Empowering Parish and Town Councils in Northamptonshire

Community Governance

Community Governance offers a range of advanced qualifications which are all distance learning with residential study days. The qualification looks at the way in which people and organisations work together and independently, making decisions for the benefit of a local community. Study for a qualification awarded by De Montfort University (DMU):

  • Certificate of Higher Education (Level 4)
  • Foundation Degree (Level 5)
  • Honours Degree (Level 6)

For more information visit https://www.slcc.co.uk/qualification/community-governance/

We have a number of clerks in Northamptonshire who have or are studying for the various levels of Community Governance.

We're sharing Rosie's story:

Rosie's story

Level 5 presentation

I started working at Earls Barton Parish Council in May 2003.

I was looking for a job that I could do from home to fit around childcare. My eldest daughter was unwell and was admitted to hospital a few times so I needed more flexible working so that I could look after her. My mum was a member of the Parish Council and recommended the role to me.

I completed my CiLCA seven years after starting my career as a Clerk.

I was considering doing more studying but didn't know whether I would be able to commit to it, it felt really daunting. So, I did a taster module of Community Governance Level 4 on planning in 2016. This was based around the Neighbourhood Planning system so it was something that we had been working on as a Parish Council and I felt that it would be interesting and useful. Once I had completed the taster module and passed with a mark that I was pleased with, it gave me the push to carry on with my studies and I signed up for the full Level 4 experience.

Community Governance is more in depth than CiLCA. Whereas CiLCA looks at how we do what we do, Community Governance also looks at why we do it. There are also modules that cover the things that we take on as Clerks that aren't necessarily recognised from the outside. When people think of the Clerk, they think of the one that takes the minutes, does the accounts, etc. As well as covering finance and law and procedures in more detail, Community Governance really helps with those added extras like project management, the planning system, community engagement, power and influence, the decision-making process and much more. Level 4 builds on what is learned in CiLCA and is recognised in law as a qualification for clerks in line with a Certificate for Higher Education.

It took me a further two years to achieve Level 4 after I had completed my taster module. There are three 24-hour study days per year (usually we all meet in a hotel or at De Montford University, but we have been holding these online during Covid). In addition, there are additional tutorials, and the tutors are fantastic, really supportive. We also have access to online resources, including the DMU Library. It is estimated that each module involves an average of 3 hours per week study time, but this includes attendance at teaching events, private study time and learning in the workplace. It sounds daunting but I found it manageable and the workplace learning you are doing anyway!

Once I had completed Level 4, I signed up for Level 5. Level 5 allows you to expand the legislative and procedural knowledge you gained at Level 4 and to develop critical thinking, analytical and leadership skills. It develops your ability as a professional clerk to lead and advise your council. The study time is the same as Level 4 so you are much more aware of how and when you will be allocated time for studying, which makes it easier in that respect. I achieved my Level 5, which is the equivalent of a Foundation Degree, at the end of 2020, and was 'virtually' presented my award at the SLCC Practitioners Conference in February 2021. I have also signed up and started studying for Level 6, an Honours Degree.

I can't thank Earls Barton Parish Council enough for the support that they have given me. I am very lucky that they recognise and value having a qualified Clerk. They allocated funding in the training budget to cover the cost at each level. In the words of Earls Barton Parish Council "In order to fully support a parish council and to make sure that it fulfils all of its obligations and duties whilst staying completely within the law and code of ethics a level of training in community governance for the Clerk is not a luxury, it is a necessity...It is an investment in the Clerk as well as a benefit to the council".

Community Governance has benefited both the Council and myself. As well as learning many new skills and honing those that I already had, I have grown in confidence and have a greater understanding as to why parish councils operate as they do. The parish council appreciate my increased level of knowledge and I have been able to improve our ways of working and introduce new ideas to the PC. In addition, I have a whole new support network in my fellow students, who bring a raft of experience and expertise and who are only too happy to provide help and support where it's needed. These new friendships are ones that I appreciate greatly.

Quote From Earls Barton Parish Council

"In order to fully support a parish council and to make sure that it fulfils all of it's obligations and duties whilst staying completely within the law and code of ethics a level of training in community governance for the clerk is not a luxury it is a necessity.

By their very nature parish councils are generally made up of lay people with good intentions but little knowledge of the legislative and financial framework in which their council operates. I certainly believe that in Earls Barton we have benefitted greatly from the clerk's training and qualifications in this area. The clerk is the only paid official that a parish has and therefore a lot of responsibility is placed upon that post holder. To ask them to do it without training would be unreasonable.

Additionally the clerk provides continuity where councillors come and go after elections and whilst some members may be very experienced and knowledgeable in the ways of local government they will not always be there so that level of training from their clerk to underpin their decisions is vital. It has regularly proved to be so in Earls Barton.

I would recommend every parish council to encourage their clerk to take up community governance training year on year. It is an investment in the clerk as well as a benefit to the council."

Last updated: Tue, 16 Mar 2021 11:03