Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 20 January 2010
Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings
The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.07pm in public session.
Apologies are detailed above.
2. Minutes of the Meeting of 13 January 2010
Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 13 January 2010.
3. Matters Arising
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 January 2010 from the Department of Education enclosing a paper on ‘November 2009 Outturn and Forecast Outturn’.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 January 2010 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel on monitoring of Departmental post project evaluations.
(c) The Committee noted a copy of correspondence of 11 January 2010 from the Minister for Education to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety on the proposed Autism Bill (NI).
Mr Dominic Bradley MLA, Ms Michelle O’Neill MLA and Mr Jonathan Craig MLA declared interests in this matter as members of the All Party Assembly Group on Autism.
Agreed –The Committee would request reports of the outcome of the meeting to be held between the All Party Group on Autism and senior departmental officials from the Department of Education and Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and schedule an oral briefing from Departmental officials on this subject into its Forward Work Programme.
(d) The Committee noted a copy of the Children’s Law Centre’s response to the Department of Education’s SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation.
(e) The Committee noted a copy of the National Autistic Society Northern Ireland’s response to the Department of Education’s SEN and Inclusion Review Consultation.
(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 12 January 2010 from the Committee for the Environment on the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill inviting the views of Departments and Agencies on the proposed Bill, particularly in relation to the new biodiversity duty on public authorities that it will introduce.
Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department of Education for any views that it may have on this Bill.
(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 January 2010 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the Draft Promoting Social Inclusion Working Group Report on Disability.
Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department of Education for any views that it may have on this Report.
(c) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 13 January 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister meets Literacy and Numeracy Taskforce’.
(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 13 January 2010 from Longstone School regarding an agreed Committee visit to the school.
(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 15 January 2010 entitled ‘To the BT Young Scientist Exhibition and Beyond!’
(f) The Committee noted correspondence forwarded by Dominic Bradley MLA raising concerns that the PCGE qualification from Queen’s University Belfast is not formally recognised by the Teaching Council in the South of Ireland.
Agreed – The Committee would forward Mr Bradley’s correspondence to the Committee for Employment and Learning to consider as appropriate, with a suggestion that it may wish to seek clarity from QUB on this matter.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr Bradley’s correspondence to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised in light of the Minister of Education’s Statement to the Assembly on Monday, 18 January 2010 regarding a North/South Ministerial Council meeting in education sectoral format in which the Minister made reference to a related matter on co-operation on teacher qualifications. Further to this, the Committee agreed to request written briefing from the Department on all the agreed areas of education co-operation that fall within the remit of the North/South Ministerial Council in educational sectoral format. The Committee will request an oral briefing on this subject from Departmental officials and schedule this into its Forward Work Programme.
(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 January 2010 from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure requesting that a letter on the promotion of townland names is forwarded to the Department of Education.
Agreed - the Committee would forward the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure’s letter to the Department of Education as requested.
(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 January 2010 from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure requesting that a letter on its inquiry into participation in sport and physical activity in Northern Ireland is forwarded to the Department of Education.
Agreed – The Committee would write to the Department of Education for any views that it may have on this Inquiry.
5. Statutory Rule – Schools Admissions (Exceptional Circumstances) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2010
The Committee considered the proposed Schools Admissions (Exceptional Circumstances) Regulations ( Northern Ireland) 2010.
Agreed –the Committee would notify the Department of Education that it has no comment on this proposed Statutory Rule.
6. SEN and Inclusion – Assembly Research Briefing
An Assembly Researcher provided briefing on a research paper commissioned by the Committee on the ‘Legal Rights of Children and their Parents and the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Inclusion Policy Review’.
Agreed – that the research paper would be put on the Assembly website.
Agreed - that the Assembly Researcher would seek further information on whether the Inclusion element of the proposed SEN provision was driven by European legislation.
7. Education Budget: 2010/11 Spending Plans
John McGarth, Deputy Secretary, Catherine Daly, Director of Finance and Gillian Uprichard, Financial Planning and Control joined the meeting at 3.05pm.
Mr McCallister joined the meeting at 3.08pm
The officials provided briefing on the Education Budget: 2010/11 Spending Plans in the context of the Minister of Education’s letter of 14 January 2010 to the Committee and answered questions from Members on a number of issues, including: the impact of equality screening process on the timeframe for budget reduction decisions; details of the schools which will not be built given there is no provision to commence any major new builds in 2010/11; the Minister’s Review of the capital works programme and the resulting revision of the rank order and priority of schemes; the subject of design and build versus traditional build; could ELBs, CCMS etc convergence savings planned under ESA protect front line services; surplus places at schools; potential savings in salary costs and planned inflation increases; and the utilisation of PPP capital schemes.
The meeting moved into closed session at 3.55pm.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request a breakdown of the existing spend in the areas identified for potential reduction and the scope/potential for reductions in each area as detailed in Annexe B of the Minister’s letter of 14 January 2010.
The Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 4.35pm.
8. Forward Work Programme
The Committee discussed the Forward Work Programme and arrangements for the Committee’s SEN event to take place that evening.
Agreed – further to correspondence at (d) in Matters Arising, the Committee agreed to schedule a visit to Longstone School into its Forward Work Programme.
9. Any Other Business
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4.52pm.