Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 11 November 2009
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 1.30pm in public session. The Chairperson placed on record his thanks to Michelle McIlveen for chairing last week’s meeting in both his and the Deputy Chairperson’s absence.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 4 November 2009
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 4 November 2009.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted correspondence of 4 November 2009 from the Department of Education on the Premature Retirement Compensation Regulations.
The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 3 November 2009 from the Minister of Education to Ian Paisley Jnr, MLA regarding a constituent of Mr Paisley’s who was unsuccessful in obtaining a sixth form place at Dalriada School.
The Committee noted correspondence of 5 November 2009 from the Department of Education on the implications for open enrolment policy under Education Reform.
The Committee noted correspondence of 5 November 2009 from the Department of Education on the new eSchools data warehouse.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to Ms L Saunders for information.
The Committee noted correspondence of 6 November 2009 from the Department of Education providing information on the meetings of the Controlled Schools Sector Group.
The Committee noted correspondence of 9 November 2009 from Ms L Saunders requesting copies of the Department of Education’s briefing papers relating to ‘the Effective Use of Data Project’ and the Report on ‘School and Pupil Performance Data’.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the relevant papers to Ms Saunders as requested.
The Committee noted correspondence of 9 November 2009 from the Department of Education acknowledging receipt of the National Autistic Society’s response to the Department’s SEN and Inclusion Consultation and confirmed that it would be considered as part of the overall consultation.
The Committee noted correspondence of 10 November 2009 from the Department of Education acknowledging receipt of Longstone School’s response to the Department’s SEN and Inclusion Consultation and confirmed that it would be considered as part of the overall consultation.
The Committee noted correspondence of 10 November 2009 from the Department of Education providing an update on the Department’s Pupils Emotional Health and Well Being Programme.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health for information.
The Committee noted correspondence of 2 November 2009 from the Department of Education on a draft consultation document emanating from the Review of Teacher Education.
Agreed – the Committee would receive a briefing from Departmental officials on the consultation proposals in closed session as requested.
The Committee noted correspondence of 3 November 2009 from the British Heart Foundation enclosing a campaign report on the provision of children’s food in leisure venues.
The Committee noted correspondence of 5 November 2009 from the Committee on Procedures providing statistics on Departmental performance on answering written questions.
The Committee noted correspondence of 9 November 2009 from Women’s Centres Regional Partnership (WCRP) enclosing a copy of its Report ‘Women Living in Disadvantaged Communities: Barriers to Participation.’
The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 1 November 2009 from Belfast City Councillor Tom Eakin to the Minister of Education on the education of working class Protestant males.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it is copied the Minister’s response to Councillor Eakin.
The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 4 November 2009 from the Committee for Regional Development inviting written evidence from the Committee on its Sustainable Transport Inquiry.
Agreed – the Committee will forward the correspondence to the Department of Education asking for a response on current and planned policy actions promoting sustainable transport in the field of education.
The Committee noted correspondence of 10 November 2009 from the Committee for Employment and Learning seeking the approval of the Committee to write to the Minister of Education regarding issued raised by the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Committee for Employment and Learning’s letter to the Minister for Education as requested.
5. Subordinate Legislation
The Committee considered the following proposed statutory rule: The Education (General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009.
Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 1.38pm.
Mr Craig joined the meeting at 1.38pm.
Agreed – that the Committee would inform the Department of Education that it had no comments on the proposed Statutory Rule at this stage.
6. Briefing from Department of Education and CCEA on InCAS Evaluation Report
Katrina Godfrey, Head of Curriculum, Qualifications and Standards Directorate, Richard Hanna, Director of Education Strategy - CCEA and Ruth Kennedy, Business Manager Curriculum Assessment and Reporting – CCEA, joined the meeting at 1.39pm. The officials gave a presentation on the InCAS Evaluation Report – Assessments 2008-2009 and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: what steps were taken by the Department when errors relating to the InCAS system occurred; whether there were any correlations between the errors identified; the contract arrangements with Durham University (the owners of the InCAS system); whether the £50 million spent on computers in schools included InCAS and whether this represented value for money; an explanation of the range of technical difficulties experienced by teachers assessing InCAS; the progress of the planned Department/ETI Review of InCAS; whether CCEA and the Department are satisfied that the correct level of checks and debugging of the system occurred prior to the implementation of the system; the impact of the loss of confidence of parents as a result of the errors experienced; whether InCAS is designed as a formative assessment tool only; how InCAS results can inform school development plans; whether the Department is looking at how to assist parents help their children; details of other diagnostic assessment tools available; whether InCAS software is available to children in their homes; the number of households who have access to home computers; the format of the InCAS testing; the quality of the InCAS reports; the purpose of the InCAS system to inform teaching and learning; consideration of the particular needs of children with SEN or children who don’t have English as their first language; the exemption process and how children who are exempt from InCAS are assessed; and provision of InCAS assessment in Irish medium schools.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 2.21pm.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 2.35pm.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to remind officials that they agreed to provide the Committee with a breakdown of the budgets relating to C2K and InCAS; a fuller report of the planned review of InCAS and statistics relating to computers in homes.
