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In Vertical Tutoring (VT) and Vertical Learning (VL), vertical means mixed age. In schools, the idea of putting young people of different ages together is often greeted with looks of horror from students, parents and staff. However, in almost every other type of organisation - including organisations of young people - mixed age is the norm. In universities, professional training courses and companies, people of very different ages work and learn together. In the Scouts, Guides, cadets and sports clubs, young people learn and play together.

This style of learning is not new. In fact, for most of human history, ‘schooling’ has been vertical - from hunter-gather clans where younger children learned from older siblings and cousins, to some of the first ‘modern’ schools in the nineteenth century where large numbers of children had to be taught by one teacher - children have been taught in mixed age groups and some (usually the older ones) have helped the teacher to look after and teach the rest. In many parts of the world (not only in developing countries but also in less densely populated areas of developed ones), children have to be educated in mixed age groups because there are not enough children or teachers to have whole classes of one year group.

However, as education became universal in the developed world and it became compulsory for children to start schooling at a certain age, there were very large numbers of children of each age who were assumed to be at the same stage of education. It seemed to make sense to teach them in year groups and, when they get to secondary school and they have lots of different teachers, put them in tutor groups with one tutor to care for their wellbeing.

Of course, in one year group the birthdays of some children will be nearly 12 months before or after some others. You can also ask yourself whether the children you know who are the same age are really at the same stage of learning and development, but when people start learning at the same age it does seem to make sense for them to progress through the stages together and then all finish at the same time.