Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr T Gallagher
Mr O Gibson
Mr T Hamilton 
Mr A Maginness
Mr G McHugh
Mr K Robinson

Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr J Fee
Mr B McElduff

In Attendance:
Mrs C Darrah (Committee Clerk)
Mrs V Artt (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Ms M Austin (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr D Stevenson (Clerical Supervisor)
Miss N Finlay (Clerical Assistant)

The Committee met at 12.48 p.m. in private session.

The Chairman welcomed Mr Alban Maginness who recently replaced Ms Patricia Lewsley to the Education Committee.

The Chairman also welcomed Ms Nicola Finlay, a new member of staff, to the Education Committee Office.

1. Minutes of the Meeting of 16 May 2002

The minutes of the meeting of 16 May 2002 were agreed.

2. Matters Arising

(i) The Chairman advised members that a briefing by officials on the Department of Education's current spending patterns had been arranged for Thursday 20 June at 10.30 a.m. in Rathgael House, Bangor. A list of possible issues/topics would be available for consideration prior to the meeting to ensure the Committee's main priorities were covered. In the meantime the Committee agreed to request copies of a number of reports highlighted in the response from the Minister of Education to the Committee's comments on the draft Budget Position Report and members would contact the Clerk regarding any other issues they wished to raise.

(ii) A note of the meeting with representatives of Grammar Schools on 16 May 2002 to discuss the Review of Post-Primary Education and a copy of a letter from one of the Principals had been circulated. The letter raised a number of issues regarding the consultation process being undertaken by the Department of Education and the Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Education regarding the matter.

3. Chairman's Business

(i) The Chairman informed the Committee that a letter had been received from the Concerned Parents of Newport Primary School regarding the proposed amalgamation of Hillsborough and Newport Primary Schools. The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Education regarding a number of general issues concerning the way the matter was handled and the consultation process.

(ii) The Chairman advised the Committee that an invitation had been received from the Principal of Cedar Lodge School, Belfast for he and Deputy Chairman to visit the school and see the poor condition of the buildings. The Committee agreed that, given the current heavy workload, a visit would not be feasible and representatives of the school should be invited to attend a meeting at Parliament Buildings with the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman and any other available members.

(iii) The Chairman informed members that the Chairman of the Committee for Employment and Learning had written requesting information regarding careers education and guidance and progress by the Department of Education in relation to the recommendations in the Fulton Report. The Committee agreed to request the information from the Department.

(iv) The Chairman informed members that the Chairman of the Southern Education and Library Board had written requesting a meeting with the Committee to discuss the funding of educational services. A copy of the letter was circulated and the Committee agreed that the Clerk should identify a suitable date for a meeting.

4. Committee Inquiry into Early Years Learning

(i) A powerpoint backdrop for use at the evidence sessions to be held outside Parliament Buildings was shown at the meeting and members confirmed they were content with the information and format.

(ii) The Chairman informed members that binders containing all relevant documents, including written submissions and research papers, would be circulated at the end of the meeting.

5. Evidence Session on Early Years Learning with representatives from the Northern Ireland Pre-School Playgroup Association (NIPPA) - Public Session

The Chairman welcomed Mr Colum Conway and Ms Siobhan Fitzpatrick to the meeting to give evidence to the Committee in relation to its Inquiry into Early Years Learning.

The representatives outlined the background to NIPPA, the key policy and research 
areas and possible issues and recommendations for the Committee's consideration. A question and answer session covered a number of points including:

  • the need for quality, consistency and a common approach in the provision and delivery of services for Early Years Learning;
  • the importance of parents as co-educators;
  • the need to train and develop staff;
  • the need for a coherent policy approach and better co-ordination; and
  • models of best practice and ways of tackling underachievement.

Mr K Robinson left the meeting at 1.30 p.m.

The Chairman thanked the representatives for a very useful and informative discussion and they left the meeting.

Hansard recorded the evidence for publication in due course.

Mr O Gibson left the meeting at 1.40 p.m.

6. Committee Business - Private Session

(i) A copy of a letter from the Minister of Education and the Policy Memorandum for the Education and Libraries Bill was circulated. The Committee agreed that arrangements should be made for Departmental officials to attend the meeting scheduled for Thursday 6 June 2002 to discuss the matter. The Committee noted that a number of the provisions applied to the Department of Culture and Leisure and the Department of Employment and Learning and agreed to send a copy of the papers to the relevant Committees for information.

(ii) Information provided by the Department of Education regarding draft bids for the next round of Executive Programme Funds for the Social Inclusion and Community Regeneration Fund, the Children's Fund and the Innovation and Modernisation Fund had been circulated. After a brief discussion, the Committee agreed to defer the matter until the meeting scheduled for Thursday 30 May 2002 to allow members the opportunity to study the papers in detail.

(iii) A copy of a response from the Minister of Education to the Committee's request for further information on the forthcoming Special Education and Disability Legislation had been circulated. The Committee noted that the consultation period would take place from the summer until the end of November 2002 and agreed that arrangements should be made for Departmental officials to brief the Committee in September on the progress to date.

(iv) The Committee noted a response from the Minister of Finance and Personnel regarding School Capital Building Investment which suggested it should pursue the concerns raised in the context of the Budget 2002 process.

7. Date and Time of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 30 May 2002 at 10.30 a.m. in the ECOS Millenium Centre, Ballymena.

The Committee was adjourned at 1.55 p.m.

Committee Chairman
June 2002

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