Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 30 November 2011

Venue: Senate Chamber

The meeting commenced at 10.31 am in open session.

Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson referred the Members to an invitation he had received to attend the BT Young Scientist Exhibition 2012 in Dublin which he proposed attending.

Agreed – the Chairperson would attend the Exhibition on behalf of the Committee.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above, some Members indicating that they were unwilling to attend the meeting during what they considered to be legitimate industrial action.

1. Draft Minutes of 23 November 2011

The Committee approved the minutes of the meeting on 23 November 2011.

2. Matters Arising

2.1 The Committee noted correspondence of 28 October 2011 from the NAHT regarding their views on the C2K filtering policy.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education and the Western Education and Library Board to request an update on the re-tendering of the C2K contract.

Agreed – the Committee would ask the Department to comment on the issues raised in the NAHT’s correspondence, including the lack of access to C2K for nursery schools, the “online helpdesk” service;

Agreed – the Committee would give the Department notice that officials briefing the Committee on procurement should address the example of delay and cost in procuring pc hardware via C2K compared to retail outlets.

2.2 The Committee noted copy correspondence of 14 November 2011 from the Minister for Education to the Governing Bodies Association (GBA) regarding Governor appointments to Voluntary Grammar Schools.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Commissioner for Public Appointments to seek clarification on the application of the public appointments procedure to the appointment of grammar school governors.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister of Education to request sight of the draft advertisements he refers to, to request an outline of the process to be followed and clarification of the Minister’s role in that process; to ask how many applications have been received to date, how many appointments have to be made and how many more applications are required before the Minister will consider he can make appointments; whether there are problems in specific areas; and details of the criteria which will be used in assessing applicants.

2.3 The Committee noted correspondence of 21 November 2011 from the Committee for OFMdFM enclosing a copy of the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for the Department of Education – November 2011.

2.4 The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2011 from the Department of Education regarding the measures currently in place to address the needs of looked after children within our education system.

2.5 The Committee noted correspondence of 29 November 2011 from the Department of Education on the possible impact of industrial action and what guidance is being issued to schools.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education and the Education and Library Boards asking them to review the impact of industrial action on schools, the effectiveness of the Guidance issued and any lessons to be learned.

Agreed – the Committee would invite primary and post-primary school leaders to give evidence to the Committee on the impact of the five per cent cut in school funding announced by the Minister of Education in his letter to schools of 25 November 2011.


3. Correspondence

3.1 The Committee noted correspondence of 20 November 2011 from the UUP’s Foyle Constituency Association regarding the future of controlled secondary schooling in Londonderry.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister of Education and the Western Education and Library Board for their comments on:

  • the issues raised in this correspondence and, in particular, the equality implications of the proposed changes and the capital spending position of the proposed school relocations to the Ebrington site; and,
  • the likely impact on Lisneal of the relocation of Foyle and Londonderry College to the Ebrington site.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the UUP Foyle Constituency Association for its comments on the likely impact on Lisneal of the relocation of Foyle and Londonderry College to the Ebrington site.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request details of (a) any equality concerns raised with the Department or its arm’s length bodies, across Northern Ireland, regarding the Entitlement Framework and the timetable for its introduction, and (b) the withdrawal of funding to assist schools in the Intervention Process.

3.2 The Committee noted correspondence of 24 November 2011 from the Minister for Education regarding the Review of the Education Maintenance Allowance Scheme.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister to request details of:

  • The seven options from the PWC review;
  • The original estimate of savings from each option;
  • The reduced estimate of savings from each option;
  • The timetable for the DEL and DE “urgent review” and whether the intention to bring proposals to the Executive “in the autumn” refers to autumn 2011.

3.3 The Committee noted correspondence of 29 November 2011 from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure (CAL) enclosing a letter from the CAL Chairperson to the Minister of Education on the Get Set Network.

Agreed – the Committee would forward the CAL Committee’s letter to the Minister of Education.

3.4 The Committee noted correspondence of 18 November 2011 from the Department of Education on delivering the “keeping safe” message to primary aged children and enclosing a pack comprising five NSPCC reports.

