Radical changes to Felixstowe school

A SUFFOLK school today announced radical changes to the way it will be run next year - with youngsters being put into mixed age groups to build them into one big family.

A SUFFOLK school today announced radical changes to the way it will be run next year - with youngsters being put into mixed age groups to build them into one big family.

Instead of “forms” or tutor groups being made up of pupils of the same age, Orwell High School at Felixstowe is to put youngsters into mixed age groups, with the forms having students from each of the school years.

Teachers say the new idea - already being tried at a handful of schools around the country - will help pupils to understand each other better, get to know and protect each other, building a caring community.

They will still be taught in lessons in their age groups but it will end the barriers created by the year group system.


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Head teacher Peter Tomkins said the new system, known as Vertical Tutoring, will come into effect from next September.

He said: “Traditionally in schools tutor groups have been made up of students from one year group, however in a vertical tutor group there is a mix of students from every year group within the school.

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“The tutor group is where students develop social and personal skills.

“These social and personal skills are essential to enable students to learn effectively.

“Historically schools have tried to develop these skills in a very unrealistic environment - where else in life would students experience a group where everyone is precisely the same age?”

Staff and students visited schools in Norfolk, Essex, Bedfordshire and Kent where the system was already in use and were very impressed.

Mr Tomkins said: “Throughout my teaching career I have rarely seen year groups mix - you get a group of years sevens talking in one place, and a group of years nines in another. Our students were amazed when saw these other schools - they said children of all ages were in the playground talking to each other.”

Schools with vertical tutoring say the first things they noticed were a reduction in bullying and improvement in student behaviour.

Mr Tomkins added: “We want to encourage a more 'family' and mutually supportive atmosphere and ethos within the school.”

Youngsters will have three 50-minute tutorial sessions a week in their new groups - with activities to encourage personal, learning, social and communication skills, such as debates on the news and playing board games.

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Do you think the new tutoring system is a good idea? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

WEBLINK: www.orwellhigh.com

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