Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 28 April 2010

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Deputy Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.08pm in public session.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 21 April 2010

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 21 April 2010.

3. Matters Arising

The Committee noted correspondence of 21 April 2010 from the Department of Education on March 2010 Outturn and Forecast Outturn for 2009/10 to the Department of Finance and Personnel.

The Committee noted correspondence of 22 April 2010 from the Department of Education regarding the Office of the First and deputy First Minister’s Child Poverty Report.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence of 22 April 2010 to the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister.

The Committee noted correspondence of 22 April 2010 from the Department of Education on the decision to site a new Resource Centre for visually impaired pupils at the former Castle High School.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Ms J McNeill who had drawn this matter to the Committee’s attention.

The Committee noted correspondence of 22 April from the Minister of Education to Mr B McElduff, MLA, Chairperson of the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure on the Department’s funding of the Cultural Traditions Programme.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Minister’s correspondence to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

The Committee noted correspondence of 23 and 26 April 2010 from Ms L Saunders on Data Security Accountability.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Saunders’ correspondence to the Department of Education for consideration and request that the updated briefing and Action plan sought in the Committee’s letter to the Department of 15 April 2010 include comment on the role and responsibility of ESAIT and ESA CEO Designate in relation to data security.

The Committee noted correspondence of 23 April 2010 from the Department of Education on the Report of the Promoting Social Inclusion Working Group on Disability.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister.

The Committee noted correspondence of 19 April 2010 from Belfast International Airport clarifying the meaning of its letter to the Committee dated 31 March 2010.

The Committee noted correspondence of 23 April 2010 from Ms Gallagher and Ms Hannigan on the ICAN Early Years Centre at Ballynahinch Primary School.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Gallagher’s and Ms Hannigan’s correspondence to the Department of Education asking to be copied in on the Minister’s response to the Chairperson of the Commissioners of the SEELB and asking the Department what cross-departmental meetings/discussions have taken place to discuss securing funding for the ICAN Centre..
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Gallagher and Ms Hannigan’s correspondence to the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety requesting that it raise the issue of funding of the ICAN Centre with its Minister and/or Department.

The Committee noted the Clerk’s Memo to Members of 27 April 2010 confirming that the Examiner of Statutory Rules had not raised any issues in relation to the Statutory Rules considered at the Committees’ meeting on 14 April 2010.

The Committee noted correspondence of 27 April 2010 from the Clerk to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on monitoring of Departmental Post Project Evaluations.
Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education requesting an explanation for the delay in completing Post Project Evaluations.

Correspondence

The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 21 April 2010 entitled ‘A Good Education is a Right for All Children’.

The Committee noted copy correspondence received on 22 April 2010 from 
Mr and Mrs Halligan regarding the rebuilding of Whitehouse Primary School.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr and Mrs Halligan’s correspondence to the Department of Education for comment on the specific issues raised.

The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 22 April 2010 entitled ‘Minister visits Coláiste Feirste’.

The Committee noted a Department of Education Press Release of 22 April 2010 entitled ‘21 st Century Teachers for a 21 st Century Education System’.

The Committee noted correspondence from Ms P Mellon on the Regional Centre for Pupils with Visual Impairment.
Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department of Education’s correspondence of 22 April 2010 (item 3(c) above) regarding the Regional Centre to Ms Mellon for information.

The Committee noted correspondence of 23 April 2010 from Mr P McCafferty regarding the re-employment of retired teachers.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Mr McCafferty’s correspondence to the Department of Education for comment on the issues raised.

The Committee noted correspondence of 23 April 2010 from Ms M Daly, Head of Religious Education at Assumption Grammar School, Ballynahinch regarding her concerns over the future of grammar school education in Northern Ireland.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Daly’s correspondence to the Department of Education asking to be copied in on any response by the Minister to Ms Daly.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Ms Daly’s correspondence to the Most Rev Bishop Donal McKeown in his capacity as Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education asking for comment on the issues raised and to be copied in on any response to Ms Daly.

The Committee noted a copy of the Speedwell Trust Strategy 2010-2013 launched in Parliament Buildings on 26 April 2010.

