Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 15 June 2011

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 10.30 am in open session with the Deputy Chairperson in the Chair.

The Committee noted the tabled items.

Chairperson’s Business

At the invitation of the Deputy Chairperson Mr P Flanagan reported on the visit he, the Chairperson and Mrs B Hale had made to the Sentinus Young Innovators Event at the Odyssey on Tuesday 14 June 2011.

Agreed: the Committee would arrange for a longer visit to next year’s event.

1. Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Draft Minutes of 8 June 2011

The Committee approved the minutes of the 8 June 2011.

3. Matters Arising

a. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 June 2011 from the Department of Education enclosing a list of strategies and consultations.

b. The Committee noted a draft response to the Department of Education on the Budget (No2) Bill – Education’s Excess Vote.

Agreed: the Committee approved the draft letter to the Department.

c. The Committee noted a draft letter to the Minister of Education following up on a range of issues raised with him at the Committee meeting on 8 June 2011.

Agreed: the Committee approved the draft letter to the Minister.

Miss M McIlveen left the meeting at 10.35 am

4. Correspondence

a. The Committee noted correspondence of 2 June 2011 from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding a review of arm’s lengths bodies.

Agreed: the Committee would acknowledge this correspondence and agreed that it would reflect the OFMDFM Committee’s suggestions in the scrutiny of the Department of Education’s briefing on its Savings Delivery Plans at the meeting on 22 June 2011.

b. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 June 2011 from Children in Northern Ireland enclosing a copy of the Children with Disabilities Strategic Alliance’s manifesto on special educational needs.

c. The Committee noted copy correspondence of 6 June 2011 from Mr B Magill regarding a freedom of information request.

d. The Committee noted correspondence of 6 June 2011 from the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning to the Minister of Education regarding temporary agency workers.

Agreed: the Committee would forward this correspondence to the Minister of Education and ask to be copied in on the Minister’s response.

e. The Committee noted correspondence of 3 June 2011 from the Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning regarding a proposed review of the NEETS and Early Years Strategy.

Agreed: the Committee would acknowledge this correspondence and consider the proposal again in light of the briefing on Early Years later in the meeting.

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

  • Big Lottery Fund – Request dated 23 May 2011 to meet with the Committee to provide an update on the impact of funding and work in Northern Ireland;
  • Rural Community Network – Request dated 7 June 2011 to meet the Committee to discuss issues regarding rural communities;

Agreed: the Committee would accept the Deputy Chairperson’s proposal to deal with requests to meet the Committee in a structured way:

  •  
    • by gathering up a number of such requests (unless there is a pressing business need otherwise) and periodically scheduling these for a special meeting (day or evening), commencing in Autumn 2011, and the Committee would write to inform the Big Lottery Fund and Rural Community Network that the Committee would invite them to such a meeting in the Autumn;
    • invitations to visit organisations or events would be scheduled to tie in with the Committee’s work programme where possible;
    • other invitations to be noted with Members to let the Committee office know if they are interested in attending;
    • all requests for meetings and invitations will continue to be included in the meeting papers.
  • Mr S Keown – Invitation dated 6 June 2011 to visit St Mary’s, Limavady regarding shared education in the Roe Valley;
  • Shared Education Programme – Request dated 6 June 2011meet with the Committee to discuss the Sharing Education Programme;

Agreed: the Committee would write to confirm its acceptance of the invitation to visit St Mary’s, Limavady on a date after summer recess.

Agreed: the Committee would write to the Shared Education Programme to commission a briefing on the Sharing Education Programme, on a date to be agreed and in the context of the Committee’s visit to St Mary’s Limavady.

  • Pobal – Invitation dated 9 June 2011 to seminar and research launch on children in Irish medium education with special educational needs;

Agreed: any Member wishing to attend this seminar should contact the Committee office;

  • CBI Northern Ireland – Request dated 9 June 2011 for informal meeting with Chairperson to discuss the role of CBI in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson would meet with CBI Northern Ireland.

g. Members noted the following publications:

  • Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards – Revised Equality Scheme – Extension of Consultation Period;
  • Sport Northern Ireland – A Baseline survey of Timetabled PE in Primary Schools in Northern Ireland – 2009;
  • Sport Northern Ireland – A Baseline Survey of Timetabled PE in Post-Primary Schools in Northern Ireland -2010.

