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Creating form groups with students of different ages may seem unnatural, but we strongly believe that they will improve relationships and prepare our students for future life and the working world. We value effective relationships as fundamental to Igniting a Passion for Learning.
We know and have visited some of the increasing numbers of schools who are moving away from the traditional tutor group towards mixed age tutor groups. (Please see video in the Video Galleries in the Media tab of this Website.). Rather than students being drawn from a single year, the groups are a cross-section of a few students from different years. This is called Vertical Tutoring.
We switched to vertical tutor groups in September 2011. We also increased the number of tutor groups, thereby making them considerably smaller. With between 14 and 16 tutees in each group drawn from students in years 9, 10, 11 and Post 16, tutors are able to give each student considerably more attention than is possible within the previous tutor group arrangements that can be upwards of 25 students. Their members will stay the same over the final five years of secondary education.
“We had to do something to improve the support we are offering to the children,” says David Taylor, Headteacher. “In terms of achievement our students are doing very well but one issue we weren’t sure we were getting absolutely right is whether each child got enough individual support. Vertical tutor groups allow form tutors to give children more attention at key times, rather than students dealing with issues en masse. Furthermore, getting older students to work alongside younger ones reflects family life much more and gives them a chance to get to know people of different ages”.
“There are certain pressure points for particular year groups, and if you have a tutor group of different ages, you can focus on different year groups at different times,” Mrs Robinson, Learning Progress Leader says. “This might be choosing options for Year 9s or sorting out work experience places for Year 10s, Post 16 courses in Year 11 or University and College places in Year 13. It can also ease the burden on teachers. In a new tutor group, a tutor will have four, rather than 25+, Year 11 students to worry about when it comes to preparing for GCSE exams. This provides scope for personalising each student’s education”.
We believe that one of the benefits is that older children will feel more of an affinity with the younger ones. They will have a greater feeling of responsibility for the younger ones in their group and will support them in their learning journey by drawing on their experiences. In this way it encourages them to develop leadership skills. This is particularly important for students outside the small number who get involved in existing structures, such as the School Council.
The initial reaction from students was mixed. However, the excellent Team Building Day in September was really important in helping to form the group. Slowly but surely the students are starting to embrace the change. Much of the initial concern revolved around the misconception that the new groups would apply beyond tutorial time and students would not be able to spend their breaks and lunchtimes with friends. There was also a belief that it could lead to more bullying. Whilst it is difficult to say that Vertical Tutoring is the sole reason, the number of bullying incidents has reduced during the first half of the Autumn Term.
Tutorial time takes place for half an hour in the middle of the school day. Please see the Tutoring page of this Website for further information.