Date: 19 November 2013
ISBN: Only available online
REMIT, POWERS AND MEMBERSHIP OF THE COMMITTEE
The Committee for Education is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and, under Standing Order 48.
Statutory Committees have been established to advise and assist the appropriate Minister on the formation of policy in relation to matters within his/her responsibilities. Specifically, the Committee has power to:
- consider and advise on departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
- consider relevant secondary legislation and take the committee stage of primary legislation;
- call for persons and papers;
- initiate inquiries and make reports; and
- consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister for Education.
The Committee has 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and a quorum of 5. The membership of the Committee is as follows:
Mervyn Storey (Chairperson)
Danny Kinahan (Deputy Chairperson) (1, 2)
Chris Hazzard (4)
Pat Sheehan (5)
Sean Rogers (3)
1 With effect from 31 January 2012 Mr Mike Nesbitt replaced Mr David McNarry
2 With effect from 17 April 2012 Mr Danny Kinahan replaced Mr Mike Nesbitt as Deputy Chairperson
3 With effect from 23 April 2012 Mr Sean Rogers replaced Mr Conall McDevitt
4 With effect from 10 September 2012 Mr Chris Hazzard replaced Mr Phil Flanagan
5 With effect from 10 September 2012 Mr Pat Sheehan replaced Mr Daithi McKay
KEY ACTIVITIES, OUTPUTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
During the second session of the mandate, the Committee considered at length issues related to:
- the Education Bill;
- Viability Audits & Area Planning;
- Computer-Based Assessment;
- Levels of Progression assessments; and
- proposed revisions to the Common Funding Scheme.
The Committee also undertook study of other matters including:
- Proposed revisions to Early Years provision;
- Sport in schools;
- Revised provision of Youth Services;
- Short-term revisions to A-Levels; and
- Supporting STEM in schools; and
- School transport.
In addition, the Committee considered budget issues including the Department’s 2011-15 Savings Delivery Plan (and its 2008-11 Efficiency Delivery Plan) and the Department’s commitments under the Programme for Government.
The Committee launched an Inquiry into the Education and Training Inspectorate and the School Improvement Process. The Committee also agreed to undertake another Inquiry into Integrated and Shared Education.
The Committee scrutinised a number of statutory rules relating to: the provision of pupil information and school target setting; the introduction of the Levels of Progression; and measures affecting teachers’ superannuation.
The Committee held 39 meetings in total. 27 were completely in public session. 10 were partially in private session and 2 were entirely in private session for the consideration of legal or procedural advice. 3 meetings were held outside of Parliament Buildings – 1 in Ebrington Square as part of the participation by Committees in the 2013 UK City of Culture; 1 in the Northern Ireland Science Park to inform the Education Committee’s consideration of STEM issues and 1 in Omagh as part of the Committee’s visit to the proposed Shared Education campus at Lisanelly and Arvalee Special School.
On 29 May 2013 the Committee agreed the Terms of Reference of its Inquiry into the Education and Training Inspectorate and the School Improvement Process. The ToRs indicate that the Committee will:
- Review the effectiveness of ETI’s current approach in respect of school inspection / improvement – considering particularly how ETI assesses the value added in those schools which have lower levels of examination attainment;
- Identify the key issues impacting on schools experiencing difficulties and any gaps both in terms of the ETI review process and the support services provided by the Department or the ELBs;
- Identify and analyse alternative approaches and models of good practice in other jurisdictions in terms of school inspection, the assessment of value added and improvement;
- Consider what priorities and actions need to be taken to improve ETI’s approach to the school improvement process including the need for enhanced powers; alternative measures of achievement; improved governance; and transparency; and
- Report to the Assembly on its findings and recommendations by January 2014.
Oral evidence-taking is expected to commence in October 2013.
The Committee also agreed that it would undertake an Inquiry into Integrated and Shared Education later during the 2013-14 session.
The Minister introduced the Education Bill to the Assembly on 2 October 2012. The Bill was designed to allow for the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority and for related purposes. The Bill also included provisions referring to the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations, and Assessment and enhancing the powers of the Education and Training Inspectorate. The Bill was referred to the Committee following 2 nd Stage on 15 October 2012.
To inform its understanding, the Committee received written evidence from 71 different organisations and reviewed that evidence at 17 of its meetings. The Committee also held an informal evidence session with parents and schools governors and youth representatives. Additionally, Members met informally with the non-teaching unions in order to hear their concerns.
The Department advised that those clauses which referenced the Heads of Agreement could not be operated owing to contradictions within the Heads of Agreement. Specifically, part 5 of the Heads of Agreement indicates that ESA is to be “the single employing authority for all staff in grant-aided schools” while part 10c indicates that where “it is already the case, Boards of Governors will continue to employ and dismiss members of staff”.
