Top college in Greater Manchester receives official praise for online learning

Top college in Greater Manchester receives official praise for online learning

Published: 18th June 2020

The Ofsted Outstanding Rochdale Sixth Form College has received praise from parents, students and now Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, for the online learning and support it has been providing students during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

The college’s year 12 and year 13 students have shown impressive rates of attendance and engagement in their online studies. The college was singled out for praise by Gavin Williamson at the recent Sixth Form Colleges Association conference.

“Take Rochdale Sixth Form College, who have shifted both timetabled lessons and tutorials to online delivery at the start of lockdown.  Online attendance figures for Rochdale have been averaging around 95% every week which is a tremendous achievement and just goes to show that ingenuity and innovation, even when it is unplanned, doesn’t mean a loss of quality.” 

Richard Ronksley, principal of Rochdale Sixth Form College said, “We continue to be impressed, but not surprised, by our staff and students’ ability to adapt to the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in. We are proud that our staff, parents and students have been recognised nationally for the tremendous work they have done, not only in relation to their online studies, but also in the way we have supported and cared for each other during this most difficult of times.”

In late March, as schools and colleges began to shut down across the country, Rochdale Sixth Form geared up for change, quickly switching all students over to a virtual timetable, and broadcasting lessons and tutorials to students using Microsoft Teams. Additional support was put in place for students who did not have access to IT facilities, loaning out laptops well before the government’s laptop scheme began. As a result, on the first day of lockdown, it was ‘business as usual’ for Rochdale Sixth Form with lessons starting promptly at 8.50am. The response from parents, carers, and students has been incredibly positive and appreciative. A few of the messages received by the college can be seen below:

“The college has dealt with this catastrophic interruption to education in an exemplary manner and a smooth transition into distance learning from home without missing a day of learning. Wonderful organisation and preparation by all staff involved and we wanted to thank you all.” 

“We just want to say how much we appreciate what the College is doing for the students.”

“In these unusual circumstances it is important to have a sense of normality to the day and the College is enabling this. Thank you for the College’s ongoing commitment to providing the best possible education for the students.”

“We wanted to email to say thank you to everyone at Rochdale Sixth Form College for the way you have kept pupils engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We think the way the college responded, ensuring a normal timetable, albeit via visual lessons has really helped Lucy stay focused.  We would definitely recommend RSFC to anyone looking at further education and cannot praise highly enough all the hard work and effort in keeping the pupils engaged, informed and valued.”

The college is proud of all of its students, including those in Year 13 who have continued to attend online lessons in preparation for the next phase of their careers, whether that is employment, apprenticeships or university.  It would have been so easy for students to stop their lessons, but they showed their character and resilience by continuing to attend in huge numbers until their last day. This culminated in an online ‘Leavers’ Celebration’ attended by over 700 year 13 students. However, that won’t be the last they hear from the college, as there will still be a weekly message from the Principal, Richard Ronksley, over the summer, and pastoral staff will still be available for any advice and support needed.

In these challenging times, the college has understood that the mental health and well being of all staff and students is of paramount importance. As well as the continuation of online learning, Rochdale has continued to work with its more vulnerable students, with pastoral staff contacting them on a weekly basis to ensure they have all the resources and support they need. Furthermore, students in Year 12 will also continue to receive their bursary allowance over the summer months, mirroring the stance taken by Marcus Rashford, who has campaigned and highlighted the struggles of some families over the holiday period.

But it hasn’t been all work and no play for staff and students. The college has held quizzes, along with providing fun activities for students to do to keep them healthy, both in body and mind. The Student Union at the college has also been instrumental in supporting mental health awareness by hosting a variety of activities, such as the recent photography competition on ‘Life under Lockdown’.

Rochdale Sixth Form has also carefully considered how it has communicated with parents, carers and students. At a time when so much misinformation has been spreading on social media, the college has sent weekly updates to students so that they have factually accurate information about coronavirus and current events in the world.

“Please do keep your updates coming, it’s helpful and comforting to feel that we are connected and part of a community.”

To help reassure and prepare our students for September, a virtual tour has been created to illustrate what college will look like on their return. This week, the college has welcomed a number of students back into the building for 1:1 teaching and support in a safe and socially distanced environment.  We look forward to welcoming all students back,  safely and supportively.

Rochdale Sixth Form College is the founding institution of the Altus Education Partnership.



For further press information about Rochdale Sixth Form College, please contact 

Yasmine Khashnood on or 07939 039975

Interviews with parents/students/staff available on request