Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 05 October 2011

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 10.33 am in open session.

The Committee noted the tabled items.

Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson referred to the Extended Schools programme and proposed that the previous Committee’s papers in relation to the Extended Schools programme be brought in front of this Committee.

Agreed – the Committee would consider the 2007-11Committee’s papers on Extended Schools.

The Chairperson drew Members attention to a questionnaire in relation to possible electronic committee packs which Members were requested to complete and return to the Committee staff.

The Deputy Chairperson proposed that the Committee consider the industrial action being taken by education sector workers and discussion was deferred until the end of the meeting.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft Minutes of 21 & 27 September 2011

The Committee approved the minutes of the 21 and 27 September 2011.

3. Matters Arising

  1. The Committee noted correspondence of 22 September 2011 from the Committee for Employment and Learning regarding a proposed joint event between it and CollegesNI. 
    Agreed – the Committee would provide to the Committee for Employment and Learning a list of relevant stakeholder that may be interested in this proposed event.
  2. The Committee noted correspondence of 26 September 2011 from the Department of Education regarding school transport health and safety issues. 
    Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to request a breakdown of the 11,000 pupils transported by private bus and taxi companies in terms of the number that are transported by businesses based in Northern Ireland, the number that are transported by businesses based in the Republic of Ireland and how many, if any, are transported from homes in the Republic of Ireland to schools in Northern Ireland and vice-versa. 
    Agreed – the Committee would request details of the frequency and number of the random inspections carried out by each of (i) E&LB transport staff (ii) DoE Enforcement Officers (iii) both working jointly; and whether inspections are undertaken in response to reported health and safety concerns. 
    Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Federation of Passenger Transport for its comments. 
    Agreed – the Committee would forward the Department’s letter to the Committee for Regional Development and the Committee for the Environment and ask them if they could share with the Committee any relevant information which they hold on Health and Safety issues affecting school transport.
  3. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 22 August 2011 from the Department of Finance and Personnel to Dr T Byrne, PEAT regarding the care of individuals with autism.
  4. The Committee noted correspondence of 27 September 2011 from the Department of Education regarding the administration of medication to pupils.
  5. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 19 July 2011 from the Minister of Education to Councillor O’Boyle of Down District Council regarding the re-constitution of the SEELB.
  6. The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2011 from the Department of Education regarding (i) the impact on pupils of a series of different substitute teachers, (ii) the reduction in teacher training places combined with a projected rise in pupil numbers. 
    Agreed – the Committee would request copies of the inspection reports relied upon in support of the statement that “Overall, the position regarding the work of and support for substitute teachers is sound and most of the teaching observed by inspectors during the inspection programme and in district visits was at least satisfactory and often better.”
  7. The Committee noted correspondence of 29 September from the Department of Education on concerns raised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland regarding schools’ access to its website.
    Agreed – the Committee would forward a copy of the Department’s letter to the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. 
    Agreed – the Committee would request further detail from the Department on the updating of the blocked/unblocked sites. 
    Agreed – the Committee would copy this correspondence to the teaching unions for their comments on their members’ experience of the system of blocking and unblocking websites.
  8. The Committee noted correspondence of 28 September 2011 from the Department of Education regarding the Teachers’ Superannuation Scheme.
  9. The Committee noted correspondence of 29 September 2011 from Professor Knox enclosing a paper on the mainstreaming of shared education. 
    Agreed – the Committee would forward Professor Knox’s paper to OFMDFM via the OFMDFM Committee for OFMDFM’s consideration in the context of the programme for government. 
    Agreed – the Committee Clerk would circulate details of the “One School of Thought” debate to Members.
  10. The Committee noted correspondence of 29 September 2011 from the Department of Education on the rate of incremental progression for teaching staff.
  11. The Committee noted Assembly Research Service’s paper on methodology for projecting the number of pre-school admissions. 
    Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to highlight its concern regarding the absence of adequate statistical information to enable proper forward planning in relation to pre-school places, to ask what DE could do to address this lack of the necessary statistics and to ask DE to comment on the possibility of rolling back the application process by 12 months in order to use that information as a means of estimating demand in sufficient time to allocate the resources where parental demand will exist.

