Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 16 March 2011

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The Chairperson opened the meeting at 2.06 pm in public session.

1. Apologies

As above.

2. Minutes of the Meetings of 9 March 2011

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting of 9 March 2011.

3. Matters Arising

(a) The Committee noted correspondence of 8 March 2011 from the Department of Education on the Common Funding Scheme: Proposed Changes for 2011/12.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to request that it provide the next Committee for Education with a written analysis of the associated consultation responses and the proposed way forward, allowing the Committee sufficient time to comment prior to the Department finalising its policy.

(b) The Committee noted correspondence of 9 March 2011 from the Department of Education on the role of the Stakeholder Advisory Group.

(c) The Committee noted copy correspondence of 8 March 2011 from the Minister of Education to the Chairperson of the Committee for OFMdFM regarding SEELB Commissioners.

(d) The Committee noted correspondence of 10 March 2011 from Minister of Education on transfer interviews with parents and substitute teacher cover.

(e) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 March 2011 from Mrs L Saunders on data protection.

(f) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 March 2011 from the Department of Education on C2K and Audit.

Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s letter to Mrs L Saunders.

(g) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 March 2011 from the Department of Education on Primary School Starting Age.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s correspondence to Dr L Fawcett for information.

(h) The Committee noted correspondence of 15 March 2011 from the Committee for Justice on the Statutory Transfer of Responsibility for Tribunals to the Department of Justice, affecting the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND).

(i) The Committee noted correspondence of 14 March 2011 from the Minister of Education in relation to the Autism Bill and the Chairperson noted the Minister’s support for the principle of the Bill but her ongoing concern around the creation of ‘an unwarranted and unintended perception that autism should have precedence’ over SEN other that ASD..

4. Correspondence

(a) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 10 March 2011 entitled ‘Education Minister visits St Killian’s College, Carnlough’.

(b) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 10 March 2011 entitled ‘Volunteering can benefit everyone – Ruane’.

(c) The Committee noted correspondence of 8 March 2011 from Queens University, Belfast enclosing a copy of their Report entitled ‘Opting Out of Religious Education: The Views of Young People from Minority Belief Backgrounds’

Agreed – the Committee would forward the Report to the Department for comment, in particular in relation to recommendations 16-20 which are specific to the Department of Education.

(d) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 14 March 2011 entitled ‘Education Minister addresses early years conference’.

(e) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 15 March 2011 entitled ‘Education Minister welcomes signing of Lagan College/Tor bank contract’ and welcomed this announcement.

(f) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 15 March 2011 entitled ‘Education Minister approves £2.8million investment in disadvantaged communities’ and welcomed this announcement.

(g) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 15 March 2011 entitled ‘Ruane congratulates Coleraine student on winning major science award’.

Agreed – the Committee would write to congratulate Miss Hannah Eastwood on her achievement.

(h) The Committee noted a Department of Education News Release of 15 March 2011 entitled ‘Ruane – Lisanelly Shared Educational Campus moves a step closer’.

(j) The Committee noted an invitation from Youth@clc to attend their play entitled ‘RJs Leaving Day’ in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings on 21 March 2011.

(k) The Committee noted correspondence of 16 March 2011 from the Department of Education inviting the Committee to the launch of ‘Count, read, succeed: a Strategy for Improving Outcomes in Literacy and Numeracy’ at St Colm’s High School, Dunmurry on 22 March 2011.

5. Departmental Update Briefing on the Final Education Budget 2011-15

John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, Mark McNaughton, Director of Finance, and Gillian Upritchard, Finance Division, joined the meeting at 2.19 pm.

The witnesses answered questions on a number of issues relating to the final education budget 2011-15 including: the lack of information on DE’s spending proposals; the impact of the large cuts to the Aggregated Schools Budget (ASB), particularly in 2013-14 and 2014-15, including loss of teachers, and concern for those schools that already have deficits; Departmental and E&LB policing of those schools running deficits and closer monitoring of Local Management of Schools; the accessibility of surplus monies which schools have saved through End Year Flexibility; the technical difficulties facing Boards of Governors where volunteers for severance are not in the specific posts being made redundant; the lack of information coming to the Committee on the voluntary severance scheme which has been recently offered to teachers and how much money is available for this scheme; the savings from the previously announced voluntary severance scheme for administrative and professional support staff, currently expected to be £10million recurrent savings from £20million severance payments; whether Treasury approval is required for DE’s reclassification of £25million from Capital to Resource; the lack of progress on Convergence, the impact of budget cuts on progress and whether Convergence would optimise service delivery where services were currently delivered differently across some E&LBs; the ‘huge slippage’ in the timetable for progressing the DE/PEDU Review ; how the Minister may be revising her savings proposals in light of additional £154million money received in the final Budget; how much of the Capital budget allocation was already committed in 2011/12; the Loretto College challenge in the High Court to the Lisanelly Project; when would schools be told what they would be receiving under the ASB and where the major impact of cuts to the ASB were likely to be felt.

Mr D Hilditch left the meeting at 3.09 pm

On behalf of the Committee, the Chairperson thanked Departmental officials for their help and assistance to the Committee during this Assembly mandate and asked them to convey the Committee’s thanks to their colleagues.

The witnesses left the meeting at 3.15 pm.

6. Draft End of Session Report (Sept 2010 – March 2011) and Draft Legacy Report

The Committee considered the draft End of Session Report (Sept 2010 – March 2011) and the draft Legacy Report.

Agreed – The Committee approved the draft End of Session Report.

Agreed – The Committee approved the draft Legacy Report.

7. Any other Business

Agreed – the Committee authorised the Chairperson to agree the draft Minutes of this Committee meeting of 16 March 2011.

The Committee considered a draft press release regarding the forthcoming debate on the Committee’s Report on its Inquiry ‘Successful Post-Primary Schools Serving Disadvantaged Communities’ embargoed until the start of the debate on the motion in Plenary.

Agreed – the Committee approved the draft press release

The Chairperson thanked the other Members of the Committee for their contribution to the Committee’s work during this Assembly mandate.

The Chairperson and a number of Committee Members expressed their thanks to the Committee staff for their contribution to the work of the Committee during this Assembly mandate.

A number of Committee Members expressed their thanks to the Chairperson for his conduct of Committee business during this Assembly mandate.

8. Date and Time of Next Meeting

Agreed – no further meeting(s) of the Committee during this Assembly mandate would be scheduled at this time.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 3.30 pm.

Mr Mervyn Storey
Chairperson, Committee for Education
21 March 2011

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