Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 14 March 2012

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 10.32am in open session. 

Apologies 

Apologies are detailed above.

Chairpersons Business

The Chairperson provided a summary of the focus groups that have taken place so far in relation to the School Councils Inquiry.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the schools who participated, thanking them after their group is complete.

The Chairperson informed members that the Committee will meet with the Committee for Education and Services on Tuesday 1 May in Parliament buildings, and any member that has a topic to be discussed at this meeting should let the Committee Clerk know.

1.    Draft Minutes of 29 February 2012 

The Committee approved the minutes of the meeting on 29 February 2012. 

2.    Matters Arising  

2.1.    The Committee noted copy correspondence of 24 February 2012 from the Department of Education regarding Loreto Grammar School, Omagh. 

2.2.    The Committee noted correspondence of 24 February 2012 from the Department of Education regarding the Viability Audit. 

2.3.    The Committee noted copy correspondence of 21 February 2012 from the Minister for Education to Steven Agnew, MLA regarding the future of Bangor Central Integrated School. 

2.4.    The Committee noted copy correspondence of 21 February 2012 from the Minister for Education to the Principal of Limavady Grammar School regarding the Aggregated Schools Budget. 

2.5.    The Committee noted correspondence of 28 February 2012 from the Primary School Governors Association (NI) deferring their request for a meeting with the Committee. 

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Association advising them that it would consider a meeting with them after we have received a briefing from the Department on the Review which will take place after Easter recess. 

2.6.    The Committee noted correspondence of 29 February 2012 from the Department of Education regarding an error in the CCEA GCE mathematics paper. 

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department asking for a copy of the action plan to be drafted by CCEA as soon as this is available and for written assurance to the Committee that an incident such as this will not be allowed to happen again.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department asking if written assurance was given to Ofqual in relation to there being no further errors in the papers in summer 2011, and if so, asking for details of what checks had been carried out to quantify such an assurance.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department asking what action will be taken to address those pupils who may have been disadvantaged by this error and for statistics on how many pupils this has affected and what difference this made to their overall scores.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the information from the Department to Mr Nicholson, thanking him for bringing this issue to the attention of the Committee and informing him of the further action the Committee is taking.

2.7.    The Committee noted correspondence of 24 February 2012 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding a review of budget allocations 2013-14 and 2014-15.

2.8.    The Committee noted copy correspondence from the Minister of Education to Asthma UK regarding access to inhalers in schools for emergencies.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this response to Asthma UK asking for their comments.

Members expressed their disappointment that the Minister did not meet with Asthma UK as this is a serious issue which affects approx. 36,000 children in NI[1].

2.9.    The Committee noted correspondence of 5 March 2012 regarding unsatisfactory teaching procedures.

2.10. The Committee noted correspondence of 5 March 2012 from the Department of Education regarding Community Use of Schools.

Agreed – the Committee would forward this correspondence to Mr David McNarry MLA.

Members expressed their disappointment that schools have to fund any facilitation of community use of their schools from their own budgets.

2.11. The Committee noted correspondence of various dates, regarding  equality for funding provision for inset training in Northern Ireland, from the following area learning communities: East Belfast, Armagh, Carrickfergus, West Belfast and North Belfast.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the responses to the Department asking if it will consider redressing the inequality of funding for INSET training by either dividing the funding more equally among providers or diverting it to individual school budgets allowing them to choose the most appropriate INSET courses in line with their funding.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department asking if the funding of INSET courses is being considered as part of the Review of the Common Funding Formula.

Agreed – that Assembly Research provides details on the background of CCEA, its functions, any comparable organisation in other UK jurisdictions and if there are no comparable organisations then how these services are delivered throughout the rest of the UK.

2.12. The Committee noted correspondence of 23 February 2012 from the Primary School Governors Association and 20 February 2012 from NAHT regarding the Aggregated School Budget.