4. Correspondence

a. The Committee noted correspondence 21 September 2011 from the Business Office enclosing an All Party Notice on the North South Ministerial Council Education Meeting.

b. Subject to the matters specifically Agreed below, Members noted the following conferences, invitations and meeting requests:

  • The Office of the First and Deputy First Minister – invitation to the Money for Stakeholder Event;
  • Participation Network –invitation to the ‘Ask First’ training seminars;
  • Ballymoney Cycling Club – invitation to the launch of project to promote cycling;
  • Committee for Finance and Personnel – invitation to overview of public expenditure system event;

The Chairperson expressed his thanks to Miss McIlveen for taking the chair for the Committee’s meeting on 3 October 2011 to consider the Department of Education’s October Monitoring Round return to DFP.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the DFP Committee to ask whether monitoring round information provided by each department could be shared across all statutory committees to inform their consideration of their particular Department’s bids and surrenders.

c. The Committee noted the following publications:

  • GTCNI – Annual Report and Accounts for year ended 31 March 2008;
  • The Consumer Council – Annual Report 2010-11
  • GTCNI – Teacher Education in transition: the changing landscape across the UK;
  • Sustrans – September edition of the Network magazine.

Members noted the following press releases previously emailed to Members:

  • Education Minister congratulates Scared Heart College Pupils;
  • Putting pupils first: shaping our future.

d. The Committee noted an invitation from Cara-Friend to the launch of “Left Out of the Equation – an Examination of Provision for LGB Young People at School”.

e. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 October 2011 from the Department of Education regarding consultation on proposed changes to GCSEs.

Agreed – the Committee would commission briefings from the Department on the proposed changes and its analysis of consultation responses.

Agreed – the Chairperson would write to the Minister to request that these briefings be provided in time to allow the Committee time to respond prior to the Department finalising its position on the proposed changes.

5. Presentation from the NI Youth Forum on the withdrawal of Circular 1979/10

The Committee noted the correspondence of 23 September 2011 received from the NI Youth Forum and the enclosed briefing papers to support today’s presentation.

Ben Mallon, Chairperson of NI Youth Forum, Martin McAuley, Honorary Secretary, Chris Quinn, Transitional Director, and John Cameron, Chairperson of Carrickfergus Youth Forum, provided an oral briefing to the Committee on the withdrawal of DE’s Circular 1979/10 and answered Members’ questions.

The Deputy Chairperson left the meeting at 11.22am and re-joined it at 11.33am.

Miss McIlveen left the meeting at 11.45am and re-joined it at 11.50am

Mr Flanagan left the meeting at 12.04pm and re-joined it at 12.12pm

The Deputy Chairperson left the meeting at 12.22pm

Members took their ease from 12.28pm to 12.32pm

6. Departmental briefing on the withdrawal of Circular 1979/10

Linda Wilson, Director of Families and Communities and Cathy Galway, Head of Youth and Schools in the Community Team joined the meeting at 12.32pm and provided an oral briefing to the Committee on the Department’s decision to withdraw circular 1979/10 and its impact on the NI Youth Forum and answered Members’ questions.

Mr T Lunn left the meeting at 1.00pm

Mr Flanagan left the meeting at 1.04pm

Miss McIlveen left the meeting at 1.07pm and re-joined it at 1.14pm

Mr Flanagan re-joined the meeting at 1.22pm

Agreed – the Committee Agreed to request greater detail on the Department’s engagement with the Youth Forum regarding the withdrawal of DE’s Circular 1979/10 , including copies of all relevant correspondence, agendas, minutes and other supporting documentation to demonstrate what substantive issues were being addressed at each step of the engagement process.

Agreed – the Committee would request a copy of officials’ advice/submission to the Minister and supporting documents and the Minister’s response.

Agreed – the Committee Clerk would circulate a draft wording for a possible Committee motion on this issue.

7. Forward Work Programme

Agreed – The Committee noted and approved the draft Forward Work Programme.

Agreed – The Committee Agreed the draft itinerary for its visit to St Mary’s and other schools in the Roe Valley Learning Community and Strabane Academy from 25-26 October 2011. Michaela Boyle and Jo-Anne Dobson confirmed their availability to attend

Agreed – The Committee noted a paper on the proposed Committee Inquiry into School Councils, and decided to return to consider this matter at the meeting of 12 October 2011.

8. Any other business

A Member raised the issue of the decision by the Department of Education not to reconstitute the SEELB and proposed that the Committee take legal advice on the lawfulness of Department’s decision and its effect on the development proposal process.

Agreed – the Committee would request the legal advice proposed.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that he had received a request from the NAHT Nursery Education Committee for an opportunity to brief the Committee on behalf of an expert in early years education whom NAHT have invited to Northern Ireland.

Agreed – the Committee would take an informal breakfast briefing from NAHT’s expert in early years education, in Limavady on 26 October 2011.

9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 12 October 2011 at 10.30 am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.46 pm.

Mervyn Storey MLA 
Chairperson, Committee for Education
12 October 2011

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