About St Paul’s

Vertical House Tutoring – Frequently Asked Questions

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What does Vertical House Tutoring actually mean?

Whilst the Tutor group is made up of students from the same House, they will be students for Year 7 to 12 in 2017. (see below).

What are the advantages of moving to Vertical House Tutoring?

The key advantage of us moving to Vertical House Tutoring is that it enables us to look after our students better – academically, pastorally and spiritually – building on the strong House ethos we have at St Paul’s. The learning experience of every student is authentic, personalised and holistic.

With Vertical House Tutoring, the Tutor group becomes much more like a family; the Tutor group itself is part of a larger house family. The basic family unit is made up of Tutors, students and parents. Vertical House Tutoring provides a friendlier, more cohesive social environment. Therefore,  by 2018, when Vertical Tutoring will be fully implemented, all Year 7 to 12 students will be organised into smaller teams that enable ‘all’ students to gain individual attention and support as required. Vertical House Tutoring will instil family values, a stronger family ethos and ensure the caring and nurturing of each other building on our strengths.

We are also implementing a Co-Tutor system by allocating a second Tutor to each group where we have the staffing to do this. These Co-Tutors may be other teachers or members of the non-teaching staff. These additional professionals offer an extra dimension of support as well as different life experiences and skills. In short: students will have the opportunity to access help and assistance from two different significant adults at School each day.

The Tutors and Co-Tutors, who will be attached to their Tutor groups for up to six years, provide continuity of care, developing strong, long-term supportive relationships.  They will develop closer and more consistent links with families to improve their understanding of the family circumstances and improve their child’s chances of becoming the best he/or she can be.

The tutees also build up strong relationships with each other across a wide age-range, with students perhaps sharing a wider range of experiences which broaden horizons, something which is missed with Horizontal Tutoring under the current system. Barriers between year groups, which are a side effect of Horizontal Tutoring, are broken down and there are more reciprocal opportunities for leadership, mentoring, advice and support between the students. Peer Mentoring, academic Tutoring and coaching is encouraged and happens naturally within Vertical House Tutor groups. Vertical House Tutoring will also give students relief from the peer pressure that naturally occurs amongst same age groups. Our research has revealed that Vertical House Tutoring has reduced bullying and improved student behaviour.

The improved learning experience mirrors people in further education and the workplace, having a broad range of ages, experiences, expertise and skills. Our House system – spanning all ages – is already very strong and this change to Vertical Tutoring will strengthen further its positive impact on the students and is more closely aligned to the 2028 St Paul’s Vision.

From January 2017, parents, with their son or daughter, will be asked to take part in an annual 30 minute Global Citizenship Conversation meeting with their child’s Tutor. The Academic Tutorials will be arranged at times during the year, which are regarded as important stages of the student’s education journey. We believe that this meeting will offer all members of this school family – parents, students and Tutors – the opportunity to appraise current progress and plan strategies for future development. We are confident that these meetings will play a fundamental part in encouraging our students to become the best they can be in our rapidly changing world. Within a safe and caring Vertical House Tutoring environment, we shall equip our students to be resilient and agile, with an entrepreneurial mindset, innovative spirit and a heart for servant leadership.

The annual Year 7 to 12 Teacher/Parent/Student subject interviews will continue to be held

How long have you been thinking about Vertical House Tutoring?

We have been exploring ways to improve the development of the whole child during their Year 7 to Year 12 journey, bringing pastoral and learning together, for the past three years. Feedback we have received in Surveys completed by students and in discussions with Student Leaders has also indicated a desire to have more communication across the age groups.

Four Houses trialled different forms of Vertical House Tutoring in 2015 and, after discussion with Staff, the Headmaster appointed a Pastoral Care Structures Review Team to investigate alternatives to our current pastoral care system, an external consultant also being a member of this team.

The Pastoral Care Structures Review team, after extensive research and weighing up evidence from schools, researchers, academics and other experts from across Australia and the world, recommended the move to a House Vertical Tutoring system which was unanimously endorsed by the St Paul’s Senior Leadership team.

St Paul’s is renowned for its outstanding pastoral care, so why change the current system?