3.5 The Committee noted the BELB– Annual Report 2009-10.

3.6 The Committee noted an invitation previously emailed to Members from NICCY to its “Let’s Talk World Aids Day” event;

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

  • O’Dowd congratulates JP McManus scholarship recipients;
  • Education Minister celebrates 20 years with Brownlow College;
  • Search begins for Council Members;
  • O’Dowd – Teachers earning up to £32,000 can be protected from pension hike.

The Chairperson referred Members to the media coverage of the announcement by the Chancellor on 29 November 2011 of an additional £150M for the Northern Ireland Executive and to the Minister’s letter of 25 November 2011 relating to budget reductions in 2012-13.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Minister to request that he brief the Committee:

  • on the implications for the Department’s budget in respect of the additional monies.
  • On the impact on schools of the reduction of 5% announced in the Minister’s letter to schools on 25 November 2011 and in particular paragraph 11 of that letter in relation to redundancy.
  • On the current position in relation to the money set aside to cover redundancy costs associated with RPA in education and the creation of ESA.
  • The current level of delegation of budget to schools in Northern Ireland compared with the level of delegation elsewhere in the UK and how this is expected to alter in future.

4. Committee consideration of the draft Programme for Government

The Committee noted the Draft Programme for Government (PfG) and Assembly Research’s Briefing Note on key commitments affecting education contained in the draft PfG.

Mr D McNarry left the meeting at 11.40am

Agreed – the Committee would write to key education stakeholders for their views on specific aspects of the draft Programme for Government and remind them to submit their views to the Department also.

Agreed – the Committee would commission a briefing from Departmental officials in March 2012 on the consultation responses it receives on the draft Programme for Government.

Agreed – the Committee would commission further research from Assembly Research on the education budget.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department on the timetable for deciding the allocation of any additional money for education as a result of the Chancellor’s statement.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to highlight a number of issues which the Committee would raise with officials briefing the Committee on the draft PfG, including:

  • Plans for the delivery of universal pre-school provision, in light of the lack of statistical information to enable effective planning;
  • The current status of the Lisanelly project and the willingness of schools from different sectors to re-locate to the site;
  • The Department’s plans in relation to raising standards of literacy and numeracy while cutting funding to schools in the intervention process.

Mr D McNarryrejoined the meeting at 11.45am

5. Forward Work Programme

The Committee noted and approved the draft Forward Work Programme for January to March 2012.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department of Education to request details of the timetable for the policy development and progress of the legislation on ESA and the Department’s timetable for engagement with the Committee during that process.

Agreed – the Committee would ask the Department;

  • to clarify the role of ESAIT in the transition to ESA, the cost of ESAIT to date and the projected costs of ESAIT in the period up to ESA becoming (a) operational and (b) fully functioning;
  • the role of E&LBs’ senior management in the transition to ESA;
  • to clarify the difference between ESA being “operational” and ESA being “fully functioning”.

Agreed – the Committee would ask the Department to update the Committee on the progress made towards Convergence and the current status of this work.

Agreed – the Committee would write to remind the Department in relation to the Committee’s request for clarification regarding remarks made by the Deputy Secretary, on foot of an issue raised by the GBA.

6. Any other business

Committee Members noted that during the Assembly’s debate on Monday 28 November 2011 on a motion on school closures in the SEELB, it became apparent that the Commissioners in the SEELB were meeting at the same time to take decisions on the school closures which were the subject of the debate.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Commissioners of the SEELB to indicate in the strongest terms the Committee’s displeasure at the Commissioners’ apparent disregard for the deliberations of the Assembly and to seek an explanation for what appears to be flagrant disrespect for the Assembly and its elected Members.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Speaker to express its concerns regarding this matter and ask whether the Speaker has taken any action in this regard or if he plans to do so.

Agreed – the Committee would write to the Department to ask whether it had issued any advice or guidance to the Commissioners in relation to their meeting given that it coincided with an Assembly debate and whether it would consider issuing such guidance in future in relation to matters being debated in the Assembly.

Agreed – the Committee would write to ask the Department for the likely timetable for reconstituting the SEELB on foot of the Minister’s commitment in the Assembly on Monday 28 November 2011.

7. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 7 December 2011 at 10.30 am in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.12pm.

Mervyn Storey MLA
Chairperson, Committee for Education
7 December 2011

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