In the absence of a resolution of issues relating to the employment of staff and the autonomy of schools, the Committee agreed to reserve its position on most of the clauses of the Bill. The Committee made recommendations relating to Shared Education; the Education and Training Inspectorate and the School Improvement process and Area Planning consultation arrangements.
The Committee’s report was published on 8/4/13 can be found here.
The Committee also scrutinised a number of statutory rules relating to: the provision of pupil information and school target setting; the introduction of the Levels of Progression; and measures affecting teachers’ superannuation.
In respect of the introduction of Levels of Progression and to inform its scrutiny, the Committee visited Lough View Integrated Primary school and met with teachers from this and a number of other schools. The Committee secured the following important concessions from the Department:
- moderation sample sizes for smaller schools / classes were reduced;
- Primary Schools were exempt from the formal moderation processes for the assessment of the Levels of Progression during 2012-13;
- CCEA would engage with schools with a view to addressing the concerns set out in the Shadow Year Evaluation Report;
- CCEA would enhance its support for schools in the development of tasks and to improve the task approval process;
- CCEA would issue specific and detailed guidance as to how tasks are to be delivered so as to ensure consistency of approach among schools; and
- in-line with Ministerial guidance, CCEA would work towards reducing moderation timescales so that in future the timetable for assessments would allow for assessments to be carried out in the summer term.
BUDGET / PfG SCRUTINY
The Committee learned that the Department had declined to make submissions to the Department of Finance and Personnel in respect of its 2011-15 Savings Delivery Plan (SDP). The Committee sought and obtained an update on SDP progress and, following correspondence with the Committee for Finance Personnel, also considered the Department’s 2008-11 Efficiency Delivery Plan.
The Committee noted the Department’s generally good record in respect of resource and capital budgeting. Notwithstanding this, the majority of Committee Members agreed that, given the lessons learned from the NIAO review of the 2008-11 Efficiency Delivery Plans, the Department’s failure to comply in respect of the co-ordination of the Savings Delivery Plans was not acceptable.
The Committee also scrutinised monitoring rounds and Departmental progress in respect of the Programme for Government.
The Committee retained a Special Adviser – Professor Tony Gallagher – to assist with its scrutiny of the Viability Audits & Area Planning process. The Committee held 2 informal briefing events – the first covering all aspects of the Area Planning process; the second focusing on the facilitation of local area solutions for primary schools.
The Committee also reviewed in some detail the outworking of Area Planning in parts of East and South Belfast and met informally with representatives of Orangefield High School so as to inform consideration of the Education and Library Boards’ planning of school closures and mergers in the Knock dual carriageway area.
The Committee lobbied for longer and better consultation with schools; the inclusion of FE Colleges and representatives of Controlled schools in the Area Planning process; and for better facilitation of local area solutions including new cross-sectoral arrangements.
The Committee’s scrutiny of Area Planning continues – it is anticipated that a report will be issued in autumn 2013.
The Department introduced revised arrangements in respect of compulsory Computer- Based Assessments for numeracy and literacy – NILAs and NINAs – in autumn 2012. The Committee critically evaluated the preparatory work undertaken by CCEA in this regard. The Committee also noted with growing concern widespread adverse feedback from schools throughout Northern Ireland. To inform its understanding, the Committee visited Braniel Primary School and met with local principals and also visited CCEA.
In response to repeated requests from the Committee, the Minister agreed to rescind the compulsory requirement for schools to undertake NILAs and NINAs. In line with Committee recommendations, the Department recognised the value of existing off-the-shelf Computer-Based Assessment tools used by schools.
The Minister commissioned an independent panel to review the Common Funding Scheme. The Committee considered the report in detail and sought feedback from stakeholders at an informal briefing event.
The Committee responded highlighting the need for reform, transparency and better delegation to schools in respect of the CFS but indicating its concerns in respect of proposals relating to a reduction in free school transport; the adoption of a rigid framework for the identification of deprivation; and the possible implications for the removal of the Small Schools factor.
In-line with the Committee’s suggestions, the Minister agreed to retain the Small Schools factor for the present and launched a consultation on a revised CFS. The Committee is to hold a further informal stakeholder event after Halloween Recess prior to making its response on this important issue. The Committee is also to visit Scotland in the next session to review the outworking of Area Planning in that jurisdiction in respect of small rural primary schools.
Committee for Education Members and Professor Tony Gallagher at the Committee’s stakeholder event on Area Planning at Parliament Buildings on 26th September 2012
Chairperson of the Education Committee, Mervyn Storey MLA with guests at the Committee's Area Planning event on 19th June 2013
The Committee also undertook informal briefing sessions with key stakeholders in respect of: Early Years provision; School transport – health, safety and insurance considerations; Sport in schools; revised provision of Youth Services; Short-term revisions to A-Levels; and Supporting STEM in schools..