We pride ourselves on providing the very best care for our students, but we need to keep moving forward and looking at ways to best prepare our students for the rapidly changing 21st Century world, which requires different skills and mindsets. We need to ensure we are preparing every student for a very different employment landscape from what we know today. We believe Vertical House Tutoring will better prepare and support the development of the whole child inside and outside the classroom. Our ethos as a community and a family underpins all that we do and we believe Vertical House Tutoring will further enhance this and is more closely aligned with the school’s 2028 Vision.

How many Tutor groups will there be? How many students will be in each Tutor group and how many from each year?

When Vertical House Tutoring is fully implemented by 2018, there will be five Houses with nine Tutor groups in each House, making 45 Tutor groups in total. There will be between 18 and 20 students in each Tutor group, with three or four students from each year group, with a good gender balance. Smaller Tutor groups give staff and students the opportunity to get to know each other better and to enhance the personalised learning journey of each student, a key aspect of the 2028 Vision. In addition to the Tutor, each Vertical House Tutor group, by 2018, will have a Co-Tutor to provide additional support. Each House will be led by a House Leader (formerly a Head of House, though now with a slightly different role) who will be based in the Wellbeing Centre, as is the current situation, thus being easily accessible to parents and students. House Leaders will report to the Executive Director of Faith and Community who is also based in the Wellbeing Centre along with the two School Counsellors.

What about students who have had a Tutor for a few years?

2016 Year 11 students have been consulted and, while most have chosen to be part of the Vertical Tutoring system, some have opted to remain within a Horizontal Tutor group in 2017.  Therefore, in 2017 each House will have one Year 12 Horizontal Tutor group as we transition to a full vertical Tutoring System in 2018. The overall aim pf the transition process will be to merge two Houses. While the Tutors currently in the House will be encouraged to move with the students into the new House, they will be given an opportunity to move to another House in 2017, as all Vertical Tutoring groups will be newly established groups. Where current Tutors remain with their House, there will be familiarity for both Tutors and students during the transition year and this will be the least disruptive way to move forward. While a Tutor might no longer be the Tutor of a student who is in their current Tutor group, they will still be able to interact, arrange times to meet and so on.

What is the role of the House Tutor?

The role of the House Tutor is similar to the current role of the Tutor. They have primary responsibility for the care of their tutees and will provide encouragement, support and guidance to each student. They are the first point of contact for parents. They will have a Co-Tutor to assist them and will develop strong relationships with the tutees and their parents over the years. They will also meet annually with each tutee and their parents/carers for the annual Global Citizenship Conversation. The parent/teacher annual subject meetings will remain, as will the Year 10 Set Plan interviews. The Tutor and Co-Tutor will meet regularly with the House Leader to discuss all matters pertaining to the House.

What impact will Vertical House Tutoring have on teaching and learning?

Vertical House Tutoring will have a really positive impact on a student’s total learning experience. Teaching groups themselves are not affected, but students gain much from the experience of others who have already been through subjects and exams before them. Younger students can gain insights into how to prepare for exams, how to manage coursework or controlled assessments, how to choose options and many other experiences that older students have already encountered. Older students gain confidence guiding others on aspects of their own experience. All students should benefit from the chance to reflect on their own learning in the enhanced program of reviews and in-depth discussions with their Tutors and Co-Tutors. Tutors and Co-Tutors will be better equipped from their training to enhance the learning experience of all students they teach.

Will the Year groups ever be together as a single Year group?

Every fortnight there is a Flex lesson for each Year group which is not a House period. Students might listen to a visiting speaker, complete important Surveys, prepare for Camps or exams, or discuss issues pertinent to that Year group. Flex lessons are facilitated by experienced teachers.

How can students of different ages support each other?

Most problems in schools emerge amongst students of the same age. Vertical House Tutoring systems can counteract negative aspects of peer pressure and schools which operate Vertical Systems report a significant change in the way students of different ages interact. Older students develop a more caring outlook and watch out for younger students in their Tutor group. Sensible advice from older students is often more readily received by younger students. Peer Mentoring is easily organised within Vertical House Tutor groups, benefitting both the mentor and the mentee under the guidance of the Tutor and Co-Tutor.

