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Devon Phase Associations Terms of Reference


Introduction

The three Phase Associations in Devon democratically represent all schools within Devon, maintained and academy, and comprise:

  • Devon Schools Leadership Services CIO
  • SENtient Heads Operational Group
  • Devon Association of Governance (DAG)

In Devon we believe that the Education and Learning Service is a community of educators. We therefore rely upon the full contribution from all stakeholders in the community. Its success lies in building this community and strengthening capacity. The work of the phase associations is vital to achieving this objective within a mixed and diverse economy of schools and educational settings.

The Schools Phase Associations bring a collective perspective to our shared agenda of school improvement and achievement, thus providing a forum for all parties (School leaders/Governors/Officers/Members) to work together to raise standards across the county and deliver our agreed aims for learners. They demonstrate the continuity of education and lifelong learning across all age and ability levels.

Every child deserves a fair start in life, with the very best opportunity to succeed. Devon County Council is committed to improving the life-chances of all Devon’s children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. The Schools Phase Associations are equally committed to this mandate and fully endorse the DCC strategic vision Championing All our Children and the Devon Children and Families Partnership Children and Young People’s Plan 2019 – 2023 – Life Chances.

Additionally, the Phase Associations are strong conduits in promoting good safeguarding practice, including oversight, challenge and consistency. Schools are represented on a range of formal improvement and decision-making committees where safeguarding matters are discussed.

Phase Associations also play a crucial role in ensuring that robust communication processes are in place to ensure that key information is distributed to relevant staff in line with DfE guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (2020) (Updated January 2021) and that schools complete the Safeguarding Children in Education Audit as requested annually under S.175 Education Act 2002 by Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP). This Terms of Reference has been drawn up to agree the respective roles of the Local Authority and three Phase Associations collectively and to form the basis of governance arrangements in respect of the administration of funding from the Dedicated Schools Grant.

Aims

A key function of the Phase Associations is to work for excellence for all Devon children. The role and partnership between the three Schools Phase Associations and the Devon County Council, Education and Learning Service is particularly significant in:

  • Promoting a joint interface for schools/Education and Learning, Local Authority priorities and Government initiatives.
  • Acting as a mechanism for feeding in representative views from schools.
  • Promoting a strategic steer and decisions on key Local Authority initiatives and educational priorities.
  • Raising awareness of issues facing schools and helping to avert problems.
  • Developing schools’ understanding of national and local political perspectives and increasing the transparency of decision-making processes.
  • Improving understanding of other phase contexts and needs and developing a shared perspective on common learning and achievement issues that transcend individual phases.
  • Supporting school leadership and leadership development across all schools in Devon, seeking to represent views which enable strategic decisions to be taken in the best interests of all children.

Role

The role and scope of the Phase Associations within the local and national contexts is illustrated in the following diagram:

Diagram illustrating the role and scope of the Phase Associations within the local and national context

The role of the Phase Associations may be summarised within the following key areas:

  • Representation and Consultation
  • Communication
  • Partnership Working and Networking
  • School Leadership Development and Pastoral Support

Representation and Consultation:

  • To ensure that the needs of children are put before the vested interest of professionals.
  • At a local level, to ensure that the Phase Associations are adequately represented (where appropriate) at the various statutory boards, other LA working groups and agreed informal meetings with DCC and its strategic partners.
  • At a national level where policy and political issues impact upon Devon schools.
  • In conjunction with the Local Authority, Council Members and local MPs, campaign for a fairer distribution of schools funding nationally and a more equitable settlement for Devon’s children on a per pupil basis.
  • Demonstrate a strong commitment to transparency and partnership working with the Local Authority through representation on Devon Education Forum and its sub-groups and by leading on the school local funding formula consultation process.
  • To ensure that the ‘Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) Schools Forums Operational and Good Practice guidance’ ( March 2021) is observed at all times in respect of school representation on Devon Education Forum.
  • To promote an open and transparent consultative process, proactively seeking the opinion and feedback of the broader membership on specific topics.
  • To ensure that views of schools are fairly represented when influencing and shaping policy or strategy and not just individual concerns or interests.
  • To advise DCC and other strategic partners on how policy and strategy impacts on schools and to monitor the ongoing effect of such policies.
  • To secure the contribution of schools to inform strategic priorities and roll out of new strategies to improve outcomes for children.

