Today’s post is that rare beast – a guest blog by someone other than me. This should come as a welcome and refreshing change. Not only that, it’s a post on a pastoral issue which is something I’ve always shied away from as someone who is largely bemused by such things. Thankfully, there are those among us qualified to pontificate on such matters.
Sarah Ledger, Head of KS4 in a secondary school and known to Twitter as @sezl, thoughtfully explores the role of the form tutor in a manner which chimes happily with my own stubborn determination to root out unthinking compliance where ever it should occur and replace it with reasoned argument and plain old good sense.
Being a form tutor can feel like the less profitable side project alongside all those other jobs teachers have to do. There’s only 15 minutes a day to distribute detention slips, give out letters that offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, debate precisely what ‘slim belt’ really means with a defiant fifteen year old sporting several square inches of studded leather, deliver the thought for the week without resorting to irony, make eye contact with the girl who has just lost her grandma, check that ties are appropriately adjusted and that Lucozade is for personal consumption only, before letting your little ones fly. Once that’s done and you’ve signed reports, taken in sponsor money, reminded the latecomers that you need to see them at break, handed in your Ns in to the Year Group Manager and reassured your Head of Standards that yes, you know they were late yesterday as well and you are dealing with it, you have to go and teach a lesson. You may even have to unplug your laptop and travel to the other end of the building, to replug it and wait for a signal before you can project your objectives before you can get on with the arena-filling gig that pays your mortgage.
With this in mind, I revisited the ‘Role of the Form Tutor’ section in our staff handbook. Just as the G4 trainees’ hearts must sink at the list of Olympic contraband they have to confiscate before the Nike-clad/Pepsi swilling punter can proceed to the shot putt viewing area, my heart clunked around my knees when I cast my eyes across the ‘Form Tutors’ Registration Checklist’. Aforementioned slim belts were there, along with one watch and no jeans, but not much else. For a start, it made it look like it’s only the tutor’s job to check uniform, planners and equipment – and if these things are important (and they are), then shouldn’t everyone being doing this? And isn’t being a tutor so much more than this?
In a rewriting session with my tutors, one suggested that along with the tasks and expectations, I should explain ‘why’. At first, I refused: I wanted to keep it to a sheet of A4, because who has time to turn over? And what would happen if I came across a task that has no reason behind it? That was the clincher. If there’s no good reason to do something – no reason that supports the ethos of the school or has an impact on the day and the learning of the student, then we shouldn’t be doing it at all. Tying all of this in with The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child helped all the pieces slot into place.
This is what we came up with:
The Role of the Form Tutor
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states: “all children have the right to an education which develops their personality and talents to the full. This must take place in a clean, safe and nurturing environment.”
Your role as a Form Tutor is an important one. You are often the first member of staff our students meet when they arrive for induction in Year Six; you are the first to greet the students in the morning and get their day off to a good start and you are the first point of contact for parents.
Your primary responsibility as Form Tutor is to build positive relationships and to model behaviour that promotes respect, responsibility and resilience. As this is a front line pastoral role, routines may vary. Within this role, the following tasks are expected:
- Running form tutor sessions to promote a positive start to the day
- Taking the register to monitor attendance and ensure safety
- Managing punctuality to ensure all students access learning
- Discussing thoughts for the week to encourage thinking and to promote school ethos
- Reading/displaying the bulletin to communicate important information
- Distributing appointments to allow students to access the support offered within school
- Issuing detention slips to support the discipline structure
- Managing uniform to maintain a consistent school identity
- Issuing green cards to support the consistency of uniform
- Contacting parents to follow up pastoral issues and maintain home-school communication
- Reporting back on attendance & punctuality to monitor and support attendance
- Managing planners to ensure students are organised and to maintain home-school communication
- Managing equipment to ensure students are organised in order to access learning
- Attending assemblies to promote year group and whole school ethos
- Supporting students through NST to support academic success and progress
- Issuing Headteacher commendations to celebrate success and achievement
- Supporting the Headteacher’s Commendations Assembly to promote student participation
- Writing tutor reports to celebrate achievement and set targets
- Attending progress evenings to communicate with parents
- Supporting Charities Day to promote whole school ethos
- Supporting Sports Day to celebrate success and promote student participation
I’m hoping the document we produced will be supportive and possibly even inspiring for tutors. It’s the draft that has gone into the handbook, but it won’t be the final version. If we are going to make this side project a passion rather than a chore – the Stone Sour to the Slipknot – we all need to talk and to think about why as well as what and how.
Simon Sinek on the importance of WHY