Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 02 December 2009
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Deputy Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.03pm in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 25 November 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 25 November 2009 subject to minor amendment.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 22 November 2009 from the Minister of Education to Mr R Greer regarding politics and bureaucracy in education.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 18 November 2009 from Ms F O’Toole on the SEN and Inclusion Review.
(c) The Committee noted copies of Committee correspondence of 23 November 2009 to the Department of Education and 25 November 2009 to the Minster of Education on interim governance arrangements in the event of a delay in the establishment of ESA beyond 1 January 2009.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 November 2009 from the Department of Education on the report from the Independent Review of Economic Policy.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 November 2009 from the GTCNI enclosing its response to the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 November 2009 from the Department of Education advising of a delay in its response to the Committee’s request for information on engagement in European issues.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 November 2009 from Mr G McGlashan asking the Committee to press the Department to maximise awareness of the Minister’s decision to extend the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation until 31 January 2010.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr McGlashan’s correspondence to the Department of Education for response.
Agreed – the Committee would release its own Press Release welcoming the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation extension.
(h) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 26 November 2009 from a group of barristers to the Minister of Education on equality and human rights issues arising from the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it is copied the Minister’s response to this.
Agreed- the Committee would forward the barristers’ letter to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in light of the equality and human rights issues raised for its consideration.
(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 November 2009 from Sentinus requesting an opportunity to make a presentation to the Committee on STEM.
Agreed – the Committee would invite representatives from Sentinus and an expert panel on STEM to brief the Committee at the same meeting as Departmental officials will be briefing the Committee on Departmental activities to promote STEM and the implementation of the recommendations relating to DE from the STEM Review Report.
(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 November 2009 from the Department of Education responding to issues raised with the Committee by Ms L Saunders on data protection issues.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Ms Saunders for information.
(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 23 November 2009 from the Chair of the Institute of Directors NI Division enclosing the response from the Members of the Employment and Learning Committee’s Expert Panel on STEM on the Report of the Findings of the STEM Review.
(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 December 2009 from the Deputy Chairperson, Mr D Bradley MLA requesting that the Department of Education provide the Committee with the latest draft of the Revised Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and to provide a briefing on this in the new year.
Agreed – the Committee would request briefing from the Department on this in the new year.
(m) The Committee noted correspondence from Ms A Brennan on the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation.
(n) The Committee noted the transcript of Departmental officials answers to Members’ questions at the Committee meeting of 18 November 2009 on the subject of contingency arrangements in the event that ESA was not in place by 1 January 2010.
(o) Members discussed the option of sending Christmas ecards to Departmental officials and others instead of the traditional card option. The Committee agreed to remain with its decision to send traditional cards.
(a) The Committee noted the Western Education and Library Board Annual Report and Accounts 2008/09.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 November 2009 from the Primary School Governor’s Association requesting a meeting with the Chairperson.
Agreed – the Chairperson would meet with the Association and that the Committee would be provided with further information on its work.
Ms O’Neil left the meeting at 2.18pm.
(c) The Committee noted an invitation from the More Maths Grads Project to a reception hosted by the Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP to celebrate its achievements on 27 January 2010 at Westminster.
(d) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 25 November 2009 entitled ‘Ruane attends Education Sector NSMC in Dublin’.
(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 26 November 2009 entitled ‘Education Minister attends launch of Irish Medium resources for schools’.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 November 2009 from the Department of Education enclosing the Review of Funding to Preparatory Departments of Grammar Schools.
Agreed – the Committee would request that the Department brief the Committee on the Review following the outcome of the EQIA.
(g) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 27 November 2009 entitled ‘Consultation of Review on Special Educational Needs extended to 31 January 2010’.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 November 2009 from the Committee for Regional Development on services available in the public and private sector to disabled people.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Regional Development’s correspondence and attachment to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.
(i) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 1 December 2009 entitled ‘Ruane puts transitional governance arrangements in place for education.’
The Chairperson joined the meeting at 2.20pm and took the Chair.
