How Middlesbrough College transitioned from Ofsted grade 3 to 2 with the help of the HOW2 Instructional Coaching Platform  | NCFE

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How Middlesbrough College transitioned from Ofsted grade 3 to 2 with the help of the HOW2 Instructional Coaching Platform 

The challenge 

Middlesbrough is the largest college in Teesside, offering a range of full and part-time courses, apprenticeships and university-level courses. Providing high-quality continuing professional development (CPD) for its large and diverse body of teaching staff has always been a top priority for the college’s Director of Teaching and Learning Gordon Duffy-McGhie, who firmly believes that whether you have lots of qualifications or not, you are capable of doing great things. 

Up until recently, the college relied on training courses and one-off events to train, support and develop its staff. Coaching workshops dealt with specific teaching topics, with one trainer delivering set content to multiple teachers.  

Like many senior leaders, Gordon was concerned that over time, these one-off events and courses would not be enough to deliver the outstanding and sustained improvements in the college’s teaching practises he was looking for. He was also concerned that whilst he could provide evidence of attendance at training events, it was difficult to evaluate and evidence the impact that the training was having on his staff’s professional development and student outcomes. 

In addition, Gordon was aware that courses weren’t always aligned with his staff’s immediate teaching and learning concerns. Equally problematic was the fact that teachers and trainers found having to go to a set place at a set time both disruptive and time intensive, as well as inconvenient for the staff that worked non-traditional hours. 

An evolutionary, democratic solution 

Gordon was searching for an alternative approach to CPD that would deliver results - not just to get through an inspection and get a good grade - but that could be sustained and improved upon year after year. At the same time, he needed an approach that would cater for the individual professional development needs of his entire body of staff.   

With 24/7 instant access to over 160 step-by-step visual guides to evidence-based teaching techniques and a range of social learning tools to promote and facilitate shared, community-driven learning, the HOW2 interactive coaching platform offered the evolutionary, democratic solution that Gordon was looking for.   

The HOW2 platform allows Middlesbrough College to maintain a coherent approach to professional development, which is implemented at an organisational level and led by the college and can guarantee parity of access and support, regardless of whether staff are full or part-time, working closeby or remotely. 

The precise, easy-to-navigate infographics make learning and adapting the HOW2 techniques quick and easy for the college’s large and diverse body of staff that spans a wide range of subject disciplines and varying levels of experience. Gordon explains:  

“The fact that the HOW2s are available on a 24/7 basis means that staff can dip in and out of the platform whenever they have the time. Staff no longer have to cram attendance at training sessions into their already busy schedules. The HOW2s also allow people from different backgrounds to have the same conversation, because they all have access to the same starting point and infographic.”  

Embedding HOW2s into professional learning activities 

From learning walks and performance management to lesson observations, the teaching staff at Middlesbrough have embedded the HOW2 techniques into the college’s core professional teaching and learning activities - something that, according to Gordon, has been key to the college’s move from the third to the top quartile in the UK’s Department for Education measures for apprenticeship provision. 

Since incorporating the HOW2s into its lesson observation process, for example, areas identified for improvement result in teachers selecting a HOW2 solution and teaching and learning coaches following up with individuals on the precise steps they want to take to improve their practice. Support is democratised throughout the organisation and coaches can use the HOW2 dashboard to monitor and track progress. 

Student outcomes and evidencing impact 

For the Middlesbrough quality management team, being able to provide a plethora of practical guides and show staff - step-by-step - how to implement strategies that make significant improvements to teaching and learning has resulted in powerful student outcomes.  

In addition to improved outcomes, the HOW2 app has also given managers the ability to evidence where and how the improved outcomes have come from. The HOW2 skills exchange feature allows staff to quickly see who is considering or working on, or has already embedded a particular technique – not only providing a useful framework for the exchange of ideas across the organisation, but a useful tool for measuring and monitoring individual usage.  

According to Gordon, the HOW2 platform has helped the college with Ofsted compliance, not just in the short-term but sustainably. Since 2019, CIF scores are based less on what outcomes are produced by students, and more on how the students achieve those outcomes. He says: 

“The HOW2s put us in a good place because the platform evidences how teachers are achieving favourable outcomes. Inspectors were particularly impressed by the way that we were able to provide evidence of how our staff shared best practises across and between subject areas. They could also see evidence of the impact of the HOW2 techniques through managerial, assessment and observation reports.” 

He added: “Inspectors like the fact that the HOW2s support our leaders and our curriculum managers to explicitly support staff with their professional development. They give managers and teachers the same framework both to view and to track the progress that they make. 

A comprehensive menu of support and shared community learning opportunities 

Since subscribing to the platform, the staff at Middlesbrough feel that they have a much more comprehensive menu of support. With instant access to HOW2s to deal with a wide range of classroom concerns, there’s no delay and professional development is less onerous and stressful. The skills exchange makes it really easy to ‘buddy up’ with experienced teachers for support.  

Key benefits 

  • Safe space for teachers to experiment with new teaching techniques 
  • Peer-to-peer sharing of ideas and best practises 
  • Personalised, long-term approach to learning and embedding new techniques 
  • Improved student outcomes 
  • At-a-glance view of usage to measure and evaluate impact 
  • Support for distributed, diverse learning environments 
  • Easy to understand visual, step-by-step guides. 


Commenting on the post-implementation support delivered by the HOW2 team, Gordon said: “We’ve been very happy with both the back office support in terms of reporting usage and non-usage, pre and post subscription training and development offered online. HOW2 Lead webinars are really useful in discussing and uncovering emerging issues and revealing new tools and resources. The HOW2 team is very proactive in helping subscribers make the most out of the system and help staff to engage more deeply with it.” 

I can’t imagine what we would have to invest to get the same level of support to the same number of teachers on the same number of occasions as we do when we implement HOW2s.

Gordon Duffy-McGhie, Director of Teaching, Learning and Student Experience at Middlesbrough College