The Committee agreed to recommend consideration of the development of “educare” provision in line with other jurisdictions and reconsideration of the proposed moratorium on new full time pre-school provision. Members also highlighted concerns in respect of proposed revised teacher-child ratios in pre-school settings.
The Committee is pursuing amendments to Departmental guidance to schools in respect of private transport providers and insurance arrangements.
The Committee agreed unanimously to ask the Department to refocus its Curriculum Sports Programme so as to allow the inclusion of rugby in the first instance and other sports in future.
The Committee noted the valuable role of youth services in our communities and called for the continued non-politicisation of this service.
The Committee highlighted concerns in respect of the possible adverse impact on the transferability of A-levels as a consequence of changes in other jurisdictions. The Committee therefore awaits with great interest CCEA’s review of GCSEs and A-Levels.
The Committee considered the report of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Shared Education and visited the Lisanelly Shared Education Campus to inform its understanding of the relevant policy issues.
Education Committee Members with representatives from the Lisanelly Shared Education Campus on 10/10/2012
The Committee visited the Northern Ireland Science Park; highlighted issues in respect of the science content of the curriculum in primary schools and will undertake further work on supporting STEM in schools in the next session with the anticipated production of a short report on this subject.
Education Committee Members with representatives from the Northern Ireland Science Park following a Committee meeting on 8 May 2013
The Committee sought further information on the joined-up nature of education and health services and may undertake joint working with the Health Committee in the next session. In any event, it is expected that the Committee will issue a short report on this subject.
During the session the Committee made a number of visits as previously indicated to:
- Lisanelly Shared Education Campus (Shared Education) – 10/10/12;
- Braniel Primary School (NILAs and NINAs) – 20/11/12;
- Lough View Integrated Primary School (Levels of Progression) – 4/12/12;
- CCEA (NILAs and NINAs) – 1/5/13;
- Northern Ireland Science Park (STEM in schools) – 8/5/13; and
- Ebrington Square (UK City of Culture) – 12/6/13.
The Committee also visited Lisburn (24/4/13) and met informally with primary schools principals who raised issues relating to inter alia: CBA; Levels of Progression; and Early Years provision.
On behalf of the Committee, the Chairperson attended the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition – 9/1/13.
INFORMAL MEETINGS AND EVENTS
The Committee held 11 events and informal meetings:
- School transport health and safety – transport providers - 18/9/12
- Area Planning – schools and representative organisations – 26/9/12
- Underachievement – representative bodies – 24/10/12
- Priorities for Youth - representative bodies – 28/11/12
- Early Years – representative bodies – 16/1/13
- Education Bill – parents, governors, youth representatives – 30/1/13
- School transport insurance – transport providers and WELB – 28/2/13
- Sport in schools – representative bodies – 6/3/13
- Common Funding Scheme – representative bodies – 12/3/13
- A-Level changes – schools – 20/3/13
- Area Planning primary schools – schools and representative bodies – 19/6/13
The Committee also attended an informal meeting (4/3/13) with the OECD team which was reviewing education attainment frameworks in Northern Ireland. Members also met (25/2/13) informally with the non-teaching unions to discuss their concerns in respect of the Education Bill. Additionally Members met (4/6/13) with representatives of Orangefield High School to discuss Area Planning concerns.
Education Committee Members with stakeholders at its underachievement event on 24/10/2012
Details of Committee expenditure for the session are contained at Appendix A.
Anyone wishing to contact the Committee for Education should do so at the following address:
The Clerk to the Committee for Education
Committee for Education
Expenditure for the period 1 September 2012 – 31 August 2013
Committee Travel - committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings
Includes the cost of committee visits to:
10/10/2012 - Omagh - Lisanelly Shared Education Campus and Arvalee Special School.
20/11/2012 - Braniel Primary School
24/04/2013 - Lisburn -Seymour Street Methodist Church - meeting with primary and nursery principals.
01/05/2013 - Belfast, Clarendon Dock – meeting with CCEA.
08/05/2013 - Northern Ireland Science Park – Committee meeting and visit.
12/06/2013 - Derry/Londonderry - Committee meeting.
Printing of committee reports
Includes the cost of committee reports:
08/04/2013 – Report on the Education Bill (NIA 14/11-15)
Includes the cost of advertising relating to:
05/10/2012 – Education Bill
26/06/2013 – ETI and School Improvement Inquiry
Includes costs associated with the procurement of external consultancy regarding the Committee’s scrutiny of Area Planning.
Cost of refreshments for committee meetings, committee events, working lunches, seminars, room hire, witness expenses, and conference fees for members.