Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Mr Sammy Wilson

Chairperson, Committee for Education

3 December 2007

Danny Kennedy, MLA
Committee for the Office of the First &
Deputy First Minister

Draft Programme for Government 2008 – 11 and Draft Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland 2008 – 2018.

  1. Thank you for your letter of 9 November 2007 which invited each Statutory Committee to put forward its views on the Draft Programme for Government (PfG) 2008 – 11 and the Draft Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI) 2008 – 2018.
Background and Analysis
  1. The Committee for Education commenced its scrutiny of the CSR 07, the Draft PfG and Draft ISNI in relation to education through a Departmental briefing session at its meeting of 7 September 2007. This was followed up by comprehensive briefings from senior officials on the Draft Budget, Draft PfG and Draft ISNI on 9 and 16 November 2007, culminating in a presentation from and discussion with the Minister of Education on 20 November.
  2. Through its role in providing opportunity for all children and young people and preparing them for life and work, and in reforming Education administration, Education contributes to the PfG priorities of:

The Committee welcomes the statement under the PFG’s top priority of Growing the Economy that ‘Building a strong economy requires a healthy, well educated population…’. This is reflected in key goals under each of these priorities and underpinned by Public Service Agreement (PSA) aims, objectives, actions and targets. The key education goals for the first two priorities are:

While the key education goal under the third priority is:

To support these priorities and help realise these specific goals are by a range of education-related PSAs, in particular under:

  1. The Committee for Education, primarily through its scrutiny of the draft Budget proposals, would make the following observations on the PfG specific education key goals, education-related PSAs and the aims, objectives, actions and targets within individual PSAs.

The Committee’s primary concern is that the available resources from the Draft Budget may not allow specific education-related PSA actions and targets to be met. Depending on the Budget final allocations and the Minister’s decisions on the allocation of the available resources for education, some of the PSA actions and targets may well have to be revised and/or scaled back as appropriate. In particular, the Committee would have concerns about the achievement of :

The Committee considers the education key goal of ‘Ensuring by 2011 that 70% of school leavers achieve 5 or more GCSE passes at A* to C’ should be revised to read ‘Ensuring by 2011 that 80% of school leavers achieve 5 or more GCSE passes at A* to C, to include English and Maths’.

  1. Turning now to the Draft ISNI 2008 – 2018 , one of the proposed six investment Pillars has a specific School and Youth Services Sub-Pillar. The Committee welcomes the recognition in the Draft Budget and ISNI that it is important to deliver over the next 10 years a modern and sustainable school (and youth) estate with links to the further education across the region, to support the development of a well-educated populace with the skills to engage fully and positively in society and the economy. The Draft PfG proposed PSA 16 ‘investing to provide a modern fit-for-purpose education estate in line with best practice and ensuring VFM’ sets out DE’s specific objective (Objective 4) actions and targets in this area. The Committee sees it important to replace deficient school buildings, but alongside this an area-based cross-sectoral planning approach must be development and implemented as soon as possible. However, as set out in paragraph 4 above, the Committee would have concerns because of resource constraints and depending on how final Budget resource allocations are used, that the implementation of an area-based planning approach may be delayed. The Committee would very much agree that schools of the future may also perform extended roles in communities. A total of £714.5m is proposed for allocation to Schools and Youth Services over the 3-year Budget period, with an indicative allocation of £2,792m over the remaining 7 years (£3,506m in total). This will enable over 100 major schools projects (previously announced) to be taken forward over the period, including 8 special needs schools, as well as continued investment in the school estate.
  2. The Committee noted that this will include both conventionally funded and PFI projects and that the Department is currently analysing anticipated profiles of project capital spend to determine how best to manage the delivery of the projects within the budget allocations. The Committee will carefully scrutinise the Department’s Investment Delivery Plans under the new procurement framework when published early 2008, as the Committee has concerns about delays in school capital projects, as shown by the £20m education capital underspend reported in 2006 – 07. In particular, the Committee will be asking for feedback from DE on what additional resources for investment can be found from the disposal of DE assets under the new ‘Capital Realisation Taskforce’ set up by OFMDFM and DFP. In this respect the Committee notes the assumption that DE capital receipts from the disposal of surplus assets over the three-year budget period is £48.5m and welcomes the Executive’s view that schools are a priority area if additional capital funds materialise as a result of this Taskforce.

Yours sincerely

Sammy Wilson, MP MLA
Chairperson, Committee for Education