How will pastoral issues be resolved with students of different Houses?

There will be no change to what already happens, other than Tutors and Co-Tutors being more involved in the process. As the House Leaders are based together in the Wellbeing Centre and will be working closely together, they will liaise with the respective Tutors and Co-Tutors working through any challenging issues that might arise.

When will Vertical House Tutor groups meet?

They will meet at the same time as they currently do, though, from 2017 this will move from 15 to 20 minutes before the morning tea break, with the exception of the one day a week when students will have Chapel/Assembly, whole House Meetings. These details will be finalised before the beginning of Term 1, 2017, when the new timetable is finalised.

Will siblings be put in the same Vertical House Tutor group?

Generally no, but they would be placed in the same House unless there is a specific request not to. There will be occasions when families might request that siblings are in the same Tutor group. All sibling related issues should be discussed with the House Leader.

How will new students be integrated? What about those who join during the school year?

Most new students tend to arrive during the Middle Years of Schooling. Mr Cameron Howes, House Leader of Middle Schooling (Pastoral) and Ms Sam Parry (Head of Studies, Middle Schooling) will work together to ensure that all new students will be fully integrated and supported from the moment they arrive. Within the House system, Houses will continue their current practice allocating an older buddy or two to help new students integrate quickly. The strength of Vertical Tutoring is that the older students in the Tutor group will automatically assist any new students settle into the group.

What about new students coming into the School? How will you decide which Vertical House Tutor group to place them into?

Again, we shall place all new students very carefully. We have detailed references from their feeder schools, as well as from interviews with St Paul’s staff prior to their enrolling. All this information will be taken into account. The House Leaders will liaise with Tutors and Co-Tutors to decide where best a new student will settle.

How will students be allocated their Vertical House Tutor groups?

Very carefully. We know our students well. Our current Heads of House and Tutors will work together to make sure that there is a balance, taking into consideration gender, academic, extracurricular and social factors, including individual personalities and qualities across the Tutor group as a whole for the 20 minute Vertical Tutoring group time. This process will be chaired by the 2017 House Leaders.

It is important to remember that students will remain in Year based teaching groups, so will have plenty of opportunities to maintain relationships there, as well as at the short morning break, lunch and the many extracurricular clubs, sports and other activities. We are keen to see students with a strong sense of belonging, happy and contented in school life, though the Vertical House Tutoring priority is the development of the learning experience. A positive experience towards that focus will ensure all students make even more friends across the barriers of Year groups.

Will all students remain in the same Vertical House Tutor group from Year 7 to Year 12?

In the vast majority of cases this will be the situation. It is what already happens at St Paul’s, so parents, staff and students are familiar with the concept. For our initial transition to Vertical House Tutoring, we are well aware that it will take a little time for the groups to settle. We have a number of activities in place and an integration program, much of will be run by the 2017 Year 12 students, facilitated by the Tutor and Co-Tutor, to ensure that the students are fully integrated. We would not consider any changes during Term 1 to allow the students to get to know each other and the group to settle down. All Year 10, 11 and 12 students will have been trained as Peer Mentors by the end of 2016 and we shall look to buddy the older students with the younger students as well.

When will students find out which Vertical House Tutor group they will be in?

With the exception of the new 2017 Year 7 students, the current Year 7 to 11 cohorts will find out which Tutor group they will be in during the last week of Term 4, 2016. New students will be informed of their Houses as part of the induction process.

When will the move to Vertical House Tutoring take effect?

It will take effect at the beginning of Term 1, 2017 and will be fully implemented by January 2018 when all Year 7 to 12 students will be members of Vertical Tutoring groups.

How can the Tutor balance the needs of a Year 7 student with the very different needs of a Year 11 or Year 12 student?

Students do have different needs and at different times, so the Year 7 student sees the needs and problems of a Senior School student and vice versa. The Tutor, Co-Tutor and tutees all work as a family group to ensure that every student feels safe, is connected to both the House and the School and is supported and happy. This happens pastorally, academically and spiritually, thus creating an authentic, personalised holistic experience for every student. If we take Year 9 and Year 10 subject selections as an example: when Year 9 and Year 10 students come to these times, the whole process is not new to them and they can draw on the experiences of the older students who have already been through it themselves. Similarly, the Tutor has between three and eight students in the two Year groups, compared to 15 to 20 in the current Horizontal system, to guide through this important time.