Communication:

  • To actively promote the work of the Phase Associations with internal and external audiences within Devon and raise the profile of Devon schools with neighbouring authorities as well as nationally.
  • To communicate back to the broader membership of each Phase Association the business and outcomes from a range of formal agendas and meetings where schools are represented.
  • To communicate local and national strategic policies and priorities to the broader membership of each Phase Association.
  • To communicate the concerns and needs of schools; but also recognise the responsibility of schools to contribute to effective improvement and change.
  • At a national level to campaign on any specific issues impacting upon Devon Schools where these differ from the national perspective.
  • Regularly communicate to the broader membership the work and contribution of the respective Phase Association to demonstrate best value and accountability in terms of Dedicated Schools Grant funding.

Partnership Working and Networking:

  • To work in partnership with DCC and other strategic partners on recognised shared goals or issues that impact upon Devon schools, children and young people.
  • To support schools in working together on a range of education matters including sharing best practice, continuous school improvement and effective governance.
  • To strengthen the voice and contribution of schools to local education policy and debate.
  • To secure the collective awareness and contribution of schools on Safeguarding and Wellbeing matters.
  • To optimise the outcomes and achievement of the most vulnerable children in our care.
  • Independent to the Local Authority, to lobby local MPs or National bodies on issues affecting Devon schools.
  • To support and promote the work of local and national organisations e.g. Teaching School Hubs, national Phase representative groups, f40 Group etc.

School Leadership Development and Pastoral Support

  • To provide the underlying support for a strong and accessible network for school leaders and governors to meet, share professional expertise (knowledge, ideas and information) and to collaborate.
  • To engage in the process for the induction of newly appointed school leaders or governors raising awareness of the services and support available through the Phase Associations.
  • To support the ongoing development of existing and emerging school leaders or governors identifying opportunities for training or other initiatives in direct response to needs.
  • To monitor the engagement of school leaders and governors in the work of the Phase Associations with a view to maximising the participation and contribution of the broader membership.
  • To promote effective school leadership and the personal wellbeing of school leaders by offering a framework of personal and professional peer to peer support.

Membership and Constitution

Each Phase Association will be bound by its own Constitution determined and agreed by the respective membership in each case, copies of which are included within the Appendices.

The Constitution, as a minimum, will include the following provision:

  • Aims and activities of the Phase Association
  • Criteria for membership
  • Composition Executive Committee or Board and Officers (including election process and terms of office)
  • Conduct of Meetings, periodicity and voting rights
  • Financial Arrangements to include requirement for a Finance Policy, annual reporting of accounts and independent audit procedures
  • Representation on Statutory Boards and other LA Working Groups to include nomination election procedures
  • Arrangements in the event of dissolution

Funding and Accountability

Funding in respect of the core activities of the Phase Associations is currently top sliced from the Schools Block of the Dedicated Schools Grant and is subject to annual review. The continuation of funding will be subject to consultation with the broader schools’ membership and agreement by DCC Cabinet based upon recommendation by Devon Education Forum having duly considered the consensus of each phase following due consultation.

The Phase Associations are funded on an annual basis to undertake specifically the key roles outlined in Section 3 above.

In addition to these “core” functions, the Phase Associations are permitted to generate additional income for “traded” activities provided that that such income and any associated expenses are accounted for and reported separately for audit purposes.
The financial year for Phase Association funding for accounting purposes will be aligned to that of Devon County Council i.e. April to March annually.

Each Phase Association will have and operate their affairs in accordance with an up to date Finance Policy or Financial Procedures Manual which should be regularly reviewed and approved by the relevant Executive Committee or Board. The Finance Policy should include as a minimum all relevant sections that are considered within the Schools Finance Policy template and a copy should be made available to the Council upon request.

Annual funding allocations are subject to the submission of a Business Plan, to include a budget forecast approved by the relevant Executive Committee or Board of the Phase Association, to evidence the need for ongoing financial support.