The meeting was suspended at 2.35pm.
The meeting resumed at 3.12pm. Mr M Storey, Mr D Bradley, Mrs M Bradley, Mr J Craig, Mr T Lunn, Mr J O’Dowd, Ms M O’Neill and Mr A Ross present.
7. Presentation from Children with Disabilities Strategic Alliance (CDSA) on the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation Proposals
Elaine Conway, Children in Northern Ireland; Heather Larkin, Special Education Needs Advisory Service; Rachel Hogan, Children’s Law Centre; Alan Sheeran, National Deaf Children’s Society; and Pascal McKeown, Mencap joined the meeting at 3.12pm. The witnesses gave a presentation on the SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation Proposals and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: whether the Department conducted adequate pre-consultation engagement; whether any of the Alliance organisations were involved in the pre-consultation working groups; concerns regarding apparent flaws in the Scottish SEN model; what needs to be amended in the current legislation that would enhance and not dilute the legal rights of SEN provision for children; the shift in responsibility from Education and Library Boards to Schools; the requirement for clarity for the definitions used within the proposals; the difference between SEN and Additional Educational Needs; concerns about identification and intervention, and the qualification of teachers to carry out such assessments and decisions on intervention, and whether it raises the potential for professional negligence cases; the impact upon the relationship between parents and the school; the absence of authoritative diagnosis; concerns regarding a reduction in the statementing of children; what intervention will be available to children with SEN before they start school; the level of anxiety that is being created amongst parents; the replacement of statements with Co-ordinated Support Plans; examples of the best practice on which the proposals are based, the necessity and support for early intervention; whether these policy proposals will have a diminishing effect on the rights of parent and children; examples of how the policy proposals are already being ‘quietly implemented’; anecdotal evidence that mainstream schools fear they won’t be able to cope with children with severe needs, prompting some parents to move their children into the special school sector; the importance of statements as legally enforceable documents; support for the ‘Inclusion’ agenda; difficulties with the labelling of children with ‘special’ or ‘additional’ needs and whether they are getting access to appropriate levels of care; the duty to promote equality of opportunity for all children; SENDO legislation provision; how the new system will be funded; and reliance on the use of Personal Learning Plans (which have no statutory basis) within schools.
Mr Ross left the meeting at 3.24pm.
Mr McCallister rejoined the meeting at 3.42pm.
Mr Craig left the meeting at 4.06pm.
Agreed – the Committee would request research on the current legal position relating to statements and provision for SEN and how this could be diminished or enhanced by the policy proposals.
Agreed – the Committee would write to CDSA to request any additional information and/or examples of how the SEN and Inclusion policy proposals are already being ‘quietly implemented’.
Agreed – the Committee would invite union representatives of teachers to brief the Committee on the SEN and Inclusion Consultation.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department for further information on the impact the policy proposals may have on SENDO and Disability legislation; data on the number of statements issued prior and post introduction of the policy consultation proposals; to ask whether the Department see any merit in extending the consultation deadline further; and to request that officials provide information on funding for SEN and in particular SEN and Inclusion policy proposals at the Committee’s budget briefing scheduled for 18 November 2009.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.27pm.
8. Any Other Business
The Chairperson raised concerns in relation to the lack of availability of replacement classroom assistants (particularly those with responsibility for pupils with special needs) to take the place of a classroom assistant who is absent from work for a period of time.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to ask for its view on the establishment of a substitute register of suitable trained classroom assistants to ensure that the absence of a Classroom assistant would be addressed immediately.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.31pm