The Northern Ireland Assembly has been dissolved. The election will take place on Thursday 5 May 2016.

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 08 June 2011

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 10.30 am in open session.

The Committee noted the tabled items.

Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson proposed and the Committee:

Agreed: that on the arrival of the Minister at 10.40 am the Chairperson would suspend the meeting and the Committee would join the Minister in the Great Hall for a photograph.

Agreed: that the Committee would deal with Items 3.1 and 3.1a in today’s Tabled Items immediately after Apologies and the draft Minutes.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that he, Phil Flanagan and Brenda Hale were planning to attend the Sentinus Young Innovators event in the Odyssey on 14 June 2011 from approximately 12.30 pm and any other member wishing to attend should notify the Committee office. The Chairperson reminded Members about the Include Youth Event on the same date in the Long Gallery at noon, in relation to young people who are NEET. Any other Members wishing to attend should notify the Committee office.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft Minutes of 1 June 2011

Agreed: The draft Minutes would be amended to note an apology from Jonathon Craig and were approved as amended.

3. Correspondence – Item 3.1 &3.1a – Budget (No2) Bill – Department of Education Excess Vote

The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel dated 1 June 2011 regarding the Department of Education’s Excess Vote 2009-10.

Agreed: the Committee would write to the Committee for Finance and Personnel to inform it that it concurred with the view of the Public Accounts Committee which recommended that the Northern Ireland Assembly would provide the necessary amounts by means of an Excess Vote.

Agreed: the Committee would write to advise the Department of the Committee’s response to DFP Committee; to ask whether relevant officials responsible for excess expenditure were still in post; to ask whether there had been any other Excess Votes in respect of the Department in the past and for details of the process followed, including liaison with the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee for Education; and to advise the Department that this issue would be raised with officials at the Budget session scheduled for the meeting on 22 June 2011.

Agreed: the Committee would write to Public Accounts Committee enclosing copies of the correspondence referred to above;

Agreed: the Committee would request periodic updates from the Comptroller and Auditor General as he follows up on the actions identified by the Department to address the failure to operate internal controls.

The Chairperson suspended the meeting at 10.42am

The meeting resumed at 10.45am

4. Ministerial Briefing – Priorities for Education

The Minister for Education, Mr John O’Dowd, accompanied by Mr Paul Sweeney, Permanent Secretary, and Mr John McGrath, Deputy Secretary, provided an oral briefing on his priorities for education and answered Members’ questions.

Agreed: The Department would provide the Committee with an update briefing on progress made on the 13 school building projects announced by the previous Minister of Education in 2010.

The Chairperson declared his interest as a governor of Ballymoney High School.

Agreed: The Department would provide the Committee with a written briefing on the number of children (as distinct from parents, teachers, organisations etc) dealt with by the Middletown Centre for Autism.

Agreed: The Department would provide the Committee with the exact figures used to take account of inflation in the Executive’s and the Department’s budgeting process.

Agreed: The Department would provide the Committee with a written briefing paper providing an overview of the issues affecting teacher training provision in Northern Ireland and the limitations on the Department’s power to take measures to encourage or require employing authorities to give preference to newly qualified teachers when making appointments.

Agreed: The Chairperson would share with other Committee Members data provided to him in relation to FTE pupil teacher ratios by way of answer to an Assembly Written Question and the Department would provide additional historical information on this issue to enable any trends in pupil teacher ratios to be identified.

Agreed: The Department would provide the Committee with a written briefing explaining how the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy would meet the needs of those school pupils currently in post-primary education who lack the appropriate levels of literacy and numeracy for their age.

Agreed: The Department would provide the Committee with a timeline identifying the individuals who were the accounting officers within CCEA and the Department of Education with responsibility for CCEA, the periods during which they had accounting officer responsibility and the period during which the expenses (which have been the subject of recent adverse comment in the media) were incurred.

Agreed: the Committee would defer Departmental Briefing – Early Years Provision, Early Years Strategy and additional resources for Pre School Expansion.

Mr D McNarry left the meeting at 11.44am and re-joined the meeting at 11.51am.

The witnesses left the meeting at 12.21pm

5. Matter Arising

a. The Committee noted correspondence from the previous Minister for Education dated 16 March 2011 regarding the Education Advisory Group – Portfolio of Advice.

b. The Committee noted correspondence dated 26 May 2011 from the Belfast Education and Library Board enclosing information from the psychology service about the possible impacts on children being allowed an additional year of pre-school and starting school a year later.

Agreed: the Committee would consider this correspondence again once responses from other E&LBs have been received.

c. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 2 June 2011 from the Minister for Education to Ms S McGuiness and Ms A Barnonow, University of Ulster regarding ‘Giving pupils a Voice’.

d. The Committee noted correspondence of 2 June 2011 from the Early Years Organisation regarding a change of venue to their seminar on the effective implementation of early years intervention and the 0-6 Strategy.

6. Correspondence (continued)

Members noted the following conferences, invitations and meeting requests:

  • Diabetes UK Northern Ireland - invitation dated 31 May 2011 to a Diabetes in Schools Awareness Event on 13 June 2011;

Mr C McDevitt declared a personal interest in this issue and commented on the difficulties which guidance to schools on medication can create; the Chairperson plans to attend this event;

  • Construction Employers Federation – Request dated 3 June 2011 to meet with the Chairperson to discuss the role of DE in economic growth;
  • Youth Safety Network invitation – Invitation dated 3 June 2011 to a project launch on 17 June 2011;
  • Assembly Education Service – Invitation dated 31 May 2011 to KS2 Teachers Training Day on 17 June 2011;

The Committee noted correspondence of 6 June 2011 from Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI) enclosing CiNI’s response to the DE consultation on the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy;

The Committee noted correspondence of 6 June 2011 from the Early Years organisation enclosing a briefing paper and European Commission Communication on early childhood education and care.

Members noted the following press releases previously emailed to Members:

  • Education Minister pays tribute to Frank Bunting on his retirement.

Agreed: the Committee would write to Mr Bunting wishing him well in his retirement and thanking him for his contribution to the Committee’s work over the years;

  • Education Minister approves amalgamation of Erne and Elmbrook Special Schools.
  • Education Minister addresses teachers and lecturers conference.
7. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted the forward work programme.

Agreed: the forward work programme would be amended to reschedule the Department’s briefing on Early Years.

8. Any other business

There was no other business.

9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 15 June 2011 at 10.30am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.27pm.

Mervyn Storey MLA 
Chairperson, Committee for Education
15 June 2011

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