Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 14 April 2010

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.05pm in closed session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Preparatory Department Funding Legal Advice

The Committee considered further advice from Assembly Legal Services in relation to the Department’s proposal to withdraw funding from preparatory departments of grammar schools.

The meeting moved into public session at 2.08pm

3. Minutes of the Meeting of 24 March 2010

The Chairperson thanked the then Deputy Chairperson, Mr D Bradley, for taking the chair at the Committee meeting on 24 March 2010. The Chairperson also thanked Mr Bradley for his contribution to the Committee as Deputy Chairperson and welcomed Mr David Hilditch as the new Deputy Chairperson.

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 24 March 2010.

Ms M O’Neill joined the meeting at 2.09pm

4. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 March 2010 from the Minister of Education responding to a request for the Minister to give further consideration to the establishment of a parents’ forum to discuss issues around future SEN provision as suggested in previous correspondence by Mr K Stacey.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Minister’s letter to Mr Stacey for information.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 March 2010 from Mr A Bradshaw, Chairman of Board of Governors at Omagh Integrated Primary and Nursery School including an invitation to visit the school. The Committee noted the letter in light of the correspondence from the Minister of Education to Mr Bradshaw at (i) below.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 March 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding recommendations of the Child Poverty Report.

Agreed – the Committee agreed to forward the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Ministers’ correspondence to the Department of Education.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 March 2010 from Ms L Saunders on Data Security Policy.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 21 March 2010 from Ms L Saunders on Data Security Issues on Transfer 2010.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 23 March 2010 from Ms L Saunders on Data Security Issues.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Saunders’ letters to the Department of Education for comment on some of the issues raised, remind the Department that the Committee had requested an update on the implementation of the Internal Audit’s recommendations and write to inform Ms Saunders accordingly.

(g) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 9 March 2010 from the Department of Education regarding the prompt payment performance of the Department of Education.

Agreed – the Committee would request that the Department of Education provide details of specific actions being taken by the Department and its NDPBs to improve performance in the context of differing levels of performance among NDPBs.


(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 March 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment on Departmental Prompt Payment of Invoices.

Agreed – the Committee agreed to forward the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investments’ correspondence to the Department of Education for comment.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 April 2010 from the Minister of Education to Mr A Bradshaw, Chairman of Board of Governors at Omagh Integrated Primary and Nursery School regarding the school’s major capital works project.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 April 2010 from the Department of Education on the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence of 12 April 2010 to the Committee for the Environment.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 April 2010 from the Minister of Education to the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning regarding that Committee’s Inquiry into Young People aged 16 to 24 not in Education, Learning and Training.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Minister’s correspondence to the Committee for Employment and Learning.

(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 April 2010 from the Department of Education on Support for Carers in relation to a request from the Committee for Finance and Personnel.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence of 12 April 2010 to the Committee for Finance and Personnel.

5. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 March 2010 from Mr K Mitchell to the Minister of Education on the funding of preparatory departments of grammar schools.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request that it is copied the Minister’s response to Mr Mitchell.

(b) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 31 March 2010 entitled ‘Attendance at grant aided primary, post-primary and special schools 2008/09: Detailed statistics’.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 March 2010 from Ms V Kyle on the funding of preparatory departments of grammar schools.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Kyle’s letter to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised.

(d) The Committee noted an invitation of 29 March 2010 from Ocean Youth Trust Ireland to attend the launch of their new small boat fleet at W5, The Odyssey on 9 April 2010.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 26 March 2010 from Cllr Michelle McIlveen, MLA regarding consultation on a proposed Private Members’ Bill entitled ‘The Missing Children and Young Persons Bill’.

Agreed – the Committee would forward Cllr McIlveen’s letter and consultation document to the Department of Education for comment on the proposed Bill.

(f) The Committee noted the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland magazine for Spring 2010 entitled ‘termtalk’.

(g) The Committee noted a Report from the Public Accounts Committee entitled ‘The Pre-school Education Expansion Programme’.

Agreed – the Committee agreed to consider this Report in conjunction with the Department of Education’s formal response to it and in the context of the Department’s Early Years’ 0-6 Strategy due in Spring 2010.

(h) The Committee noted a research journal published by the Community Relations Council for March 2010 entitled ‘Shared Space: A research journal on peace, conflict and community relations in Northern Ireland’.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 24 March 2010 from Barnardo’s enclosing their Literacy Programme and some research carried out by Professor Tim Shanahan entitled ‘Literacy – Learning for Life’.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 25 March 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister enclosing research papers from Assembly Research on Future Cohesion Policy and Structural Funds and Impact Assessments and a paper on access to EU Research and Development funding from the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland.

(k) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 25 March 2010 entitled ‘Ruane hails success of multi-million pound sports programme’.

(l) The Committee noted an invitation from the Titanic Schools Project to attend various events across Northern Ireland.

(m) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 22 March 2010 from Ms D Eastwood to the The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr Hay on Post Primary Transfer.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Ms Eastwood informing her that the Belfast Telegraph’s petition had been forwarded to the Minister of Education and providing her with the web-link to recent Department of Education’s press releases on the subject of Transfer setting out the Department’s position.

(n) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 March 2010 from Ms M McKee of Sport NI requesting information on the progress of the Community Use of School Premises Private Members’ Bill.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Mr David McNarry, MLA to ask if he is content that the Committee release of certain relevant correspondence from the Department of Education to Ms McKee.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education seeking an update on the progress to date of the Working Group established by the Department to take forward work on community use of schools premises.

