Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 02 June 2010

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.03pm in public session.

1. Apologies

No apologies.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 26 May 2010

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 26 May 2010.

Mr J O’Dowd joined the meeting at 2.06pm.

3. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 May 2010 from the Department of Education on the use of GCSE Grade C as a benchmark level of attainment.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 May 2010 from the Department of Education on officials meeting with the All Party Assembly Group on Autism (APGA) regarding its proposed Autism Legislation.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence
to APGA for information and request a report from APGA on the outcome of its meeting with officials.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 May 2010 from the Department of Education responding to concerns raised by Ms L Saunders on INCAS and Data Security.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Ms Saunders for information.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 May 2010 from Ms B Donnelly on the GTCNI complaints procedure.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Donnelly regarding the role of the Northern Ireland Ombudsman in the procedure.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 May 2010 from the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) regarding Sport NI’s ‘Baseline Survey of Timetabled PE in Primary Schools in NI – 2009’.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the ETI to enquire further regarding the role of two hours benchmark and any recommendations ETI may have regarding the decline in timetabled PE as school size increases.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 May 2010 from the Department of Education acknowledging the Committee’s request for information regarding pre-school places.

(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 May 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Justice on a Tribunal Reform Programme Consultation.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department of Education for its comment on the proposals.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 May 2010 from Love for Life on the Department of Education’s survey of Relationship and Sexuality Education in Schools

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to ask if this survey had been carried out and if so to remind officials that they had agreed to provide the results and analysis of the survey to the Committee.

(i) The Committee noted copy correspondence of 27 May 2010 to the SEELB from John McCallister, MLA regarding constituents’ difficulty in obtaining a Statement of Special Educational Needs for their daughter.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 May 2010 from Early Years on its International Conference and AGM 2010.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 May 2010 from the Department of Education on Monitoring of Post Project Evaluations.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for Finance and Personnel for information.

(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 June 2010 from the Department of Education on a major capital works scheme at Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to Mr Tarlach Mac Giolla Bhríde, Chairperson of the Board of Governors of Bunscoil Bhean Mhadagáin for information.

(m) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 June 2010 from the Department of Education on External Advisors.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for Finance and Personnel as that Committee had requested.

4. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted copy correspondence of 21 May 2010 from Dr A Heaslett, Principal of Stranmillis University College to the Minister of Education on allocations of initial teacher education places for 2010/11.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Dr Heaslett’s letter to the Department of Education and ask to be copied in on the Minister’s response.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Dr Heaslett’s letter to the Committee for Employment and Learning requesting its comments on the issues raised and those of the Department of Employment and Learning.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 27 May 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Review of Data Security in the NI Public Sector – Second Assessment Exercise.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the correspondence to the Department for consideration and request that the updated briefing and Action Plan requested in the Committee’s letter of 15 April 2010 address the issues raised in the Second Assessment Exercise where they apply to the Department of Education.

(c) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 27 May 2010 entitled ‘Qualifications and Destinations of Northern Ireland Schools leavers 2008/09’.

Agreed – the Committee would request from the Department a written briefing providing a more detailed account of the results of the School Leavers Survey, to include the tables referred to in the News Release.

(d) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 28 May 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister visits Beechcroft’.

(e) The Committee noted an invitation of 25 May from Employers for Childcare to attend the launch their research report ‘Sizing up: A comparative study of childcare policies within the 4 regions of the UK’ in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings on 16 June 2010.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 20 May 2010 from INTO and UTU on the launch of their campaign to reduce the average size of classes in our schools.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department for comment on the issues raised and to include, specifically, clarification regarding the INTO/UTU statement that ‘over 7000 registered teachers are not in full time employment’ and any current and planned action to address this specific issue.

(g) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 29 May 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister sends best wishes to children’.

(h) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 28 May 2010 entitled ‘ Minister Celebrates St Patrick’s 50 th Anniversary’.

(i) The Committee noted an invitation from ‘Baglady’s Kids Pledge’ to a reception in the Long Gallery on 21 June 2010 to mark Kids Pledge ASAP Day.