5. Departmental briefing on December Monitoring of the Education Budget
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Diarmuid McClean, Head of Investment and Infrastructure Division and Gillian Uprichard, Financial Planning and Control joined the meeting at 2.21pm.
Mr McCallister left the meeting at 2.27pm.
Ms O’Neill joined the meeting at 2.36pm.
Ms McIlveen joined the meeting at 2.38pm.
Mr Lunn joined the meeting at 2.41pm.
The witnesses gave a presentation on December Monitoring and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: the reduced requirement of £9 million capital on ELB and Voluntary Schools capital budget identified for surrender to DFP; whether the capital surrender could have been used to address the backlog of school maintenance works and/or minor capital works; the management of capital expenditure slippage; whether the Department should hold a list of worked-up maintenance projects that could be used in the event of future capital slippage; the extent of the backlog in school maintenance and whether this will be decreased as a result of new school build projects; the general state of the schools estate; strategic approach to address the state of the schools estate; latest information on the backlog of maintenance on each school within the 5 education and library board areas; what financial savings have resulted from the implementation of the vacancy control policy in preparation of the establishment of ESA and the subsequent downsizing of the E&LBs; detail on each of the new capital builds; the future proofing and review of planned capital works; planning within the context of new policies including the entitlement framework; the position of small schools; an explanation of the term ‘technical issues’, and efficiency targets for the administrative budget.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.10pm.
6. Departmental briefing on interim governance arrangements and existing legislation or other powers ‘to put structures in place’.
John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Chris Stewart, Head of RPA and Eugene Rooney, Head of Planning and Performance Management joined the meeting at 3.12pm. The witnesses gave a presentation on interim governance arrangements and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: Teacher Appointments Committees; membership and the term of ‘Transitional’ Education and Library Boards; the position of the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB); the anomaly that currently allows the Teachers Appointments Committee to work with the suspended SEELB members; the lack of democratic accountability of the Commissioners appointed to the SEELB; how the Transitional Boards will reflect the community they serve, the councillor appointment process within the 1986 order and whether the Transitional Boards can operate in the absence of councillor membership; whether the Transitional Boards take adequate account of population levels within the various council areas represented by one Board; the anticipated length of time during which these interim arrangements will be in place; the role of the ESA Chairperson designate; the role of the Chief Executive designate as Additional Accounting Officer of the Department; concerns that convergence is being achieved in the absence of legislation; how area planning can be implemented without the proposed Education Bill being enacted; whether an equality impact assessment needs to be carried out on the interim arrangements; the position of CCMS and CCEA; whether it is realistic to have the interim arrangements in place for 1 January 2009 - given that existing Board membership ends on 31 December 2009 - and whether there is a requirement for a ‘Plan C’; the impact of a delay in populating the membership of the Transitional Boards; the position of the current Chief Executives of the Boards; whether the Chief Executives have been briefed on the new interim management arrangements; whether there is power within legislation for Boards to delegate powers to officers; detail on the outcome of the discussions between the Minister and the Commissioner of Public Appointments; why the Minister did not consider reconstituting the Boards at they currently stand as an interim measure; whether any cost savings will be realised as a result of the new interim arrangements; the concerns of the existing Boards’ Chief Executives in relation to the convergence plans; and when the Committee will see the final detail of the interim management arrangements.
Agreed – that the Minister would inform the Assembly and/or officials would inform the Committee in the coming days of any changes to the details of the interim arrangements already announced by the Minister in her statement of 1 December 2009.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.29pm.
7. Forward Work Programme
The Committee discussed its Forward Work Programme. The Committee discussed and agreed a proposal to ask the Department to run one of its roadshow events on the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation to set the scene for the Committee event planned for January, bringing together the groups which have been lobbying or seeking to meet with the Committee on the SEN and Inclusion Review consultation. The Committee agreed to hold this event on 20 January beginning at 6.00pm. The Committee requested that the Clerk bring forward proposals for the format of the event and a draft invitee list to be discussed at next week’s meeting.
Mr O’Dowd, Ms O’Neill and Mr Lunn left the meeting at 4.34pm.
8. Any Other Business
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.35pm.