Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 12 January 2011

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.03 pm in public session.

1. Apologies

None

2. Minutes of the Meeting of 15 December 2010

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 15 December 2010.

3. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted the Minister of Education’s response of 13 December 2010 to Mr J Graham regarding disability access at Devinish College.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 December 2010 from the Department of Education regarding the issue of gaining entry into universities in the south of Ireland.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 December 2010 from the Minister of Education regarding the Executive’s draft Budget.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 December 2010 from BELB on the BELB Strategic Partnership Approach.

(e) The Committee noted the Minister of Education’s response to the Chairperson to the Committee dated 16 December 2010 on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 December 2010 from the Department of Education on the re-categorisation of GCSE subjects as ‘general’ rather than ‘applied’ for Entitlement Framework purposes.

(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 December 2010 from the Department of Education on the Child Poverty Strategy.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s response to the Committee for OFMdFM for information and relay to the Committee for OFMdFM the Committee’s concerns regarding the relative, rather than absolute, measures of child poverty used.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 December from the Department of Education on the reconstitution of the SEELB.

Agreed – the Chairperson would write to the Minister of Education regarding the specific imperative duty to appoint E&LBs every four years.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 December 2010 from the Department of Education on New Life Counselling.

(j) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 December 2010 from the Department of Education on use of free/open source software in schools as a way of saving money.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 31 December 2010 from the Department of Education on the responses to the consultation on the draft Government STEM Strategy.

Agreed – the Committee would request an update on the Department’s thinking on the role of a STEM Champion in the Education Sector and the role of the Business sub group STEM Champion on the STEM Implementation Steering Group.

(l) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 January 2011 from the Department of Education on Capital Projects.

(m) The Committee noted correspondence of 5 January 2011 from the Department of Regional Development on gritting arrangements for rural schools.

(n) The Committee noted correspondence of 10 January 2011 from the Department of Education regarding the new guide ‘Every School a Good School – The Governors’ Role’.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Mrs Cosgrove for information.

(o) The Committee noted correspondence of 11 January 2011 from the Clerk to the Committee for the Environment on the Planning Bill, further to Item 4(f) below.

(p) The Committee noted correspondence of 11 January 2011 from the Department of Education on initiatives to increase the uptake of Free School Meals and Clothing Allowances.

4. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 15 December 2010 entitled ‘New 3.5million Taughmonagh Primary School can be flagship development for community’.

(b) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 15 December 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister comments on draft Executive Budget’.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 December 2010 from the Belfast Association of Post Primary Principals thanking the Chairperson for his contribution to its conference on 3 December 2010.

(d) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 21 December 2010 entitled ‘Advice on choosing a school’.

(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 21 December 2010 entitled ‘Education Minister comments on school closures’.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 22 December 2010 from the Committee for the Environment on the Planning Bill.

Agreed – the Committee approved the forwarding of the Committee for Environment’s correspondence to the Department for information.

(g) The Committee noted a Northern Ireland Audit Office Press Release entitled ‘Financial Auditing and reporting – Report to the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Controller and Auditor General 2010’.

Agreed – the Committee noted the Chairperson’s letter to the Minister dated 29 December 2010 seeking a response on the ‘irregular’expenditure highlighted in the Report.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 29 December 2010 from the Department of Education on November 2010 – Outturn and Forecast Outturn.

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 30 December 2010 from the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning to the Minister or Education on the Review of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

Agreed – the Committee noted the forwarding of this letter to the Minister of Education.

(j) The Committee noted the Chairperson correspondence of 21 December 2010, 31 December 2010 and 4 January 2011 sent to the Minister of Education regarding Exceptional Closure of Schools and Schools with Burst pipes and Water Supply Problems.

(k) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 31 December 2010 entitled ‘Advice issued to schools’.

(l) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 4 January 2011 entitled ‘Education Minister approves closure of Derriaghy Primary School, Lisburn’.

Agreed – the Committee agreed to write to the Department regarding the likely impact of the closure of the school on the community; and request information on the DE liaison and co-ordination with other departments/agencies/voluntary organisations to minimise the negative impact of a school closure on the local community.

(m) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 4 January 2011 entitled ‘Appointment of members to the Education and Library Boards’.

(n) The Committee noted correspondence of 4 January 2011 from the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on Rural Development Issues.

(o) The Committee noted a list of recipients included in the New Years Honours list for their services to Education and one for services to the Assembly in Northern Ireland.

Agreed – the Chairperson would write to congratulate recipients.

(p) The Committee noted correspondence of 10 January 2011 from the Department of Education enclosing the Department’s items of business to be brought to the Committee over January to March 2011 period.