Agreed: the Committee would consider these Surveys again in the context of its Forward Work Programme, on 29 June 2011.

h. Members noted the following press releases previously emailed to Members:

  • O’Dowd meets southern counterpart.
  • O’Dowd hails vital role of key principals.
  • Education Minister launches Early Years Learner Support Handbook.
  • Teacher Workforce Statistics and Pupil: Teacher Ratios in Grant Aided Schools in Northern Ireland 2010/11.
5. Departmental Briefing - Early Years Provision, Early Years Strategy and Additional Resources for Pre School Expansion

Mr John McGrath, Deputy Secretary and Miss Linda Wilson, Director of Families and Communities provided an oral briefing on Early Years Provision, Early Years Strategy and additional resources for pre-school expansion and answered Members questions.

The Chairperson joined the meeting at 11.12 am.

Agreed: the Department would provide the Committee with the information it receives from the Education and Library Boards in relation to the operation of the pre-school admissions system this year and the Department’s analysis of the problems of matching supply and demand for pre-school provision, including why some 700 parents chose not to proceed with the second stage of the application process for admission in Autumn 2011.

Agreed: the Committee would request the Department to provide a clear statement of how need is defined when the Department or its NDPBs are assessing the need for pre-school provision.

Mr J Craig left the meeting at 11.32

Agreed: the Department would provide the Committee with a progress report on the inter-departmental committee set up by DHSSPS and DE to liaise regarding Early Years, to include the subjects discussed by this committee.

Miss M McIlveen re-joined the meeting at 11.33

The Chairperson assumed the Chair from the Deputy Chairperson.

The Deputy Chairperson left the meeting at 11.33 am

Agreed: the Committee would write to ask the Department whether it had carried out any audit of the value for money across the range of pre-school providers, and, if so, what were the results.

Agreed: the Committee would write to the Department to request its response to the 2007-2011 Committee’s recommendation in its response to the Early Years Strategy Consultation:

“Recommendation: The Committee recommends that the Department actively consider the cost effectiveness and affordability of options for increasing access to pre-school provision led by qualified teachers or those holding equivalent early years qualifications, including utilising the existing pool of qualified teachers as well as the upskilling of less qualified staff.”

The Deputy Chairperson and Mr J Craig re-joined the meeting at 11.42.

6. Departmental Briefing – Special Educational Needs

Mrs Dorothy Angus, Director of Access, Inclusion and Well-Being, Mrs Irene Murphy, Head of Special Education and Inclusion Review Team, Ms Debbie Gladwell, Head of Special Education Team and Ms Gillian Boyd, Education and Training Inspectorate provided an oral briefing on Special Educational Needs and answered Members questions.

Mr T Lunn left the meeting at noon.

Agreed: the Department would email the Committee with a written briefing paper on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) later today.

Agreed: the Committee would write to the Department to remind officials that they agreed to let the Deputy Chairperson know if the funding for capacity building in relation to SEN was at risk.

7. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted the forward work programme.

Agreed: Members agreed that they would discuss possible topics for a Committee inquiry or review and possible venues for meetings outside Parliament Buildings or Committee visits at the Committee meetings on 22 and 29 June 2011 so that the Committee’s forward work programme is not dominated by Departmental business.

8. Any other business

Community Use of School Premises

The Deputy Chairperson drew the Committee’s attention to a Private Members Bill which he had introduced during the 2007-2011 mandate on the subject of community use of schools, in response to which the Department had set up a working group with a view to formulating guidance for schools.

Agreed: the Committee would request a copy of the Working Group’s report and recommendations, an update of the progress made in relation to formulating and disseminating guidance and review how this issue might be addressed once the Department’s response had been received.

Guidelines to schools on the administering of medicines to pupils

Mr C McDevitt declared an interest as the parent of a pupil affected by these Guidelines and drew the Committee’s attention to a recent event involving Diabetes UK in Parliament Buildings which had highlighted the limitations placed upon the participation of children with diabetes in school life, and on their parents, and the differential impact across schools and role of the Guidelines in this area.

Agreed: the Chairperson would write to the Minister of Education to enquire whether in light of the issues referred to above, the Minister has any plans to review the Guidelines and whether he would use his authority to secure a practical resolution of this issue.

Progress of PEDU Review

Agreed: the Committee would request an update and indicative timescales on this work during the briefing on the Budget scheduled for the meeting of 22 June 2011 .

9. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 22 June 2011 at 10.30am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.55pm.

Mervyn Storey MLA 
Chairperson, Committee for Education
22 June 2011

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