The Committee noted correspondence of 19 April 2010 from the Northern Ireland Ombudsman enclosing a copy of their 40 th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet entitled ‘40 Years of the Office of the Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Reflections in Time’.

The Committee noted correspondence of 26 April 2010 from Mr S McConkey on behalf of the School Community of Whitehouse Primary School and Nursery Unit on the handing over of ‘protest letters petition’ to the Committee expressing concern over the delay in receiving approval for a new school build at Whitehouse Primary School.
Agreed – the Committee would meet with the delegation to receive the ‘protest letters petition’ on Wednesday 12 May 2010 at approx 4.00pm.
Agreed – the Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee, would present the ‘protest letters petition’, when received, as a Public Petition to the Assembly.

The Committee noted copy correspondence of 26 April 2010 from Mrs V Ogilby to the Minister of Education regarding the delay in a new school build at Whitehouse Primary School.
Agreed – the Committee would forward Mrs Ogilby’s correspondence to the Department of Education requesting that it be copied in on the Minister’s response to Mrs Ogilby.

The Committee noted correspondence of 27 April 2010 from several parents and teachers requesting that the subject of Whitehouse Primary School be discussed at Committee’s meeting on 28 April 2010.
Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Department of Education for comment, drawing attention in particular to specific concerns raised in correspondence from Ms J Hamilton.

Mr A Ross joined the meeting at 2.19pm

5. Department of Education briefing on responses to the Prep Department funding draft EQIA and the Minister’s subsequent decision on funding.

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Paul Duffy, Finance Directorate and Roisin Lilley, School Finance Branch joined the meeting at 2.22pm.

The officials provided a briefing on the responses to the draft EQIA and the Minister’s decision to withdraw one third of the funding to preparatory departments of grammar schools. Officials answered Members’ questions on a number of issues, including: the ‘delay’ in reaching a decision following the draft EQIA consultation; the equity of a situation where parents’ return for their taxes is a State contribution of less than 20% of the cost of their children’s education; the rationale for a reduction of funding by one third (rather than any other fraction) and whether any further reductions were planned.

The Deputy Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and Paul Duffy and Roisin Lilley left the meeting at 2.34pm. John McGrath remained at table.

6. Department of Education briefing update on the Education Budget 2010/11 Spending Plans

John McGrath was joined by Catherine Daly, Head of Finance and Gillian Uprichard, Financial Planning Division at 2.35pm.

The officials provided a briefing on the Education Budget for 2010/11 Spending Plans and answered Members’ questions on a number of issues, including: whether ‘frontline educational services’ had really been protected by the Minister’s spending plans; the extent to which spending should be skewed towards schools, taking account of general inflation (including cost of fuel) and the uplift in pay and allowances of teachers; whether £6 million was sufficient to meet the costs of premature retirements; the consequences of not delivering the savings to be achieved via the Convergence Plan; the lack of a decision on the rebuilding of Whitehouse Primary School and the inclusion of Whitehouse in the general Review of Capital Projects; the budgets for the Early Years and Literacy and Numeracy Strategies; and the allocation of £8.3 million for SEN capacity building when the outcome of consultation on the Review of SEN and Inclusion remains unknown; the funding of the ICAN Early Years Centre at Ballynahinch Primary School; the lack of capital resources to start any new builds in 2010/11, the over commitment of £2.7 million in the Capital Budget and the specific criteria for the Minister’s Review of Capital Projects; the impact on the Department’s contribution to capital projects funded jointly with other bodies, such as the new YMCA in Carrickfergus; the significant cut in the Community Relations budget; and reduction to the Youth Budget in real term; the arrangements to implement the extension of Free School Meals entitlement criteria; the impact of proposed funding for the Middletown Centre.

The Deputy Chairperson thanked the witnesses for an informative briefing and they left the meeting at 3.12pm.

Agreed – the Committee would update its web pages for the 2010/11 Budget and the Review of SEN & Inclusion with recent correspondence from the Department

7. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and agreed the amended Forward Work Programme.

Agreed – The Committee would receive a presentation from the Educator Advisory Panel of the Cross-Party Education Group which has been considering options for Transfer from Primary to Post-Primary and this would be scheduled for a meeting in late May or early June.

8. Any Other Business

None.

The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 3.14pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
12 May 2010

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