Vertical Tutor Groups
After months of consultation, research and discussion, the Pastoral Care Team made a transition from the previous horizontal tutor groups (which were organised in House grade groups of up to 26 students) to vertical tutor groups (House-based groups of 12 - 15 students of mixed ages from Grade 8 to Grade 12). Tutors meet twice a week with their tutor groups and the smaller groups make pastoral care more meaningful and individualised.
Vertical tutoring is a general trend in the top international schools in Australia, Europe, the UK and America. After analysing a vast number of articles on vertical tutor groups, discussing the pros and cons at length and consulting with teachers who have been in schools that offer a vertical tutor system, the Pastoral Care Team could not ignore the huge value to the students of Dainfern College that this system provides.
Why the change?
Some of the benefits of vertical tutor groups include:
- Senior students have the opportunity to be a leader in their tutor groups. Leadership qualities are important life skills that are highly valued in higher education and by employers.
- Vertical tutoring systems counteract negative aspects of peer pressure and the most frequent form of reported bullying, peer bullying. Schools that operate a vertical system report a significant reduction in incidents of bullying.
- All High School teachers now tutor and the students are organised into smaller tutor units that enable them to gain greater individual attention and support.
- Students stay with the same tutor throughout their High School journey and the continuity of care within the tutor group means that students feel a sense of belonging and form a stronger connection with the tutor.
- A student’s experience of vertical tutoring is that of being part of a ‘family’, with older students looking out for and supporting younger students in the tutor group. Older students develop a more caring outlook as they watch out for younger students in their tutor group.
- It allows for greater creativity within the tutor group experience.
- Older students help the younger ones with an understanding of school commitments, organisation, social and relationship issues, and with homework! Younger students help to inform older students about their life and issues at school.
- Peer mentoring is easily organised within vertical tutoring, benefiting both the mentor and the mentee.
- It helps Grade 8 students integrate into the life of the school quickly and in small, secure groups.
- It helps all students to get to know others across the school grades.
The Deputy Directors still oversee the Grade 8s and 9s, especially the Grade 8s in their first year.
How do vertical tutor groups work in practice?
Each House has 11 Tutor Groups with about 12 - 15 students in each group. Each group is comprised of two to three students from each of the grades, from Grade 8 to Grade 12. The students will remain in the same tutor group for their school career. Grade 8s therefore come into an established caring system and are easily integrated into the life of the College with lots of support from older students. Grade 11 mentors and Grade 8 mentees are placed in the same tutor group. We are very excited about how this will take mentoring to a new level at Dainfern College. There will also be an SRC representative in each tutor group. Students will have the opportunity to interact with friends in their own grade during academic classes and breaks.
I would like to share some comments from students and teachers that have made the transition to vertical tutor groups in other schools:
- What’s long, strong and surprisingly popular? The answer, you may be surprised to hear, is a vertical tutor group. Having both worked as heads of year we had thought of ourselves as strong advocates of the horizontal, year-based pastoral system that still prevails in most schools in this country. However, we now look back on our move to a vertical system – within which tutor groups are equally comprised of students drawn from all year groups within the school – as one of the strongest school improvement measures that we have introduced to the school.
- Vertical tutoring has given the older children a feeling of responsibility for the younger ones in their group.
- There’s much better behaviour at break times because everyone knows each other now.
- One of the benefits of vertical tutoring is that it gives responsibility to older pupils, encouraging them to develop leadership skills.
- Behaviour has clearly improved around the school. We have noticed a reduction in the number of petty incidents at lunchtime and break. We feel that vertical tutoring has already moved us in the direction of the extended, cross-age family ethos that we wish to develop within the school.
- The opportunity for peer mentoring is one of the principal benefits of vertical tutoring. Having mixed age groups helps to allay younger pupils’ fear of older children and gives older pupils the chance to look after younger ones.
In a nutshell we strongly believe in the concept of vertical tutor groups because they achieve the following:
- Better trust in smaller groups.
- Reduced incidence of bullying
- More friends in other year groups.
- Allow older students to care for younger students.
- Provide an opportunity for younger students to be helped by older students (for example, when choosing options).
- Provide an opportunity for students to learn from each other.
- Allow all students to understand and be aware of the whole school picture.
- Allow more contact time between mentee and mentor.
- Enhance peer mentoring.
- Result in a greater sense of loyalty and responsibility.
- Encourage friendly competition within and between tutor groups.
- Allow tutors to give individual attention and support.
- Create a greater sense of belonging and being part of a family.
- Help develop closer relationship between tutors and parents due to smaller groups.
The Pastoral Care team is very excited about the Vertical Tutor groups and is confident that each and every child really benefits from being fully integrated into smaller “family “units.
There are 11 House Tutors in each House: please visit our House pages to see the Tutors for Griffin, Kraken and Phoenix.
Head of Pastoral Care, Outreach & Leadership