(o) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 1 April 2010 entitled ‘Ruane congratulates Newry school on EFQM accolade’.

(p) The Committee noted a record of the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group meeting held on 23 March 2010.

(q) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 6 April 2010 entitled ‘North and South face common challenges in education’.

(r) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 8 April 2010 entitled ‘Co-operation places needs of child first – Ruane’

(s) The Committee noted an invitation from Coláiste Feireste to attend a Celebration of the foundation of the Gaelscoil movement.

(t) The Committee noted correspondence of 2 April 2010 from Ms J McNeill on the decision of the Department of Education to establish a specialist resource base for the visually impaired at the site of the former Castle High School.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education for comment on the issue raised.

(u) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 March 2010 from Mr C Nesbitt on the funding of preparatory departments for grammar schools.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

(v) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 April 2010 from Mr C Keates, General Secretary to the NASUWT regarding a trade dispute and notification of ballot result and industrial action.

(w) The Committee noted correspondence of 31 March 2010 from Mr John Doran, Managing Director of Belfast International Airport on the subject of a Public Inquiry regarding Belfast City Airport.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Mr Doran on this subject.

(x) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 April 2010 from Mr J Rowney on the proposal to withdraw funding for the preparatory departments of grammar schools.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

(y) The Committee noted an invitation of 13 April 2010 to attend the launch of the College STEM Initiative at W5, The Odyssey on 1 May 2010.

(z) The Committee noted an invitation of 13 April 2010 from the Engineer Policy Group Northern Ireland to attend a presentation by Professor J Millar on ‘Northern Ireland Consequences of having too few STEM Graduates’ at the Council Chambers of Queens University on 24 May 2010.

Agreed – the Committee would write to remind the Department of Education that officials had agreed to provide the Committee with regular progress updates on the STEM Review Report implementation and to provide an update briefing paper. The Committee also agreed to write to the Committee for Employment and Learning to ask for an update on DEL’s implementation of the STEM Review Report.

Mr B McCrea left the meeting at 2.21pm

6. Statutory Rule : The Teachers’ (Compensation for Redundancy and Premature Retirement) Regulations (NI) 2010

The Committee considered The Teachers’ (Compensation for Redundancy and Premature Retirement) Regulations (NI) 2010.

Question put and agreed:

‘That the Committee for Education has considered Statutory Rule 2010 No. 136 The Teachers’ (Compensation for Redundancy and Premature Retirement) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report, has no objection to the rule.’

7. Statutory Rule: the Teachers’ Pensions (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2010

The Committee considered The Teachers’ Pensions (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2010.

Question put and agreed:

‘That the Committee for Education has considered Statutory Rule 2010 No. 137 The Teachers’ Pensions (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report, has no objection to the rule.’

8. Statutory Rule: The Education (Levels of Progression for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3) (Transitional) Order (NI) 2010

The Committee considered The Education (Levels of Progression for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3) (Transitional) Order (NI) 2010.

Question put and agreed:

‘That the Committee for Education has considered Statutory Rule 2010 No. 135 The Education (Levels of Progression for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3) (Transitional) Order (Northern Ireland) 2010 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report, has no objection to the rule.’

9. Department of Education Briefing update on the proposal to withdraw funding from Preparatory Departments of Grammar Schools.

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Paul Duffy, Finance and Accounts Branch and Roisin Lilley, School Finance Branch joined the meeting at 2.24pm.

The officials provided a briefing on the updated position of the Department on the proposal to withdraw funding from Preparatory Departments of Grammar Schools and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: SEELB’s response to the consultation indicating that the timescale for implementation of the proposal was ‘unworkable’; schools’ uncertainty regarding future prep department funding in the absence of a final decision and ‘chaos’ created for one particular sector; those consulted by the Department regarding the proposal; the use of in-house and external consultants to carry out reviews recommended by the Bain Report; the ‘Equity’ of access rationale for the removal of prep department funding in the context of the Department’s objective of raising educational standards and the high standards achieved by prep departments; how the consultation process had operated when prep funding had previously been reduced; legal advice shared by the Minister for Finance and Personnel and Minister of Education’s consideration of it; the lack of a response to the Committee’s letter of 30 March 2010 on this subject; the likely timescale for the Minister’s final decision on the proposal.

The Chairperson also raised with officials the issue of the delay in the re-building of Whitehouse Primary School, destroyed by fire in July 2009, which the Chairperson understood would commence to rebuild by the end of 2009 and would not be subject to the Review of Capital Projects.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.14pm.

Mr J McCallister joined the meeting at 3.14pm

10. Department of Education briefing update on the Convergence Delivery Plan.

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary was joined by Eugene Rooney, Director of Planning and Performance Management at 3.20pm.

The officials provided a briefing on the updated position of the Department on the Convergence Delivery Plan and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: the application of Public Appointments’ process/code of practice to Local Councils’ nominees to sit on the re-constituted Boards of E&LBs, the extent to which Local Councils have nominated representatives in response to the Minister’s request and the way forward where there is currently a ‘stalemate’; E&LBs’ confidence in and acceptance of the Convergence Plan; the difficulties arising from the vacancy control policy; when ESA Directors designate would be submitting proposals to the cross-Board Committees and what the reduced management structures proposals will look like; and the use of a Communications Plan to address uncertainty regarding the Convergence Plan.

Mr J O’Dowd left the meeting at 3.33pm.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.57pm.

11. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and agreed the amended Forward Work Programme.

12. Any Other Business

None.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.04pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey 
Chairperson, Committee for Education 
21 April 2010

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