A finance report monitoring actual and forecast spend against budget should be a standing item on the agenda of the Executive Board or Committee of each Phase Association. A copy of this report will be submitted to the DCC Education & Learning Finance team at the end of each school term together with any commentary on adverse deviation from plan.

In the event that funding is not fully spent (or allocated) in any one financial period, then carry-forwards to the next financial year will be permitted if approved by Devon Education Forum and the Local Authority. Any income generated from traded activities will be ring-fenced and accounted for separately by the Associations and considered alongside any carry-forwards above. In the event that there is any over-spend, this will be treated similarly; however, it is generally expected that the Phase Associations will budget and operate their affairs within the quantum of funding allocated.

At the end of each financial year, the Phase Associations will prepare annual accounts which will be approved by the relevant Executive Committee or Board. It may be necessary for the Executive Committee or Board to have these accounts independently verified to gain assurance that the accounts represent a true and fair view of the Association’s affairs.

In any event, the financial affairs of the Phase Associations will be independently inspected by Devon Audit Partnership (or other independent auditor) appointed by Devon County Council Corporate Finance Team at least every 3 years.

From 1 April 2021, Devon SLS CIO will fulfil the role of the primary and secondary phase associations and will be responsible for the functions historically undertaken by DAPH and DASH subject to a Commissioned Services Agreement (CSA). The CSA will be subject to regular reviews and reporting mechanisms to monitor spend against budget and to agree any variations. As a registered charity, Devon SLS CIO will be subject to Charity law and regulations. The Board of Trustees will be required to adopt a Scheme of Delegation and Financial Procedures Manual alongside other policies to ensure compliance and probity. The CIO will also be required to have the financial accounts audited or independently inspected and submit an Annual Return, Report and Accounts to the Charity Commission and published on its website.

Working groups

In accordance with the key role of the Phase Associations, school representation on Statutory Boards and other LA Working Groups will be required on a regular basis. Attendance at these formal and occasionally agreed informal meetings will enable the Phase Associations to represent the views and interests of schools following consultation with the broader membership, raise issues or challenge policy and generally influence strategy and policy.

School Leader or Governor time and/or expenses will normally be remunerated from the “core” funding available. However, whilst requests for representation and the opportunity to contribute at meetings are welcomed by the Phase Associations, the finite funding available can only support a limited amount of attendance.

Accordingly, to ensure that representation at meetings remains relevant and effective, the Local Authority and Phase Associations have collectively agreed that Statutory Boards, Working Groups and other fora will be evaluated under the following criteria:

  • Essential:
    Statutory Boards e.g. Devon Children and Families Partnership and its designated Working Groups, Devon Education Forum plus its associated working groups and/or Task & Finish Groups, Heads Liaison Group
  • Desirable:
    Either following a direct request from the Local Authority or the subject is of strategic importance to schools in Devon.
  • Optional:
    The subject is not of strategic importance or relevant to a specific phase, but participation may provide information which may be useful.

A list (see Appendices) of all current and relevant groups in existence will be categorised as above and agreed with the Head of Education and Learning in the spring term on an annual basis. This will help to inform the level of ongoing funding required to support Phase Association attendance at meetings as well as determine where representation should be focussed towards achieving joint strategic priorities for Devon County Council and schools.

It is essential that when Phase Association representatives attend meetings, appropriate feedback is shared with the relevant Executive Committee or Board and/or broader membership.

Monitoring and Review

The Terms of Reference will be reviewed by officers of the Local Authority and representatives of the Phase Associations at Heads Liaison Group annually at the start of the summer term.

Signed in Agreement

Agreed by all parties 25/5/21:

  • Dawn Stabb, Head of Education and Learning, Devon County Council
  • Judith Johnson, Chair of Devon Schools Leadership Services CIO
  • Jacqui Warne, Chair of SENtient Heads Operational Group
  • Alex Walmsley, Chair of Devon Associations of Governance (DAG)

Appendices

a. Constitution of Devon Schools Leadership Services CIO Adopted 17 October 2019

b. Terms of Refernce Devon Schools Leadership Services CIO – Schools Executive Committee (SEC) Adopted 17 July 2020

c. Constitution of Devon Association of Governance (DAG) Adopted November 2018

 

 

d. Constitution of SENtient Heads Operational Group Adopted 13 November 2020

The SENtient Heads Operational Group Constitution/Terms of Reference

Aims

Our aims are to bring alive the SENtient vision that every learner will be empowered and enabled to lead an independent, healthy and fulfilling life.
In doing this, we will ensure that we:

  1. Safeguard children;
  2. Support and share good practice in all aspects in SEND provision;
  3. Represent and advocate on behalf of our organisations, children, young people and families;
  4. Facilitate high quality effective peer support, to ensure schools are self-improving.

