OFMDFM’s letter to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.
(c) The Committee noted an invitation from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to Department of Education officials to attend a seminar it is hosting on Townland Names on 17 June 2009 in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the invitation to the Department of Education as requested.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 April 2009 from Ms Karen Porter, Glengormley on the Department of Education’s Equality Screening of the draft Teachers’ (Compensation for Redundancy and Premature Retirement) Regulations (NI) 2009 and the Teachers’ Pensions (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2009.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Porter’s letter to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 May 2009 from Mr Seamus Hasson, Dungiven requesting information on the Education Bill.
Agreed – the Committee would write to Mr Hasson to provide an update on the progress of the Committee’s scrutiny of the Education Bill to date.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 19 May 2009 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the shortfall of funding for Lifestart, Mid Ards.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for OFMDFM’s letter to the Department of Education for information as requested.
(g) The Committee noted the Department of Education’s The Review of Public Administration – Promoting Equality Through the RPA document laid in the NI Assembly Business Office.
(h) The Committee noted a Press Release of 21 May 2009 from the Department of Education entitled Language Assistants Thanked at Stormont Reception.
(i) The Committee noted two Press Releases of 22 May 2009 from the Department of Education entitled Whole School Approach Needed for Special Education and School Inspectors Find Good Provision for Newcomer Pupils.
(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 May 2009 from Mr Dominic Bradley MLA enclosing documents regarding access to funding for schools collaborating in preparation for the entitlement framework within the Craigavon Area Learning Community.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr Bradley’s correspondence to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised.
(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 23 April 2009 from Share regarding a funding application to the NI Youth Forum.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Share’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised.
6. Education Bill – Clauses 1-12 & Schedule 1
The Committee commenced its clause-by-clause consideration of the Education Bill.
The Chairperson proposed, and Members agreed that as there was insufficient cross-party representation present at the meeting, that no decision would be made regarding the Committee’s view on the Bill.
The Committee considered Clause 1 of the Bill.
The Committee considered Schedule 1 (1), without comment.
The Chairperson invited a Department of Education senior official in attendance in the public gallery to join the Committee to clarify issues raised in its deliberations on the Bill.
The Committee considered Schedule 1 (2). Members discussed: concerns regarding the size and composition of the membership of the ESA; legal constraints with appointments and the informal advice from the Commissioner for Public Appointments to the Department of Education; guaranteed rights of organisations to be represented on the ESA; local democratic accountability and ensuring balanced political representation on the ESA; the use of d’Hondt; concerns regarding a majority councillor membership on the ESA; appointment to the ESA based on the merit principle; experience required of ESA members; compulsory training requirements for ESA members; Standing Orders of ESA;
Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 10.44am.
and whether it was possible to draft a provision to allow for the members of the ESA to be broadly representative of the community, similar to the provisions for the Equality Commission and Human Rights Commission, and whether this would require a shift in emphasis from a skills and competency based focus to that of community representation as a focus in the membership composition of the ESA, and getting a balance.
Mr McCausland left the meeting at 10.59am. The Chairperson advised the Committee was inquorate, however the meeting could continue under the provisions of Standing Order 49(5).
The Committee considered Schedule 1 (3), (4), (5) and (6) without comment.
On paragraphs (7) and (8), the Chairperson reminded members to consider the issue of the make up and role of local committees for the next clause-by clause Committee session on this Bill.
The Chairperson thanked the official for his assistance with the Committee’s deliberations on the Bill and he left the meeting at 11.16am.
7. Department of Employment and Learning and Department of Education Briefings on the Committee for Employment & Learning’s Report on the Review of Teacher Training
A Department of Employment and Learning senior official, Mr Fergus Devitt, Director of Higher Education Division joined the meeting at 11.17am.
The official gave a presentation on and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: whether there has been a substantial delay in processing the Review from a DEL perspective; the impact of the RPA on the Review; why the allocation of Initial Teacher Education numbers to institutions is the responsibility of the Minister of Education, and whether DEL has any input to this; impact of the proposed merger between Stranmillis College and Queens University on the future provision of teacher training in Northern Ireland and the knock-on effect for other teacher training providers, and when a decision will be made on the Business Case and who is responsible for making a decision on this; the teacher demand model; demographic changes and oversupply of teachers; the anomaly within the funding model prior to 2007/08; career opportunities for Liberal Arts graduates; the long-term future and viability of five teacher training providers within NI; and the decision to allow the teacher training colleges to diversify their education provision.
The official agreed to provide information regarding the career opportunities open to Liberal Arts graduates. The Chairperson thanked the official for an informative briefing and he left the meeting at 11.38am.
Department of Education senior officials, Robson Davison, Deputy Secretary, Rose Morrow, Head of Teacher Education Branch, and Christine Bowden, Statistics and Research Branch joined the meeting at 11.39am.
The officials gave a presentation on and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: whether there has been any substantial delay in processing the Review of Teacher Training from a DE perspective; the Substitute Teacher Register, with 3000 teachers with non-permanent posts; the factors influencing intake numbers; the Teacher Demand Model and ‘flawed predictions’; tension and balance between sustaining teaching provision and reacting to demographic changes; the Department’s position on lowering pupil/teacher ratios, particularly in targeting underachieving schools; whether there are teaching opportunities for Liberal Arts and Early Childhood studies graduates; explanation of the term ‘pluralist education system’ used by the Department of Education, and whether the Department ensures utilisation of Reading Recovery teachers and effectively monitors how TSN funding allocated to schools is spent.
A Member questioned officials on access to funding for four Junior High Schools collaborating in preparation for Key Stage 4 to meet the entitlement framework within the Craigavon Area Learning Community and officials agreed to relay the Member’s views on this to the Department.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.11pm.
8. Departmental Briefing - on Draft Education (Pupil Records and Reporting) Regulations (NI) 2009
Katrina Godfrey, Head of Raising Standards, Brian Morrow, Head of Curriculum and Assessment Team, and Shirley Sweeney, Curriculum and Assessment Team joined the meeting at 12.12pm.
The officials gave a presentation on and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: how the Department will ensure that levels of progression are fit-for-purpose and the timescale involved in its implementation; when annual reports will be available to parents; whether the Regulations will provide a standardised reporting system across schools; the timescale for CCEA and the principals and teachers engaged on defining the formative record of progress and achievement reporting to the Department; how to ensure the standardisation and consistency in the reporting of levels of progression across schools; the engagement between parents and teachers in responding positively to the reports; INCAS assessments; whether CCEA will provide an exemplar format for schools for the record of achievement; and whether there be a link between INCAS and the record of progress and achievement.
As the meeting was inquorate, the Committee was unable to make a decision that it considered the Regulations could be made. The Chairperson advised officials that this matter would be considered at the next meeting of the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 12.41pm.
9. Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted the amended Forward Work Programme.
The Chairperson asked Members, if they had not already done so, to indicate their availability to attend the Committee meeting taking place on 3 June 2009 in St Paul’s High School in Bessbrook, Armagh.
Members who can attend the meeting were confirmed as follows: Mr M Storey (Chairperson), Mr D Bradley (Deputy Chairperson), Mrs M Bradley, Mr T Lunn, Ms M O’Neill, Mr T Elliott, and Mr B McCrea. Members unable to attend the meeting were confirmed as follows: Mr J O’Dowd, Miss M McIlveen, and Mr E Poots.
10. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The Committee noted that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Wednesday 3 June 2009 at 10.15am in St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook, Armagh.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.46pm.