Rose and Pelleschi and the impact of VT on a school in special measures
Two writers with experience of VT who did produce an article for a peer-reviewed academic journal are Derek Rose and Alun Pelleschi. In 1997 they were headteacher and section manager at a Sheffield school which was in special measures, in large part because of serious behaviour problems and the failure of the pastoral system to effectively protect the welfare of the pupils (Rose and Pelleschi, 1998). The school was on a split site and so it was decided to vertically integrate Years 7-9 on one site and Years 10-11 on the other (ibis.). The writers also increased the number of staff involved in pastoral care and, by means of section leaders, senior tutors, tutors and associate tutors reduce the staff to tutee ratio to 1 to 15. This provides an interesting case study and although it is by two people with a personal investment in its being seen as successful, they do give both the positive and negative data from their surveys of pupils, parents and staff. They also say that the poor response rate to their surveys – 54% of pupils, 40% of parents and 58% of staff – meant that their results were not statistically significant (Rose and Pelleschi, 1998).

The evidence for an improvement in prosocial behaviour included 79% of pupils saying that their form got on well and 91% of parents saying that they felt that their child was safe and well looked after at the school. One statement, not based on survey evidence but presumably on the writers’ observations and anecdotal comments from tutors, suggests a significant improvement in prosocial behaviour directly linked to the mixing of ages in tutor groups:

‘older siblings became became more positive role models…confidence improved as there was always an older pupil to whom to turn for help, which in turn gave a responsible and valued role to older pupils.’
(Rose and Pelleschi, 1998, p. 30)

As shall be seen later in this chapter, roles, role models, confidence and a sense of responsibility are important to the development and realisation of prosocial behaviour (Eisenberg and Mussen, 1990). However, their surveys also suggest some obstacles to prosocial behaviour and room for improvement in the activities done to help pupils and promote helping behaviour. Only 43% of pupils said they ‘liked the new tutor group arrangements’ and 12% (mostly pupils in the upper school who had been separated from friends) said ‘they felt isolated’ (Rose and Pelleschi, 1998, p. 31). Interestingly pupils and tutors both commented that they thought they needed more time with each other and obviously sufficient time is extremely important for the success of any activity, but senior pastoral staff felt that tutors were not using the time they had wholly productively (Rose and Pelleschi, 1998).

Overall this case study suggests that the change to VT had a positive impact on prosocial behaviour. The apparent success of the intergroup sports competition in establising ‘a good spirit amongst staff and pupils’ (Rose and Pelleschi, 1998, p. 30) also resonates with what I later found in my own research about the teambuilding value of such activities. However, the results of the survey are not only limited by the low response rate but cannot be compared to any pre-change survey data.