What is Vertical Tutoring (VT)?

As stated on the home page, the ‘vertical’ in Vertical Tutoring means mixed age. The ‘tutoring’ part means taking care of the non-academic aspects of students’ lives, including attendance, personal development, careers, general behaviour and general well-being (also known as ‘pastoral care’). So Vertical Tutoring means tutoring school students in mixed age tutor groups.

In an English secondary school, a tutor group (also known as a form, form group or registration group) is an organisational unit of pupils placed together under the supervision of a form tutor (usually a teacher) for the purpose of pastoral care and general administration. In most English secondary schools the tutor has their tutor group for a short session of around 20-30 minutes every day, typically first thing in the morning. This is often referred to as tutor time, form time or registration.


Note: there is no rule which says schools have to have tutor groups or daily tutor time, and I have heard of at least one that doesn’t (Harris Academy Chafford Hundred - which has weekly one-to-one ‘Learning Guidance’ sessions instead). Schools are legally obliged to register their students morning and afternoon, to check that they are attending, but this can now be done by computer in every lesson. However, I’ve never come across an English secondary school which didn’t have a formal structure for monitoring and supporting students’ general welfare and progress (pastoral care).In most English state secondary schools, according to my experience and the experience of colleagues (type of pastoral structure is not recorded by Ofsted (Corfield, 2010)) pupils are grouped in tutor groups by year. A typical secondary school might have six tutor groups in Year 7 with around 30 Year 7 pupils each, six tutor groups in Year 8 with 30 Year 8 pupils each and so on up the school for each year group. The tutors and pastoral care for each year group, or sometimes two year groups or a whole key stage in smaller schools, are overseen by one member of staff, traditionally called a head of year but terms such as head of learning or progress manager are also used now. In my research I have chosen to call this Horizontal Tutoring (HT), in contrast to Vertical Tutoring (VT).



In a minority of schools (around 15% according to my own exploration of the details found on school websites and Ed Fitzpatrick, the head teacher of a VT and VL school who said he also found about ‘500’ when he and colleagues at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust looked at VT) each tutor group contains a mixture of a few pupils from each year group, for example three Year 7s, three Year 8s, three Year 9s and so on. These tutor groups are generally organised into ‘houses’ or schools within the school under a senior or middle ranking member of staff known as a house leader or something similar. For the last forty years this has commonly been called Vertical Tutoring (Barnard, 2010; Haigh, 1975; Marland, 1980).Advantages of Vertical TutoringDisadvantages of Vertical Tutoring