Will Vertical House Tutoring impact on the school day generally?

Yes, it will have a very positive impact on the school day. For example, at break-times, lunch-times, at the tuckshop and in the corridors, there will be better interactions between students from different Year groups as they come to know each other better. Younger students, especially, will feel more supported, knowing that older students will be looking out for them. We also hope to see more interaction between Junior School students and the older students, as is already happening eg, older students going to the Junior School during lunch to organise games or coach. These activities are always facilitated by a teacher. As the new Houses are P-12, there might be a ‘whole’ House function once or twice a year.

Who should I contact if there is a problem in school?

If it is subject related, then the teacher is the first point of contact. More general queries can be directed to the Tutor or the Co-Tutor in the first instance and the House Leader thereafter. As the Vertical Tutoring System is embedded, the Tutor and Co-Tutor will automatically become the first people to contact.

Where will the Vertical House Tutor group meet?

Tutor groups will be grouped as Houses around the School campus. Each Tutor group will have their own room where they will meet each day. This will allow flexibility, interactions and creativity during Tutor time, also allowing the House Leader to visit different Tutor groups on a regular basis.

Will students be taught lessons in Vertical House Tutor groups?

No. Students will be in their Vertical House Tutor group only for the House Tutor group time each day. There might be times when older students can offer academic tutorials to assist younger students with academic issues.

What happens in Vertical House Tutor time?

This will vary, though generally there will be a Student Devotion each non-Chapel day; conversations about learning; strategies are planned so older students support younger students (share experiences); older students will be trained in mentoring and other Tutoring skills; the student voice is heard; Community activities can be planned eg, raising money to sponsor the Compassion child or a chat about a charity being supported through a Free Dress Day; community quizzes and competitions; data gathering and monitoring of progress; planning for Carnivals; organising a House function or focusing on specific objectives for individuals (Year group priorities); celebrating a birthday; goal setting or discussing the message from the weekly Chapel Service; early in the year the Year 12 students taking the Tutor group through the contents at the back of the Student Diary, sharing thoughts, clarifying issues and responding to questions. The use of laptops and other digital devices will be discouraged, as the emphasis is on the development of relationship building skills.

How could you avoid the negative effects of younger students hearing inappropriate conversations between older students?

Any parent will recognise the threat of negative influences on their children, but the Vertical House Tutoring System is not going to add to this danger. The Tutor time is supervised at all times and the spread of ages in the group will mean that in many ways such conversations are even less likely to occur. Indeed, St Paul’s takes pride in the fact that the vast majority of students are excellent role models and this development will only bring far more positive interactions rather than negative ones. During Tutor time, all digital devices are switched off unless stated otherwise by the Tutor or Co-Tutor.

How can we be reassured that our children will be safe in mixing with much older Year groups?

Some parents may have concerns regarding their child being ‘led astray’ by older students, but it is worth recognising that in real terms this worry is just as applicable playing for the local Club sport team, meeting friends in the park, being involved in an extracurricular activity with students of different ages or going shopping during the weekend or holidays. Global research suggests that the Vertical Tutoring System enables all students to feel safe, secure and more connected to the School Community.

Naturally the students will be supervised at all times, so there is no danger of untoward activities taking place during the Tutor time. Tutors and Co-Tutors will be aware that the safety of every student in the Tutor group is a fundamental requirement of a Vertical House Tutor group at St Paul’s. Equally, the vast majority of St Paul’s students would be superb role-models in any school and the Vertical System is designed to foster self-confidence and team spirit and so actually reduce the likelihood of such problems. Indeed, many students have brothers and sisters at the school and it is this ‘family-feel’ that makes our school such a special place – Vertical House Tutoring will only further support this climate and makes it an even better place to learn.

There is an assumption that older students will be mentors, academic Tutors or leaders. Is this always suitable?