5. Departmental Update Briefing on the Education Budget 2010/11 including Convergence Delivery Plan.

Catherine Daly, Head of Finance, Diarmuid McLean, Director of Investment and Infrastructure and Colleen Toner, Finance Directorate joined the meeting at 2.14pm.

The witnesses provided an update briefing on the Education Budget 2010/11 and answered Members questions on a number of issues, including: the Department of Education’s possible share of the recently announced further £128 million cut in the Block Grant and the Department’s view on deferring any further cut to 2011/12; the impact of current budget cuts on Education and Library Boards and their Resource Allocation Plans; Departmental expenditure on non-statutory requirements and protecting ‘sacred cows’; teacher redundancies in 2010/11 financial year; the impact of the cuts on schools ‘with reduced pupil numbers’, the proportion of schools falling into this category and what the ‘need to look carefully at the level of provision they can afford’ would mean in practice; the status and extent of schools’ accumulated End Year Flexibility money and the restricted access to this money; the extent of liaison between the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance and Personnel on protecting education frontline services; savings in some non-E&LB education bodies; the extent of any leeway for new capital development in 2010/11; the total cost of outstanding minor works, outstanding maintenance to schools and the different categories of maintenance; the likelihood that E&LBs Resource Allocation Plans would, once again, target maintenance and the Department’s responsibility in that regard and protecting frontline education services; the amount of spend on SEN capacity building in light of the unpopularity of the SEN & Inclusion consultation proposals, the lack of an analysis of the responses to the consultation and the probability of necessary legislation receiving Assembly approval; how the need for capacity building was identified and whether there was a skills audit; whether the Middletown Centre for Autism was included in the current Review of Capital Projects, the current status of the Review and how capital projects at an earlier stage would be dealt with; the expenditure provision made for ‘site acquisition’ and the projections for vesting of existing schools.

Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department regarding a number of issues raised by Members on which officials agreed to provide a written response.

Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department raising a number of questions in relation to the Convergence Delivery Plan.

Mr D Hilditch joined the meeting at 2.21pm.

Mr D Bradley joined the meeting at 2.25pm.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.23pm.

6. Departmental Briefing on June Monitoring.

Catherine Daly, Head of Finance, Diarmuid McLean, Director of Investment and Infrastructure and Colleen Toner, Finance Directorate remained at table and provided a briefing on June Monitoring and answered Members questions on a number of issues, including: the 200 teacher redundancies in 2010/11 referred to by the Minister in the Assembly on 1 June 2010 and what plans for redeployment were envisaged; improvements and efficiencies to the development proposal and approval process; funding for the North Belfast Community Centre; addressing the backlog of maintenance through new modular school builds; the prioritising of Health and Safety critical minor works and maintenance; the budget categorisation of minor works, maintenance and capital projects and money spent at financial year end.

Mr J McCallister left the meeting at 2.49pm.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their briefing and they left the meeting at 3.53pm

Mr T Lunn left the meeting at 3.55pm.

7. Any other Business

The Committee considered noted again the correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel seeking the comments on enhancing the capacity of Assembly’s Statutory Committees and Members in undertaking budget and financial scrutiny.

Agreed - the Committee would respond to the Committee for Finance and Personnel in the terms of the draft circulated to Members on 1 June 2010, subject to any comments from Members received by lunchtime on 3 June 2010.

Mr A Ross left the meeting at 4.02pm.

8. Forward Work Programme

Agreed - The Committee agreed to request briefings from the Education and Training Inspectorate and Department of Education officials on the Committee’s proposed Inquiry into Successful Secondary Schools at its meeting on 23 June 2010 and noted and agreed the draft updated Forward Work Programme.

Agreed – the Committee would commission Assembly Research to provide a briefing comparing the proposals in the SEN and Inclusion consultation document with the Good Practice Guidelines and Provisional Criteria for Statutory Assessment of SEN.

Agreed – the Committee would commission Assembly Research to provide a briefing on the benefits, including cost effectiveness, of Nurture Groups.

Agreed – the necessary arrangements would be made for Mr D Bradley to visit the Nurture Group at St Dallan’s Primary School, Warrenpoint on 16 June 2010.

9. Date of the next meeting

The next Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday 9 June 2010 at 2.00pm in Room 21, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.04pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
9 June 2010

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