Organisation

  1. This Group shall be known as the SENtient Heads Operational Group.
  2. Heads and Principals of SENtient Trust schools are automatically members of this group. Heads/Principals of non-SENtient specialist provision may attend by invitation.
  3. Invited members will take full part in the activities of the group but will not have voting rights/membership of the SENtient Trust Board.
  4. The Group may invite officers of the LA and other agencies to discuss agreed agenda items at meetings.
  5. At the first meeting of the Autumn Term a Chair will be elected for the academic year. All Heads/Principals will be expected to take their turn in office, on a rotational basis.
  6. SENtient will negotiate consultative commissioning arrangements with the LA on an annual basis, to facilitate representation at key county groups.
  7. There will need to be 4 members present at meetings to be Quorate.
  8. Following each meeting, the group will agree key items to report back to the SENtient Trust Board.

Finance

The group will negotiate annually a service level agreement with the Local Authority for attendance and representation at County Groups.

Dissolution

  1. SENtient Heads Operational Group shall have the power to wind up the association and dispose of its assets provided that notice of intent has been given to all associate members and the SENtient Trust Board.
  2. If no written representation has been made to the Chair to retain the SENtient Heads Operational Group within forty days of the notice of intent being posted the Operational Group may be wound up.
  3. Representation to retain the SENtient Heads Operational Group must be 15% of the associated members and the SENtient Trust Board.
  4. All assets outstanding at the winding up of the SENtient Heads Operational Group shall be given to the LA for use in Devon’s Special Schools and Provisions.

e. Protocol for Phase Association Representation on Local Authority Working Groups and Stutory Boards

Protocol for Phase Association Representation on Local Authority Working Groups and Statutory Boards

Introduction

Devon SLS, SENtient Heads Operational Group and DAG welcome the opportunity to support and to contribute towards the work of LA working groups and/or statutory boards particularly around issues affecting education and learning and concerning the health, safety and wellbeing of children and young people in Devon.

This protocol has been drawn up to provide further guidance to other LA services and/or partner agencies around the role of the Phase Associations and the operational structures that exist within the wider schools’ community.

Its purpose is to establish a consistent approach to requests for schools’ representation and to ensure that school leader or governor attendance at meetings is both relevant and effective.

Strategic Architecture of Working Groups with Schools Representation

With ongoing budgetary constraints across the public sector and pressures on time there will be a collective agreement that:

  1. A strategic overview of the strategic architecture of working groups and statutory boards within Devon County Council annotated with those requiring schools’ representation will be made available to Phase Associations via Heads Liaison Group.
  2. Requests for schools’ representation on new groups will be made via Devon SLS, SENtient Heads Operational Group Executives and/or DAG Board and with the awareness of the Head of Education and Learning. Individual schools or school leaders/governors should not be approached directly.
  3. Requests will be submitted to the Phase Associations with a minimum of 4 weeks’ notice and should be supported by a clearly defined Terms of Reference for any Working Group to include:
    • Strategic Purpose and Objectives of the proposed Group or meeting
    • Governance and Reporting Lines within LA/Other Partner Agency structures
    • Membership Structure & Engagement
    • Term and Frequency of Meetings
    • Arrangements for reimbursement of time out of school/other expenses
  4. Schools representation on LA working groups and strategic boards will be reviewed on an annual basis as part of the Phase Association Terms of Reference to ensure that the original basis of engagement remains current and applicable with no duplication across various agendas.
  5. Meeting Agendas, any supporting papers and minutes should be circulated on a timely basis to all school representatives and copied into the designated support office of each phase association for the attention of the Executive Committee or Board.
  6. When determining the schedule of meetings for working groups involving schools’ representation, consideration should be given to the school term calendar and dates during or close to school holidays should be avoided as attendance cannot be guaranteed. Likewise, timings of meetings are equally important where for half day meetings a clearly defined morning or afternoon session will enable a school representative to be at school for part of the day especially where significant travel is concerned.
  7. Consideration should be given as to whether school leader and/or governor representation is required and across all phases in all instances such as:
  • where the service is commissioned through a provider and, as end-users, schools have little or no influence over the delivery specification or outcomes
  • the agenda content is of a specialist nature and representation is more appropriate from other areas of the schools’ community e.g. SENDCo, Education Safeguarding Champion, Designated Safeguarding Officer etc.
  • agenda content is phase-specific or phase-generic i.e. schools’ representation can be achieved across all phases thereby reducing the number of representatives required