Older students in each new Tutor group will be expected to take on some form of being a positive influence in the lives of the younger students, as this is one of the important principles underpinning Vertical Tutoring. However, any student chosen to act as a buddy or mentor will be carefully selected to suit the needs of the younger student and will be given ongoing guidance and training by the House Leader, Tutor and Co-Tutor. St Paul’s already has a successful Peer Mentoring and Peer Skilling Program in the Senior and Middle Years of Schooling respectively, evidence of how powerful using older students to support younger students can be. These programs will be adapted to suit Vertical Tutoring requirements. IN 2017 all Year (students will receive training as Peer Mentors as part of the Semester 2 Religion And Values Education program (RAVE).  Small groups of older students in the Middle Years of Schooling currently accompany Year 7 and Year 8 students on their Camp, taking on the role of a cheerleader or a guide to the younger students. Older students are also taking on guiding roles on the Year 9 Camp. There will be times when the older students might assist the younger students in academic tutorials.

Has any of the current staff had any experience of Vertical Tutoring?

Yes, there are some staff members who have had experience of Vertical Tutoring. Peter Barnard, a retired School Principal from the UK, who is regarded as a global expert in Vertical Tutoring, has shared information with all St Paul’s staff, as well as some students and parents when he spent a week at the school early in Term 3, 2016. Peter Barnard has worked with over 400 schools in different parts of the world implementing Vertical Tutoring Systems. We are aware of the importance of the ongoing training of Staff as Vertical House Tutoring is embedded at St Paul’s. House Leaders will have an important role coaching, supporting and guiding the Tutors and Co-Tutors in their respective Houses. Non-teaching staff attended a training workshop in Term 4, 2016 to prepare them for the Co-Tutor role.

With the merging of the Houses to strengthen the Vertical House Tutoring System, how will this affect leadership opportunities for Year 11 students?

It is envisaged that each of the current 10 Houses will elect two House Captains at the end of the year. Therefore, each of the new Houses will have a team of four Student Leaders to facilitate the transition process in 2017. In 2018 there will again be two House Captains in each House. The 2016 new Student Leadership structure provides many opportunities for students to develop their leadership, thus ensuring that the current Year 11 group will not be disadvantaged in any way with regard to leadership opportunities. In addition, Year 12 students will have more opportunities within the Vertical House Tutor groups to support the Tutor and Co-Tutor, while also being buddies, mentors and academic Tutors to the younger students.

Remember, too, that Vertical House Tutor groups are like a mini-House Council, as students will share thoughts and ideas about a variety of topics, the older students facilitating such discussions.

Will the uniform have to be changed?

Yes. In 2017 the school will provide all Year 7 to 12 students with a new House polo shirt and a new House Cap.

Will the new Vertical House Tutoring System only apply to Years 7 to 12?

The Vertical House Tutoring System will only apply to Years 7 to 12. However, the five new Houses will be implemented from Prep to Year 12, uniting the school as one, giving every student in the school a special group they can call ‘family’ and strengthening the sense of community, one of our core values. This will mean a renaming of the Junior School Houses and the addition of a fifth House. Opportunities for Year 7 to 12 students to interact with Prep to Year 6 students through their Vertical House Tutor group will be significantly enhanced.

The Junior School has spent the past two years exploring the possibility and logistics of implementing a Peer Support Program which will introduce students to Vertical Systems thinking.

Will the new Houses have any link to the Houses being replaced?

Yes, this is seen as an important part of the cultural transformation process at St Paul’s, especially in the Year 7 to 12 Houses.

The new Theme and House names were voted upon by the entire School community and are strongly related to St Paul’s School’s history and ethos.

The current House names will be honoured both for the remainder of the year as well as in a remembrance capacity in the School.  The precise details of what this looks like are still under consideration, however, it will ensure that the traditional House names in both Senior and Junior Schools are both honoured and respected.

How will the Vertical House Tutor System be evaluated?

In the same way as we evaluate anything at St Paul’s – feedback from students, parents, staff; improvement in levels of achievement inside and outside the classroom; levels of participation; the House ethos and opportunities for student mentoring, Tutoring and leadership.

The effectiveness of the Vertical House Tutoring System will, of course, be closely monitored by the School’s Headmaster and Senior Leadership Team.

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