Teaching for Distinction, the Oldham College #CPDinFE programme is working!

This week, the news was released that Oldham College received a strongly positive inspection outcome:  The press report here, tells the story:

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Click for the Oldham Chronicle news report


After an intensive four-day inspection with a large team, the College was judged ‘Good’ in all categories – many more than apply to a school.  This is such great news.  As anyone who has been there knows, operating under an RI judgement is really tough and whilst we might all wish the grades didn’t exist, they do – and it’s brilliant to be able to break free from a label that holds you back so everyone can finally embrace the future on the front foot with all the efforts of staff and students, validated, recognised and  celebrated.

A strong feature of the report is that the college is recognised absolutely rightly for being strongly inclusive with exemplary behaviour.  In my experience, the college has the most inclusive student culture of anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s a lovely lovely place to be in that respect.  It’s also great that tutors are recognised for having good industry-linked subject knowledge – I’m always so impressed with the way people with a range of working backgrounds come into teaching, learning a whole new craft alongside the one they’ve mastered in their respective professions.

The part of the report that many of us are so thrilled by is the recognition given to the impact of the teacher development programme we put in place starting in June 2017.  Principal Alun Francis had a vision for an approach to college improvement based on ‘powerful knowledge’ – in a vocational context – and evidence-based teaching.  Our ‘teaching for distinction‘ (TfD) programme has been rolled out with a long-term process in mind from the start. I described the details in this post – and a follow-up in this post. This has included first phase whole-staff training, training for faculty leaders, introducing regular fortnightly TfD faculty training sessions, appointing a team of Advanced Practitioners – each AP an expert in the TfD principles – to coach and support tutors  and continuing to blend the QA systems with earnest developmental CPD.

And it’s working! It’s really working.  We don’t think this just because Ofsted say so – we could see it working already – but, you know what, it feels really good that they could see it too.  Before they even knew about the programme, they picked up on wide-ranging progress in the quality of teaching across the college.  It stood out; it shone through.

This is what the report says:

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You can only imagine the level of celebratory fist-pumping that has gone on reading this after the effort that tutors and leaders have put into the programme.  Gill Morson, the tireless coordinator, the excellent team of TfD APs (big-ups for Sinead, Eve, Wendy, Chris and Joe), faculty leaders, and members of SLT; the tutor teams – it’s been a magnificent sustained effort and every time I visit, things have moved forward a bit more and a bit more.. It requires a slow, deep, principled and determined process – which Alun knew from the start. No quick fix.

We’ve tightened up the language a bit to make it easy to access for new staff.  Here are snapshots of the latest iteration of the programme booklet – made with the college’s customary high production values.

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If you read the detail, it links to Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion, the Didau/Rose ‘Psychology’ book and uses the graphics made by  Oliver Caviglioli.  Many thanks to those great thinkers for their contribution!

The thing we all feel is that, with Ofsted out of the way, in many ways, we’ve just begun.  The programme is far from fully embedded; it’s not yet absolutely shaped the default habits of every tutor, day in day out – but that’s the goal.  We’re carrying on.  I’ve already been asked to keep going back well into next year to help guide the process. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve achieved so far and I can’t wait to carry it all on.

Thanks to all concerned. Especially to Alun who has inspired everyone with a bold contemporary vision for what Further Education can be even in very challenging circumstances.  Congratulations Oldham College!!



  1. Ahhhh FE, my last job.
    I was at one long enough to see 2 or 3 inspections. I was impressed by the approach of the senior inspector but felt one or two of the junior ones seemed out of their depth – but that’s not a problem we are all learning. To be honest I cannot remember the result of any of the inspections – if they had been bad then I probably would have. Indeed when I taught at Uni there was zero feedback, to me, of any of the inspections (there were a few) and indeed it might have been because overall the quality of teaching in FE is far superior to HE.

    All power to your elbow for bigging up the Cinderalla edu-service which has recently decimated in Scotland (sometimes for good reason). Now the Universities are encountering pain we shall see how they cope in hard times


  2. This is great Tom, thanks for sharing. I really like the layout and the simplicity for staff to use. My school is embarking on a similar project shortly- i would lvoe to ask you some questions around this and have a closer look.

    Liked by 1 person

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