Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 07 October 2009
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Deputy Chairperson opened the meeting 2.03pm in closed session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Legal Advice
The Legal Advisor to the Assembly provided a briefing on legal advice on a specific issue in the Education Bill requested by the Committee.
The Chairperson joined the meeting at 2.07pm.
3. Bill Office Advice
Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 2.10pm.
The Bill Clerk provided a briefing on the Consideration Stage of Bills.
Mr McCrea joined the meeting at 2.16pm.
The meeting moved into public session at 3.01pm.
4. Minutes of the Meeting of 30 September 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 30 September 2009.
5. Matters Arising
Ms McIlveen left the meeting at 3.02pm.
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2009 from the Department of Education acknowledging receipt of the Committee’s letter seeking information in relation to initial teacher education intakes.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 September 2009 from the Department of Education regarding concerns raised by Ms Lynne Williamson about the arrangements for teachers’ redundancy and early retirement.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Ms Williamson and Mrs Iris Robinson MP MLA for their information.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 September 2009 from the Department of Education regarding departmental revenue from proceeds of crime.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure for information.
(d) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 28 October 2009 from the Minister for Education to Mrs Gillian McCartney regarding additional funding for primary schools.
(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 September 2009 from the Department of Education acknowledging receipt of correspondence forwarded by the Committee from Mr Derek Johnston regarding his concerns over the transfer system to post primary schools in Northern Ireland.
(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 October 2009 from the Department of Education regarding a letter forwarded by the Committee from Mr Ian Boyd concerning AS level results in physical education.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to Mr Boyd for information.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 October 2009 from the Department of Education acknowledging receipt of correspondence forwarded by the Committee from Ms Lisa Saunders regarding concerns with the Education Bill.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 October 2009 from the Department of Education regarding a possible meeting between Department officials and Mr David McNarry MLA to discuss the Community Use of School Premises Bill.
(a) The Committee noted an invitation from the Governing Bodies Association to the Chairperson to speak at the GBA’s AGM on 12 November 2009.
(b) The Committee noted an invitation from the Children’s Law Centre and Save the Children to attend an event to celebrate the 20 th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child on 26 November 2009 in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings.
(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2009 from the Department of Education enclosing the ‘Final Evaluation Report on the second implementation year of the InCAS computer-based assessments in 2008/2009’.
Agreed – The Committee would request that officials from CCEA provide a briefing to the Committee on the results of the Evaluation Report.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2009 from the National Autistic Society requesting an opportunity to speak to the Committee on the Department of Education’s policy proposals for special educational needs (SEN).
Agreed – the Committee would write to the National Autistic Society advising them that their request would be considered, after the Committee has received a Departmental briefing on the consultation on the Review of SEN Inclusion.
(e) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 28 September 2009 from Mr Ian Paisley Jnr MLA to the Minister of Education regarding a constituent who did not receive a place at Dalriada School to undertake A levels studies as the school is over-subscribed.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education requesting that it be copied the Minister’s response to Mr Paisley.
(f) The Committee noted a Press Release of 30 September 2009 entitled ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) a top priority in education’
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 October 2009 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister requesting the Committee’s views on OFMDFM’s draft Sustainable Development Strategy.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the draft Strategy to the Department of Education for comment.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 September 2009 from the Joint Negotiating Council for the Education and Library Boards – Trade Union Side regarding pay increases to education sector staff.
Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education for comment.
(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 1 October from the five Education and Library Boards providing information on the Equality Impact Assessment on the Provisional Criteria for Making Statutory Assessments of Special Educational Needs.
(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2009 from Ian Paisley Jnr MLA regarding concerns raised by a constituent, Ms Sarah Murphy on the problems that effect home schooled children.
Agreed – that the Committee would forward Ms Murphy’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised and to request information about the transfer of primary level home schooled children to post primary school.
(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 October 2009 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding Monitoring of Department’s Post Project Evaluations.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education seeking clarification and an explanation on outstanding PPEs particularly at 5 February 2009.
(l) The Committee noted a Press Release of 5 October 2009 entitled ‘Education Minister Reinforces Position on Transfer 2010’.
(m) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 October 2009 from Employers for Childcare on the launch of its ‘Childcare SoS’ campaign to oppose the Government’s recent decision to end the childcare voucher scheme.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the campaign information to the Department of Education for a response to the issues raised.
