Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 80 - 82)



  80.  I think there was some coaching occurring from behind?
  (Mr Fitzsimons)  Obviously we do have the LMS funding system in Northern Ireland and within that we have a category which really is targeting social needs. The indicators for social needs are really determined by entitlement to free school meals. A special working group has been found to look at how we can meet the needs of the educationally disadvantaged young people which arises out of social needs or for other reasons and also ensuring that the money which becomes available is targeted towards and ring fenced for the use of those children. So that is how the differentiation will emerge. But there is differentiation at the moment. Whether in fact it is the most efficient and effective way of doing it or not is an issue which this working party is looking at.
  (Mr McCullough)  Chairman, that covers not only social needs. It also covers special educational needs in mainstream schools for children who are not statemented, because you will be aware that the other 18 percent of Warnock's 20 percent are in mainstream schools without statements. Money is given to schools through LMS both for social needs and for SEN remediation, so there is a differentiation in place already.
  (Mr Irwin)  We also have an initiative in the School Improvement Programme called the School Support Programme, which is targeted to those areas particularly who find themselves in areas of high social deprivation and they will be receiving priority funding for a number of years to help them improve right across the spectrum, as part of the overall school improvement programme and that will be continuing with earmarked funding for a number of years.

  81.  Unless anyone wants to add anything further in response to the question I have just asked, what plans do the Boards have to monitor procedures which will be introduced as a result of the Code of Practice?
  (Mr Martin)  I think, Chairman, Mr Irwin will attempt to answer that.
  (Mr Irwin)  Chairman, what we were hoping to do was have a number of different levels of possible monitoring. Obviously some of it would depend on the reviews of the annual statements and that would be a key element and we have taken on board the comments at the last meeting, but in addition to that we would be looking at a range of qualitative and quantitative measures—and qualitative ones were discussed, I think, at the last meeting as well - but we would particularly be looking at feedback from our own services in terms of feedback from groups like the Literacy Teaching Support Scheme, peripatetic services, educational welfare and psychology. So although we get feedback from our own services on how effective that support has been in schools, from now on we will also be looking very closely at the annual reports of schools, because there will be a statutory obligation on schools to report on how they have deployed their resources and that should be a very useful additional level of information which we can build into our accountability. We also, as Mr O'Loane said, will have computer based management systems in place and it would also be hoped to make use of those again on a five-Board basis. Obviously we will make use of the traditional methods such as feedback from Principals, Governors, the Department of Education's Inspectorate and reports from Principals and our intention would be to pull those into a coherent programme which will give us a framework for monitoring the Code.

  82.  Very good. Thank you very much indeed. Let me verify whether there is any other question which any Member of the Committee wants to ask? In the absence of any other questions from the Committee, let me ask you whether there are any other questions which you are surprised we have not asked you?
  (Mr Martin)  I do not think so, Chairman.

Chairman:  I cannot believe we have been as comprehensive as that response suggests, but at any rate, thank you very much indeed. I notice that we have taken in fact about 50 minutes to conclude the questions which we were not able to ask last time. Although I recognise it has been significantly inconvenient for you to need to come back, I think in fact we have got much more mileage out of the opportunity of coming to it afresh than we would have done if we had actually tried to do another three quarters of an hour on the previous occasion, so we are full of appreciation. Thank you very much indeed for having come in such numbers and the fact that we had to resume the engagement meant that we had the pleasure of hearing from Mr Irwin and Mr O'Loane which we would not otherwise have had. Thank you very much indeed.

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