Group Categories

Within the Terms of Reference agreement, the Local Authority and Phase Associations have collectively agreed that Statutory Boards, working groups and other fora will be evaluated under the following criteria:

Essential:
Statutory Boards e.g. Devon Children and Families Partnership, Devon Education Forum plus all associated working groups and/or Task & Finish Groups, Heads Liaison Group.

Desirable:
Either following a direct request from the Local Authority or the subject is of strategic importance to schools in Devon.

Optional:
The subject is not of strategic importance or relevant to a specific phase, but participation may provide information which may be useful.

Role of Phase Associations and Representatives

Devon SLS, SENtient Heads Operational Group and DAG will co-ordinate school representation on Statutory Boards and other LA Working Groups (as agreed above) from time to time.

Attendance at formal and occasional informal agreed meetings will enable the Phase Associations to represent the views and interests of schools following consultation with the broader membership, raise issues or challenge policy and generally influence strategy and policy.

It is important to note that phase association representatives attending LA working groups and/or statutory boards will impartially represent all schools within their respective phase regardless of size or location and any contributions submitted are made on behalf of the Association as a whole and are not personal views or relating to individual school circumstances.

The only exception to this may be where representation is sought from schools having a specific or contextual profile or specialism when subjective knowledge or experience may be offered.

In the event that Phase Association representatives are required to consult with the wider membership then clear parameters on what is being asked will be required and that a time scale of up to 6 weeks (half a term) may be required. Any such consultation process may be subject to the provision of additional administrative resources which are to be agreed at the outset.

Remuneration of Phase Association School Representatives

School Leader or Governor time and/or expenses for LA Working Groups and Statutory Boards classified as “Essential” or “Desirable” and agreed by Heads Liaison Group within the annual review of the DCC/Phase Association Terms of Reference are normally remunerated from the “core” funding top-sliced with schools’ agreement from the Dedicated Schools Budget.

However, whilst requests for representation and the opportunity to contribute at meetings are welcomed by the Phase Associations, the finite funding available can only support a limited amount of attendance. It is therefore important to recognise that where Phase Association representation is not remunerated in full or part then attendance at meetings may not always be possible.

Communication and Feedback

In addition to preparation for and attendance at meetings, school representatives will be required to provide written feedback to their respective Phase Association which, if appropriate, will be shared with the wider membership.

Requests to Attend Phase Association Executive Committee or Board Meetings

The Executive Committee or Board of each Phase Association meets on a regular basis, typically half termly in addition to other events which attract a wider schools’ audience e.g. Briefings or Conferences and will often receive approaches from Local Authority officers or partner agencies to attend.

Requests to attend meetings should follow the following protocol:

  • Requests to attend a meeting should be submitted in the first instance to the Devon SLS SEC, DASH, SENtient Heads Operational Group Executives and/or DAG Board with a clear outline of the purpose and objectives for attendance.
  • Where it is not possible or deemed appropriate to accommodate such requests the Phase Associations will consider alternative ways of engagement perhaps by supporting wider communication via newsletters or website.
  • Any background or supporting papers should be made available at least 14 days in advance and the use of presentation slides should be kept to a minimum. Time allocated on the agenda should be used effectively; avoiding the duplication of paperwork content submitted previously and focus on desired outcomes and agreed actions with prescribed timescales.
  • Attendance at Phase Association Executive Committee or Board meetings does not constitute or alleviate the need for a full and comprehensive consultation with the wider schools’ membership.

