Present:Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Benson
Mr T Gallagher
Mr O Gibson
Mrs P Lewsley

Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson

Apologies:Mr J Fee

In Attendance: Mrs G Ardis Miss J Adair
Mrs C Darrah Ms C Angelone

The Committee met at 10.35 a.m.

1. Minutes of Meeting of Thursday 12 October

The minutes of the meeting of Thursday 12 October 2000 were agreed.

Members noted that a typographical error occurred in the minutes of the meeting of Thursday 21 September when Mr Paddy Manning was recorded as Mr Paddy Morrow.


2. Matters Arising from the Minutes of Proceedings

  1. Copies of the Chairman's letter to the Minister for Education regarding arrangements for the North South Ministerial Education Sectoral meetings had been circulated.

    Mrs Bell left the meeting at 10.37 a.m.

  2. The Chairman advised members that, given the tight timescale for the Committee to consider the Budget proposals and the Programme for Government, the Department of Education's document "Information Memorandum on the Private Finance Initiative", would be discussed in November.
  3. The Chairman, Deputy Chairman and other Committee members had met with representatives of PlayBoard on Tuesday 17 October. Copies of a note of the meeting and information handed out by the representatives were distributed.
  4. The Clerk had commissioned research on the issues surrounding pupils carrying heavy school bags and the information would be circulated in due course.

Mrs Bell returned to the meeting and Mr Wilson joined the meeting at 10.40 a.m.


3. Chairman's Business

    1. The Chairman advised members that the Minister for Education had responded to his letter dated 18 September regarding the Department's New TSN Action Plan and the use of Free School Meals as an indicator of social need. Copies of the letter had been circulated and members noted that this issue would be considered in the review of LMS Formulae.

Mr Robinson joined the meeting at 10.41 a.m.

  1. The Chairman informed members of the INTO Forum on Selection which took place on 18 October and at which he had delivered a speech.


4. Discussion of the Committee's role in the consultation process following the launch of the Gallagher Report

A short discussion took place and the Committee agreed that the Chairman would invite Mr Gerry Burns, Chairman of the Review Body, to the next meeting of the Committee to discuss the Terms of Reference for the Review Body and the proposals for the consultation exercise on post primary education. Following this, members would discuss a timetable for considering and consulting on this major issue.

The Clerk was also instructed to obtain research on the systems of post primary education in a number of other countries.

The Chairman left the meeting at 11.05 a.m. and the Deputy Chairman assumed the Chair.


5. Discussion of school transport issues with officials from the Education and Library Boards (Public Session)

The Committee, in preparing for the public session, discussed the Terms of Reference of the Environment Committee's inquiry into school transport and the issues they wished to raise with officials from the Education and Library Boards.

The Deputy Chairman then welcomed Mr Arthur Rainey, Chief Administrative Officer, WELB, Ms Mairead Maguire, Central Management Support Unit and Mr Brian McLean, Transport Manager, WELB, to the meeting. The officials provided copies of the Education and Library Boards' submission to the Environment Committee's inquiry into School Transport.

Mr Gibson left the meeting at 11.20 a.m. and returned at 11.25 a.m.

Mr Rainey explained the background to the Education and Library Boards' Service Review of Home to School Transport. This was followed by a detailed discussion and question and answer session. The issues covered included safety issues such as the use of seat belts and safety seating; training of bus drivers and attendants; standards of bus maintenance; the costs and budgets associated with school transport; the limited negotiating power of the boards; implications on costs for any changes to the number of children allowed to travel on a bus; arrangements and timescale for implementing the Service Review recommendations; school transport for children with special educational needs; and the use of private contractors.

Mrs Bell left the meeting at 12.12 p.m. and Mr Benson left the meeting at 12.20 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman thanked the officials for an informative discussion and they left the meeting.

Members agreed to forward any views/comments for inclusion in the Committee's response to the Environment Committee's inquiry into school transport to the Clerk by 5.00 p.m. on Monday 23 October. A draft Committee response would then be considered at the next Committee meeting.


6. Discussion of the Budget Statement (Private Session)

A copy of the Budget Statement had been circulated. The Deputy Chairman advised members that the Chairman of the Committee for Finance and Personnel had asked the Committee for its views on the proposed budget allocations for the Department of Education by Friday 10 November. Members agreed to invite officials from the Department of Education to the next meeting of the Committee to discuss the Department's budget allocation and priorities. The Committee would then formulate its response to the Finance and Personnel Committee at the meeting on 9 November.


7. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Committee will be held on Thursday 26 October at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.


The meeting closed at 12.35 p.m.

Committee Chairman

October 2000

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