Greenhead College: Putting students at the heart of the educational journey with CEDAR

Greenhead College ‘at a glance’

  • Number of students: 2,700
  • Number of teaching and support staff: 250
  • College ethos: ‘Be exceptional’. Student-centric educational approach. Finalist in the North Educate Awards 2023.
  • Ofsted rating: ‘Outstanding’ in 2022
  • Courses: A Levels, 99.3% pass rate, 72% achieved A* - B grades
  • Destinations: In 2022, 85% students went on to university, the majority Russell Group universities.


About Greenhead College

Greenhead College is one of the best sixth form colleges in the country with a strong reputation and ethos of placing students at the heart of their educational journey, delivering the very best in academic and pastoral support.

With an Ofsted rating of ‘Outstanding’ in 2022, the College ensures all students are successful in their academic studies and develop a passion for lifelong learning. The College specialises in A Level education in subjects varying from Mathematics to Classics to Law. In 2022, Greenhead’s students achieved a 99.3% pass rate with 85% of those students going on to university, the majority achieving places at Russell Group Universities including 20 students who were offered places to study at Oxford and Cambridge.  

The College is well known for its fantastic academic outcomes, varied curriculum offering and superb pastoral care, so it is no surprise they are seeing more students applying to attend from further and further afield.

Greenhead College has been using CEDAR since early 2016 and has been a UNIT-e customer since 2014. Before using CEDAR, the College had developed its own student engagement tool, but with the lead MIS manager retiring, the decision was made to move to CEDAR to avoid high developer costs on an inhouse system. Paddy Diamond, the current Head of MIS, joined Greenhead College from Rochdale College, where CEDAR is also used, in 2016 and was influential in the roll out and implementation of CEDAR at Greenhead college. Using his experience of CEDAR at his previous college, Paddy’s plan was to “get the College using CEDAR to its fullest potential” and raise awareness of it across the institution encouraging teaching staff to embed it into their daily tasks. Paddy says that today, from staff to students, “everyone knows and uses CEDAR on a daily basis.”


Embedding CEDAR as part of college life

“Over the years as technology has become more of a key part in people’s lives, the usage of CEDAR has increased.” Paddy Diamond, Head of MIS at Greenhead College, described how the rise in technology has positively impacted the take up of the CEDAR student engagement platform across Greenhead College. Previously, teaching staff were using spreadsheets for important data sets, such as student results, but with the roll out of CEDAR, managed by Paddy from 2016 onwards, he was able to introduce staff to the idea of a digital mark book. This module in CEDAR is a place where all staff can access student academic results enabling colleges to track the performance of its entire student body. When it was first implemented, teachers at Greenhead College still wanted to have the option to import their grade spreadsheets onto the platform and Paddy championed bringing this development to the platform. Paddy says, “Colleges need a high-level view of the mark book, so it wasn’t efficient to save students’ grades in individual folders.” Now the College uses CEDAR as its digital mark book, teaching staff and senior leadership have an easily accessible view of student achievement for close to 2,800 students and can take appropriate action if an individual student’s performance causes any concern.  


Delivering a student-centric ethos through CEDAR

The heart of Greenhead College is around developing well rounded, independent learners who are successful in their academic and future professional lives. The College ethos is ‘Be exceptional in your way, achieve your potential’ whatever that may be, and teaching staff do the very best for the student based on their individual aspirations. Paddy says, “CEDAR means the College can look at each individual student and support them on their educational journey, helping them achieve and reach their potential as an individual.”  The Pastoral Log in CEDAR is key to this. This module allows colleges to capture detail on the student all in one central place, including their Individual Learning Plan (ILP), career aims, work experience, volunteering, UCAS references and destinations. Paddy describes CEDAR’s Pastoral Log as being “the overarching narrative of the learner’s journey” at the College enabling them to deliver on their student-centric mission. Paddy goes further to describe how the Pastoral Log on CEDAR underpins the College’s educational approach. “At Greenhead College, we are student-driven, not data driven. By this I mean that the data in CEDAR helps us better understand the student and informs the conversations we have with the student. All the information is in one place, which helps you understand the student holistically and flags any concerns, so you can have a conversation with them about their progress and achievement, and ultimately, help keep them on track.” In this way, CEDAR acts as the spark that ignites the conversation between teacher and student to offer a more supportive and personalised learning experience.

“CEDAR means the College can look at each individual student and support them on their educational journey, helping them achieve and reach their potential as an individual.”


Creating a personalised experience from the very start of the academic journey

Greenhead College aims to offer the best experience to prospective students from the very start of their academic journey using the Applications module in CEDAR. This helps the College to be more competitive at the point of acquiring new students, giving them a more streamlined and tailored experience. Paddy says, “This is often the very first interaction that the student has with the College, so we need to make a good impression. The applicant portal on CEDAR offers an easy to access, intuitive application process where students can find all the information they need. It’s a more competitive offer than other colleges who don’t use CEDAR and offers students a streamlined and engaging admissions experience that makes them want to choose Greenhead.”

"It’s a more competitive offer than other colleges who don’t use CEDAR and offers students a streamlined and engaging admissions experience that makes them want to choose Greenhead.”


How CEDAR data informs Greenhead College’s strategic plans

The data in CEDAR allows Greenhead College to plan their strategic direction more effectively enabling the College to be more agile and take more informed decisions.

“Through CEDAR we are able to track data patterns, which support our planning and decision making for curriculum choices and inform the outreach work we do with local feeder schools,” says Paddy Diamond, Head of MIS. An example of this is Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) where the take up has been consistently dropping year on year which and has a direct impact on curriculum options for subjects like German. Through looking at data over time on students studying German, the College can be “more agile in its course offering, either seeking opportunities to offer a differentiated curriculum to other colleges or using it to inform marketing outreach campaigns to draw more interest in the subject, like taster days with year 10 students in local feeder schools.” CEDAR allows colleges like Greenhead to build up a better picture of trends in Education so that they can act fast to define their subject offering and plan ahead helping them to be more efficient and overall, more profitable as a college business in the long run.

"With CEDAR, we can see patterns in students and use this to ensure we are offering the very best educational experience.”

Other key data sources in CEDAR allow Greenhead College to track where students are coming from and how this has changed over time. Paddy says, “We can see that each year students are coming from further afield because of the good reputation, course options and outcomes that the college delivers. For example, we are the only college in the area that does Geology, Classics and Music. We deal with students from all sorts of backgrounds as well as disadvantaged areas. With CEDAR, we can see patterns in students and use this to ensure we are offering the very best educational experience.” At Greenhead, the focus is firmly on the student, and it is thanks to the data held in CEDAR that the College can support their aims and aspirations.


How CEDAR supports parental engagement

 Students at this age are no longer at school but aren’t yet at university, so managing the level of parent engagement is a careful balance. CEDAR allows colleges to decide what level of information parents can have about students, so we give them permission to view and track attendance and at key monitoring points across the year such as mock results and the Autumn term review. But we do not make everything available as we feel that some conversations are for the student and teacher to have together.” Paddy says the ability to manage permissions in CEDAR for parents allows for greater flexibility when dealing with parent and student engagement, especially at the age where giving students more independence and accountability in preparation for university is key.


CEDAR and beyond

Greenhead College has grown recently in numbers and it is looking for capacity funding for a new building as well as potentially bidding for a STEM school for 16-18 year olds to further the Greenhead educational philosophy. The College is also facing lots of new competition entering into the market as well as a demographic bubble in the next few years which will see the number of students increase. It will be interesting to see how CEDAR continues to support the strategic efforts of the College to achieve on its educational promise to each student and build an even stronger reputation for itself.