(q) The Committee noted correspondence of 13 December 2010 from Advice NI enclosing a copy of their Annual Report and Membership Profile Report.

(r) The Committee noted a copy of the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland’s Annual report Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2007.

(s) The Committee noted correspondence of 7 January 2011 from Children in Northern Ireland enclosing a copy of their Newsletter.

(t) The Committee noted correspondence of 6 January 2011 from the Energy saving Trust enclosing a copy of their 2009-10 Annual Review.

(u) The Committee noted correspondence of 10 January 2011 from Participation Network enclosing a copy of its Newsletter.

(v) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 11 January 2011 entitled ‘Inspection finds good provision for relationship and sexuality education in schools’.

(w) The subject of delay of the appointment of Department of Education representatives on Board of Governors of Voluntary Grammar schools was raised by the Chairperson.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education for its comments on the issue and to request an explanation for this delay.

5. Departmental Briefing on Budget 2011-15 – draft Spending Plans

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary and Mark McNaughten, Director of Finance joined the meeting at 2.40 pm.

The witnesses provided an overview briefing on the Education Budget 2011-15 – Draft Spending Plans and answered questions on a number of issues including; the delay until 11 January 2011 in providing the Committee with information on the voluntary severance scheme when it had been sent to the E&LBs, etc on 10 December 2010; whether all appropriate requested Budget information had been provided to DFP; when further Education Budget information would be available to the Committee and what detail it would provide; the amount of work which the Department has had to do on Budget planning etc, amid holiday and severe weather pressures, in the short period since the draft Executive Budget was announced and whether this would impact on the quality of the draft Education Budget; whether the Minister has been presented with cost options at this point; whether compensation to staff under the voluntary severance scheme will be funded by the Department or out of the employing authority’s reserves; whether the Department has any plans to request to convert capital resources into revenue resources; the rise in resource pressures highlighted in the Department’s briefing paper compared to the Executive’s draft resource allocation to education; the failure by the Department to provide projections of the numbers of staff retiring from or leaving permanent positions to assess what staff reductions might be achieved without severance payments; the failure to provide any information on what severance/redundancy costs might be avoided though reductions in the non-permanent workforce currently totalling 15,600; whether the Minister has been advised on her statutory versus non-statutory obligations in determining draft budget priorities; the loss of £87.2million End Year Flexibility education monies; how the Department of Education had fared compared to other departments in the Executives’ draft Budget and whether a lack of objective information being provided to DFP led to a worse Education Budget settlement; the possibility of agreement with trade unions re pay cuts to avoid job losses; and the timescale to produce and publish the Department’s draft Budget.

The witnesses left the meeting at 4.13pm.

Agreed – the Chairperson would schedule a meeting as soon as practicable after the draft Education Budget was announced and the Committee had had time to consider it.

Agreed – the Chairperson would invite the Minister to invite to come to Committee on her draft Education Budget proposals and savings.

6. Presentation from the Education Advisory Panel on Transfer arrangements to Post-Primary Schools

Michelle Marken, Co-Chairperson, Paul Hewitt, Co-Chairperson, Imelda Jordan, Panellist and Sam McGuinness, Panellist joined the meeting at 4.20pm.

The witnesses provided a briefing on the Panel Portfolio of Advice which included the Panel’s advice on transfer arrangements to Post-Primary Schools, and answered questions on a number of issues including; whether PISA and other international standards give the entire picture in terms of Northern Ireland schools’ performance; whether some of the Department’s publications imply that if you are not going to a grammar school you are not going to a good school; whether the 24/27 subjects in the Entitlement Framework should remain aspirational rather than a legal requirement; GCSE results not providing a measure of the value added by schools; whether the Panel had really addressed the issue of transfer; why, if there is no causal link between levels of achievement and selective/non-selective school systems, we should be considering changing our education system; and what the options are for measuring value added by schools.

Agreed – The Committee accepted Mr Hewitt’s offer to provide the Committee with information on the options for measuring the value added by schools.

The Chairperson thanked the witnesses who left the meeting at 6.15pm.

Agreed – The Committee would forward the Portfolio of Advice to the Department of Education and to the Northern Ireland Executive.

7. Statutory Rule: The Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (NI) 2010.

The Committee considered The Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (NI) 2010.

Question put and agreed:

‘That the Committee for Education has considered Statutory Rule 2010 No.395 The Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 and has no objection to the rule.’

8. Forward Work Programme

The Committee considered and agreed an amended forward work programme.

Agreed – the Committee approved a draft press release for the Committee’s visit/meeting at the Belfast Model School for Girls on 19 January 2011.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 6.20pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
19 January 2011

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