Vertical Tutoring FAQ

Vertical Tutoring FAQ

We introduced a new system of tutoring to the school in September 2016, which is known as ‘vertical tutoring’ (VT). The key focus of VT is to develop high-quality learning relationships that bring out the best in all who are engaged in the learning process. This includes all students, all parents/carers, and all staff.

So, what is Vertical Tutoring?

The change to VT has seen a significant reduction in the size of our tutor groups, which means that a large number of staff employed by the school in a professional capacity, teachers and support staff, are involved in tutoring. Tutor groups have two tutors, one of whom takes the lead, which is a significant investment in higher-quality learning relationships. The key to vertical tutoring involves the composition of the tutor groups. Each tutor group is populated by students from Years 7 -11, creating a balance of age, gender, ability, ethnicity, and behaviour so that all groups share a similar profile. Tutor groups are small, on average four students from each year group, so tutor groups of 20 or fewer. The idea is to form balanced groups and balanced houses. Friendship is not a first consideration, therefore, as this is not social time. Each tutor group is allocated to one of five houses, thus creating schools within schools. This is sometimes called a nested system, and will help to ensure that every child is known and valued as an individual even better than they are now.

Why did we change?

No matter how tutor time is arranged and organised, and no matter how skilled the tutor, tutor arrangements in year groups fall short of what is needed to support the key areas on which successful learning and teaching depend. Despite best intentions, in same age tutor groups of 25+ there are too many ‘invisible’ children, many of whom go through the system doing the right things day in and day out and not having at least one adult in the school who knows them well. Learning relationships between people (student, parents/carers and tutors) are the basis for teaching and learning capability and successful outcomes. Tutors are the key to learning as a whole school process. The teacher and the learner depend on the tutor as the key to learning. In particular, VT enables our school to:

  1. Significantly improve parent partnership and parent involvement in the learning process.
  2. Provide better opportunities for all students to develop as leaders and mentors.
  3. Establish stronger, lasting, and more substantive learning relationships between students, parents and carers and the school.
  4. Intervene rapidly and effectively when things go wrong or when there are concerns.
  5. Develop better learning dispositions and attitudes that research advises and we all know, are critical to increasing learning intelligence.
  6. Ensure a significant reduction in bullying through the new mentoring and in-group loyalty structures.
  7. Keep aspirations high by working more closely with students and parents/carers to improve individual and group support.
  8. Change the way assessment for learning works so that it better supports learning and teaching.
  9. Improve information flow between home and school - so vital to learning and to successful outcomes. 
Evidence to date shows that VT is the best and most cost-effective means of ensuring that we deliver on our promises as a school; it enables us to do our best for all students and to deliver the values we hold dear. VT also provides a better means of ensuring that every student is recognised, known, and supported. Personal tutors do not only see every child every day, but care passionately about them as young people and as learners. But this is not the only learning relationship that VT enhances. It is also important to us that parents/carers benefit by having a personal but enhanced contact with tutors who not only know each child well, but who can listen to your concerns and ideas. VT ensures that our partnership with you works effectively.

Students are in tutor time for about 15 minutes each day; there is no formal teaching in this time. The rest of the school day, evenings, weekends, and social networking time is more than sufficient for students to maintain their current friendships. The intention is that having students of different ages trained in leadership and mentoring and who are able to assist, guide, and support others through the example they set and the empathy they show, will provide benefits for all students. We expect the change to VT to make a significant impact on every child’s self-esteem, confidence, to the quality of teaching and learning and support that the school offers. We want all children to be the kind of leaders that the school needs them to be, that we know they can be, and that they know they have to be in the world beyond school. Tutors play a vital role in this process. They are there to support mixed-age tutoring and mentoring in ways that benefit all students. They also act as your child’s personal mentor, guide, and advocate throughout each student’s career at school.

How will parent partnership be improved?

Despite the increased complexity of education today, we feel that 5 minutes slots with subject teachers for meeting parents/carers and communicating with you are not sufficient to develop working relationships or to enable effective support of all students’ learning. We are using the VT system to build systematic parent/carer partnership, the school’s working relationship with you. We are aware that research shows that families and peer groups exert a powerful influence on student outcomes. This is why as a school we need to work more closely with you than has ever been the case and why we must ensure that students are in groups designed to bring out the best in them. A vertical system with its mixed-age tutor groups, allows us to develop and enhance the many learning relationships on which achievement depends and character best develops.

The key success rests in a number of areas but especially with the role of the tutors and their impact in working with their mixed-age tutor groups. We are placing the tutor at the heart of the school and all staff are expected to play their part, which includes members of the senior leadership team being tutors. Information home dovetails in with the academic tutorial process. The progress updates prior to the academic tutorial have been enhanced to include written strategies for improvement that all parties can understand, use, and discuss. Full reports also recognise the many other talents each child has and which are deserving of attention.

At these critical learning times, parents/carers and students are invited by their child’s personal tutors to take part in an in-depth academic tutorial. These occasions enable a more complete overview and assessment to be made with regard to progress in learning besides providing a means of identifying any further support needed. It is envisaged that such a key meeting will last for 30 - 40 minutes and because of its importance, these academic tutorial periods are identified on the calendar from the start of each academic year. Subject evenings will remain in addition in Year 10 only (as well as an academic tutorial in that year). We are aiming to continually improve communications, assessment, and support system around this key learning relationship.