What is it like to work as a form tutor in a school?
This month I became a form tutor again and this move back to the tutor room – for all *senior teachers and some support staff – happened when our school made a seismic shift to kick-start vertical tutoring.
I haven’t had the pleasure of undertaking this role, since I became a senior teacher 9 years ago.
My tutor and I have 21 students in our class.
We see our students for 25 minutes every day, before break and after lessons one and two. I work in the role of co-tutor, supporting the tutor in their role, having daily discussions about pastoral and academic issues and so forth. It is a wonderful experience and I’m so glad to be involved again in this important aspect of school life.
Impact on the ground …
As a senior teacher I see first-hand how school policies impact on the child, how letters sent home from meetings and decisions made in the board room are communicated and received (or not). In many ways, I feel as though I have a family again at school, something I have missed for the past decade. The students from my prior three tutor groups – dating back twenty years ago – on the whole, have careers and families of their own and it is wonderful to connect with every now and then and see how school has helped shape them.
I can now have a in-depth and detailed relationship with every student because there are two of us and less of them to manage. We can split tasks and roles and take turns to guide small groups of students through various stages of their school life. For example, transition, options, exam revision and college applications. Four students at a time, rather than 30!
More importantly, every other tutor is also doing the same.
There are more tutors, with more staff being used from middle and senior leadership. Support staff are also involved as co-tutors which is voluntary on their part. Therefore, this ensures (almost) every adult in the school also has intimate relationships with their tutees, as well as through every vital stage of a child’s schooling and the life of the school.
Today, I have twenty-one more individual lives to nurture, support and challenge.
As with any school, we have daily routines to ensure consistency and high expectations. In my experience of being a form tutor and of observing hundreds of others, it only takes a moment to lose those good habits and the routines once established at tutor time, becomes a dreadful experience for the teacher and a place of heaven for the students!
It then very difficult to establish a good ethos with the group. Worse, for a new tutor taking them over …
Consistently Good Habits:
Here are my words of wisdom to those who are relatively new to the role of tutoring:
- Consistently good form tutors spend time observing and listening. Any experienced form tutor, head of year or senior teacher will tell you that the greatest influence a form tutor can have, is to invest a great deal of time building those relationships.
- Consistently good form tutors are regimented. Any tutor new or old, experienced or not, will soon realise that routines are key to maintaining discipline and sustaining high standards.
- Consistently good form tutors are the first link between home and school. They help deal with various problems, including missing PE kits, late homework, detention disputes, lost locker keys, mobiles phones or letters from parents.
- Consistently good form tutors connect individual students with all other school staff and students. This is often under-estimated in day-to-day registration. I’ve seen countless tutor groups wallowing for 20-30 minutes everyday because tutor time has been left to rot, with no concrete activity or planning involved on the part of the year group or the tutor.
- Consistently good form tutors monitor academic and personal progress of the students in their tutor group.
- Consistently good form tutors provide relevant information to other staff about their tutees. They provide important announcements in staff briefing, place a piece of work up on the staff room wall, or share a piece of information about the child, whether a bereavement or an academic celebration. Great tutors make all staff aware.
- Consistently good form tutors co-ordinate the way the school can meet their students’ needs. They are active in their year teams and contribute to whole-school pastoral planning. They are involved in the small detail, feeding back on school planner updates, annual activities and resources that can have an impact on other tutors in all year groups.
- Consistently good form tutors are human. They share the occasional story with their tutees to allow children to gain an insight into their own life. Tutors use real stories to motivate, to sadden and to raise awareness when each child encounters a particular milestone or conversation throughout school.
- Consistently good form tutors have great relationships with every member of the family. They go the extra mile in supporting families and their children throughout school, so much so, that in a difficult situation, the most irate parents are putty in their hands. They break down barriers and follow-up, every, single, action.
- Consistently good form tutors have their safeguarding radar on everyday. They notice any change on appearance, behaviour or attitude. They keep an eye out for anyone who seems upset, especially quiet – or indeed noisy – and notify the right people at the right time.
You can read my 10 Great Form Tutor Tips in full.
Vertical tutoring now makes sense to me now that I am living it day-in, day-out. It is also my belief, that by moving to Vertical Tutoring, that you will soon see all of the good habits listed above, evident in all of our tutors.
Why not come and visit and see it all in action? Leave a comment below.
*bar designated safeguarding lead.