Reviewed May 2021 Next Review March 2022

f. Schedule of working groups ( as of 1.4.21)

Working Group Name – Statutory Boards (Essential): Frequency Number of Reps Comments
Devon Education Forum (DEF) 1/2 day/ 4 per annum Devon SLS – 4 (Pri) and 4 (Sec) SENtient – 1 DAG – 9 All phases represented – proportionate to number of pupils and designation (Academy/LA) – reviewed annually end of summer term.
Standing Advisory Council for RE (SACRE) Full day/3 per annum Devon SLS – 1 (Pri) and 1 (Sec)
Working Group Name – Other DEF Sub-groups and L/A working groups (Essential): Frequency Number of reps Comments
Schools Finance Group (SFG) 4 hours/ 6 per annum Devon SLS – 3 (Pri) & –3 (Sec) SENtient – 2
DAG – 3
All phases represented. Additional Task & Finish sub-group meetings frequently required to look at formula modelling etc.
Schools Organisation, Capital and Admissions (SOCA) ½ day/4 per annum Devon SLS – 3 SENtient – 2
DAG – 1
All phases represented.
Heads Liaison Group (HLG)/Schools’ Reference Group 2 hours/ 6 per annum Devon SLS -2 (Pri) & 2 (Sec) SENtient – 1 Since March 2020 replaced by DCC Covid-19 Strategic Group held Fridays weekly.
DCC Learner Services Contract Renewal Fortnightly Devon SLS – 1 DAG – 1 Reports to School Finance Group (SFG).
Working Group Name – Safeguarding, Early Help and SEND (Essential): Frequency Number of reps Comments
Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP)

DCC Children’s Services Improvement Board

2 hours/monthly Devon SLS – 1 (Pri) and 1 (Sec) SENtient – 1 Task and Finish Group 2020/21
Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP) SEND Improvement Board 2 hours/10 per annum Devon SLS – 1 SENtient – 1 Reports to Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP)
Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP) SEND Improvement Board 2 hours/10 per annum Devon SLS – 1 SENtient – 1 Reports to Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP)
DFCP SEND Improvement Board workstream: SEND Implementation Design Group 2 hours/ 6 per annum Devon SLS – 1 SENtient – 1 Reports to Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP)
DCFP SEND Improvement Board Workstream: Communication and Engagement 2 hours/monthly Devon SLS – 1 (Pri) and 1 (Sec)
SENtient – 1
Reports to Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP)
Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP) Education Advisory Group (EAG) (Safeguarding) 2 hours/ 6 per annum Devon SLS – 1 (Pri) and 1 (Sec)
SENtient – 1
DAG -1
Safeguarding focus reporting to Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP)
Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP) Early Help Improvement Board (EHIB) 2 hours/ 6 per annum Devon SLS – 1 (Pri) and 1 (Sec) Early Help focus reporting to Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP)
EH4MH Contract Oversight Group 2 hours/ 3 per annum Devon SLS – 1 (Pri) and 1 (Sec)
SENtient – 1
DAG -1
Young Carers Steering Group 1 hour/monthly Devon SLS – 1 (Pri) and 1 (Sec)
SEND Funding Appeals Panel 2 hours/when required Devon SLS – 2 (Pri)
Working Group Name (Desirable): Frequency Number of reps Comments
Devon Music Education Hub Strategic Board Termly Devon SLS – 2
Devon Norse Liasison Group Termly Devon SLS – 1 Attendance funded by Devon Norse.
New HT Induction Programme Termly Devon SLS – 2 Hosted by DCC/Babcock LDP. Devon SLS aHead input to cover role of Phase Associations.
DCC People Scrutiny Meetings Varies Varies Occasional attendance requested for input on Agenda items related to schools and education.
Devon Education Fund Panel Annual Devon SLS – 1 (Pri) and 1 (Sec)
SENtient – 1
DAG -1
Panel convenes annually to consider bids for DCC/Babcock Education Fund. 2020 deferred to 2021.
Working Group Name (Optional): Frequency Number of reps Comments
DCC and/or Joint Venture Related e.g. Interviews for key personnel, EAP Review Occasional Devon SLS By invitation/specific request. Reimbursement usually sought for attendance.