The academy’s tutor groups are known as Vertical Mentor Groups (VMG) because each group has students of differing ages from Year 7 to Year 11, with approximately 5 students from each year group. The VMG are linked to a continent, which consists of ten VMG. The continents are Africa, Europe, Asia, America and Oceania. VMG time is mid morning and lasts for 20 minutes and each group has a Mentor (usually a teacher) who delivers a programme of discussions and activities centred on themes outside the usual curriculum. The students have their weekly assembly in these continents.
The assemblies focus on selected skills, and tutors are provided with two sets of resources which link to the assemblies. These follow up activities are completed in VMG time. The themes for the continent assemblies are based on the habits of success, skills and qualities to enable the students to become independent learners.
The assemblies take place in the Main Hall; when the hall is in use for other events such as exams then the assembly is filmed and shown to the VMG groups in their classrooms by their VMG tutor. This ensures that there is continuity throughout the year.
The other two days of the week are used to develop literacy and reading skills, in some instances “buddy” reading takes place between the students.
What are the aims of the Vertical Mentoring Groups?
- That the time has structure and purpose for the students.
- It allows the tutors to concentrate on key groups of students at certain times of the year (e.g.: when students are taking options) ;
- It allows learning conversations to take place, both between tutor and student and student to student;
- It increases tutors’ knowledge and expertise as the whole school is involved in initiatives with every year group – but only with a small number of students each;
- Ease transitions i.e. Year 6-7, Year 9 Options.
- It gives students more individual attention at key times of the year;
- It creates a family atmosphere in the mentor room;
- It gives the opportunity for peer mentoring and develops leadership skills amongst older students;
- It allows students to remain with the same mentor/tutor throughout their school career;
- It improves communication between mentors/tutors and parents as mentors will have smaller numbers in their mentor group;
- It breaks down social and cultural barriers by encouraging students from all year groups to engage positively with each other.
- All year groups benefit, but it also creates more opportunities for older students to show what good role models they are.
- More accurately reflects the nature of society, as people rarely exclusively work with others their own age.
- Older students have taken on responsibility for induction of younger students and positive relationships between younger and older students have flourished.
- Tutor teams will have a wide experience of the needs of a child in each year group – hence a more holistic approach is achieved.
- Students can observe the school journey through other students before it is their turn.
- Students can support each other through critical events like Options and GCSEs. Students learn most effectively from their peers.
- Assemblies have more of a community ethos.
- It has helped prevent students from getting “lost” in a big school with only 4 from each year group, the tutor gives attention and support intensively at key times
Where did the idea come from?
- Vertical Tutoring is not new; some schools have been structured in this way for many years.
- Education is changing rapidly and becoming more personalised so we have to look for new ways to support and guide our students. Many of the best/most improved schools in the country operate a system of Vertical Mentoring whereby tutor groups are a mixture of all ages and some of our staff and students have visited a selection of these to learn from their experiences.