7. Briefing from All Party Assembly Group on Autism (APAGA) on Autism Legislation
Ms McIlveen rejoined the meeting at 3.08pm.
Mr Dominic Bradley MLA, Chairperson of the APAGA and Ms Arlene Cassidy, Autism NI and Secretary to the APAGA joined the meeting at 3.08pm.
The Committee noted that in addition to the Deputy Chairperson, the following Committee Members are also members of the APAGA: Jonathan Craig, John McCallister and Michelle O’Neill.
The witnesses gave a presentation on a draft abstract of a proposed Autism Bill (NI) and answered questions from members on a number of issues including: the need for joined up government and co-operation between Departments on the issue of Autism; making the best use of Department resources to avoid duplication of provision; whether existing legislation is sufficient to address the issues raised in the Autism Bill as suggested by the Department for Health and the Department for Education; the Group’s participation in the Review of SEN and Inclusion; the need for an Autism strategy for Northern Ireland and/or interdepartmental action plan; the impact of Middletown Centre for Autism and whether it provides value for money; the Bamford Review; the role of an ASD Advocate/Coordinator; and the impact Autism legislation would have on the ground.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.48pm.
Agreed – the Committee would await the Minister for Education’s response to the draft abstract of the Bill before it would look at this issue further.
Mrs Bradley left the meeting at 3.50pm.
8. The Education Bill
The Committee considered a proposed Department amendment to Clause 30 of the Education Bill to place a duty on the Boards of Governors of both Irish speaking schools and other schools containing an Irish speaking part, that that Boards of Governors would use their ‘best endeavours to ensure that the management, control and ethos of the school are such as are likely to ensure the continuing viability of the school as an Irish speaking school ’ or ‘the continuing viability of the Irish speaking part of the school’.
The Committee divided: Ayes 3; Noes 4; Abstain 2
Agreed – That the Committee would not recommend to the Assembly the Department’s proposed amendment to Clause 30.
Mr O’Dowd left the meeting at 3.54pm.
9. Departmental Briefing on the draft Education (Employment Schemes) Regulations (NI) 2010
Mr Chris Stewart, Head of Review of Public Administration and Mrs La Verne Montgomery, Head of Education Workforce Development Directorate joined the meeting at 3.55pm.
The witnesses gave a presentation on the draft Education (Employment Schemes) Regulations as proposed by a Departmental amendment to the First Education Bill and answered questions from Members on a number of issues. Officials confirmed that: that ESA will be the employer of staff in schools and that legal representation for Boards of Governors would be similar to the model currently used by CCMS, ie that ESA and a Board of Governors would be co-joined in any legal proceedings and that ESA would cover the costs. Where a Board of Governors wished to use its own legal representatives, and this was considered appropriate, then this would also be possible. Officials provided clarification of the procedure ESA would implement if it felt a Board of Governors was acting unlawfully and confirmed that ESA would not fail to address an issue where a Board of Governors failed to discharge its responsibilities. Officials answered questions on a number of issues, including: whether the Regulations address the concerns of key stakeholders; whether the regulations are compliant with equality, labour and employment law; the distinction between the responsibilities of the Boards of Governors and the role of ESA to support and advise, and whether an individual member of a Board of Governors can be sued. Officials confirmed that: the draft Education (Employment Schemes) Regulations had not yet gone out to consultation but that they would in due course; the Committee would have early sight of a working draft of the Order to be made under the power to modify employment law in Clause 12 of the First Education Bill which would arise from the Education (Employment Scheme) Regulations; that the Minister had circulated papers to Ministerial colleagues in advance of an Executive Committee meeting on 8 October seeking executive agreement on the policy amendments the Minister wishes to bring forward to the First Education Bill and the policy amendments made by the Committee the Minister wishes to accept; and that the Second Education Bill and Policy Memorandum have been put forward for Executive consideration but had not yet been considered.
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 4.20pm.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.26pm.
10. Forward Work Programme
The Committee noted its Forward Work Programme.
11. Any Other Business
Members discussed the impending deadline for the end of the consultation period for the Review of SEN and Inclusion and raised concerns that the consultation period which spanned August and September were difficult months for schools to prepare a considered response to such an important and complex document.
Agreed – That the Chairperson would write to the Minister for Education to request an extension to the deadline of the consultation.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.33pm