2.13. The Committee noted correspondence of 5 March and 20 February 2012 from the Department of Education and 1 March 2012 from the Committee for the Environment regarding School Transport Health and Safety Issues.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department expressing concern that the Boards have no legal authority to carry out roadworthiness checks on private operators.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the PSNI asking them to clarify whether or not they participate in Operation Coachman, if not, why not, given over half the forces in GB currently do so, and if they do not participate do they do any other joint inspections with the DVANI which examine roadworthiness of vehicles used to transport school children.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the DVA asking them to clearly outline the measures taken to ensure roadworthiness of school vehicles and to clarify how they are planning to target these vehicles for inspections in future.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education and the Department of the Environment asking what can be done in the short term to resolve this serious issue as we should not wait 3 years for primary legislation to be introduced, this is an issue that requires urgent attention. The Committee also agreed to ask if they are aware of any additional inspections or initiatives to tackle this issue that have been implemented by DVANI, including Operation Coachman.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department asking for a table outlining the number of checks carried out per year on private operators and how many vehicles this included, broken down by board for the last 5 years.

Mr McDevitt joined the meeting at 10.55am.

2.14. The Committee noted correspondence of 6 March 2012 from the Pensions Trustees regarding public sector pension’s schemes.

2.15. The Committee noted correspondence of 6 March 2012 from the Department of Education regarding proposed changes to SEN Statementing Process.

2.16. The Committee noted correspondence of 7 March 2012 from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding PEDU.

3.    Correspondence

3.1.    The Committee noted correspondence of 24 February 2012 from SENAC requesting to meet the Committee.

Agreed – the Committee would write to Senac asking them for a written briefing on their concerns in the first instance.

3.2.    The Committee noted the following invitations previously emailed to Members         

  •          Department of Education – One Year on STEM Event on 29 March 2012;

 

3.3.    The Committee noted the following publications previously emailed to Members:

  •          Business Office  – NI Teachers’ Pension Scheme;
  •          Barnardo’s – Building Community Schools – A Guide for Action;


3.4.    The Committee noted the following Department of Education News Releases previously emailed to Members:

  •          Appointment of Member to the Belfast Education and Library Board;
  •          Department responds to Irish-medium school’s rental claims;
  •          Education Minister visits Country Tyrone schools;
  •          O’Dowd debates big issues with pupils at Down High School;
  •          O’Dowd addresses teachers’ union conference;
  •          O’Dowd attends multicultural evening at Methodist College;

 

4.     Departmental briefing on PEDU 2 Action Plans

Katrina Godfrey, Director of Planning and Performance Management, Alan McMullan, Deputy Head of Schools Access Team and Eve Stewart, Head of Participation and Parenting Team joined the Committee at 11.00am and provided the Committee with a briefing on the PEDU 2 Action Plans.

Miss McIlveen joined the meeting at 11.00am.

Mrs Dobson left the meeting at 11.50am.

Mrs Dobson rejoined the meeting at 12.00pm.

Mrs Hale left the meeting at 12.21pm.

Agreed – the Department would supply to the Committee, statistics on the number of children that were transported from home to school and back in 2004/2005, action plans and regular progress reports on the implementation of the recommendations and an update in relation to the Translink contract.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department asking it to look into sustainable fuel alternatives for school transport.

5.     Teachers Superannuation (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2012.

The Committee considered an SL1 in relation to the Teachers Superannuation (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2012.

Agreed – the Committee was content for the Department to proceed with the policy, with one descending voice, Mr Conall McDevitt.

6.     Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted the forward work programme up until 28 March 2012. The Committee Clerk will provide members with a copy of the post Easter Recess forward work programme at next week’s meeting.

7.    Any Other Business

One member brought to the Committee their appreciation to Middletown Centre for Autism staff and Secretariat staff for arranging the visit on 7 March 2012.

8.    Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 21 March 2012 at 10.30 am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.35pm.

Mervyn Storey MLA
Chairperson, Committee for Education
21 March 2012


[1] Information provided by Asthma UK

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