‘Vertical Tutoring is not just a ‘pastoral reorganisation’ as many schools think although this might appear to be the start. Vertical Tutoring is a better and more effective way of running schools as organisations which, if well managed, will ensure that everything improves including outcomes. It requires no extra effort or funding and serves to remind us of why we became teachers. In many ways it is a systems thinking approach to school management.
‘ (Barnard, 2006) The Vertical Tutoring Model, also known as Vertical Mentoring, seems to be a relatively new design in mainstream schooling and is increasingly being introduced to schools all over the country. It seems to have been born out of or at least support by academic tutorial or (‘deep learning conversation’) and the creative use of data. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust published non-statutory guidelines ‘A new shape for schooling?
‘ (Hargreaves, 2006), promoting Personalised Learning. It is supported by the idea of ‘the four Deeps’; Deep Learning, Deep Experience, Deep Support and Deep Leadership. Vertical Tutoring seems to address the Deeps on a number of levels. As quoted from (Barnard, 2006), it is not just about a ‘reorganisation of the school pastoral system’, it is a change for Deep support where the form in which mentoring and coaching changes and advice a guidance can be delivered in a different manner.
In my experience of Vertical Tutoring, mentoring wasn’t always coming direct from the form tutor, nor from a teacher or a member of support staff, quite often I found that the advice and guidance was coming from peers within the tutor group and not always the elder pupils either. Why is this? I can only put it down to confidence and relationships that have been built amongst their peers. I witnessed a year 10 boy from my adopted form group, consoling a year 8 boy, who had been given a detention for something he claimed to have played no part in.
My thoughts on this at the time were that the year 10 lad was likely to have been in his position before, I could tell from his character. I remember so from my experiences as a pupil of probably being in the same boat, however for me to have spoken to him, I believe it would have had ill-affect as I am far removed from his school peers, someone of his own age would have only had equal or less knowledge and expertise on the subject, but a peer only a little older had that experience and has had the time to reflect, is someone that is not removed from the context and therefore was in a position to console.
This could also extend further to homework tasks. As we were a fortunate group to be located in an ICT suite with all facilities available to the group, pupils had the luxury of choosing to do their own work in form time (in self-directed study sessions). Vertical Mentoring can create a situation whereby peers can help in deep learning, ‘Students are much better at spotting mistakes or weaknesses in other pupils work than in their own and are much tougher on each other than any teacher would dare to be.
‘ (Wiliam, 2002) This can also have better effect as Professor Dylan Wiliam goes onto state how pupils can take and act on criticism from peers more easily than a teacher, ‘(as one student remarked: “Teachers have got a funny kind of language if you know what I mean. “)’ (Wiliam, 2002) This also brings into account the theories behind ‘pupil-speak’ and how this environment can be serve in reinforced learning, therefore a Deeper Learning as well as Deeper Support. Having never experienced (or in fact heard of) the vertical tutoring model until earlier this academic year, I was sceptical of how it would if at all work.
When sent to my first placement school, I was faced with this very model. In its debut year of implementation; it was its virgin month of practice. I must admit it could have been in place for ten years, it seemed to be working seamlessly. I am not aware of how they implemented the transition of moving from a more traditional, horizontal, year group tutoring, but it seemed to be working well, with all pupils interacting within year groups but also across year groups, with very little confusion.
However, I still remained with my previous thoughts of the system. I always thought that it would help the year 7 pupils in the transitional period (making the jump from eldest to youngest), as they would have the familiar faces of their form members, to look up to. ‘The transition from Primary to Secondary is regarded as one of the most difficult in pupils’ educational careers. ‘ (Zeedyk & al, 2003) Within a fairly short period of time, bonds would be made and anxieties maybe relieved by guidance from those elder peers.
But I could not see how it would benefit the elder pupils themselves? After having a conversation with a fellow PGCE student, I was directed into looking into the relationship of peers teaching peers and who actually benefits from this interaction of learning? Research carried out in the United States on Cooperative Learning Models (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, The Nuts & Bolts of Cooperative Learning, 1994) (Slavin, 2004), show evidence that the pupil offering the teaching greater benefits from doing so than that of the pupil taking on the learning.