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Dear Tuxford-School Upper-Management

,

I am writing to you today in a state of abhorrence and frustration.

This morning, when our post-man cheerfully dropped off everything sent to our household, I
naturally went to collect everything that had arrived. Upon opening a letter indirectly addressed to
myself, I was soon filled with an unsettled, discontent mood.

Thankfully, though, you claim on the back page of the [obviously] persuasive Vertical Tutoring
booklet that, “we are involving the students in planning for this radical change,” and, though I am
sickened by the presupposition that this vertical tutoring change is going to occur, I am nonetheless
taking this opportunity to critique the majority of your arguments. If you wish, I can be the voice of
the students who I am very much aware are against your plans to change the school ‘climate’ but
feel that the steam-rolling nature of the upper management is something which they cannot argue
against.

Therefore, without further ado, let me begin:

“In addition to this, the education environment is in a state of constant change, with new
developments and initiatives that have to be delivered and absorbed on a regular basis.”

Sure, implement whatever new strategies and initiatives you want. However, surely it would be a
more prudent use of resources and staff time to focus on anti-smoking or anti-bullying campaigns as
opposed to developments in which there is little doubt the majority of the school’s students
oppose?

“We want to provide a closer level of support for each child, and to help them to face the challenges
ahead.”

I applaud the attitude, but not the means. How can this ‘closer level of support’ be found in a room
with 11-year-olds that, for example, have not even begun their sexual development contrasted
against another group of 16-year-olds who are in the middle of such development. How on earth is
a form tutor going to be able to attend to the needs of a Year 7 at the same time as a Year 11?
Surely a very large batch of training will have to be ordered for every form tutor, no?

--

Let me now begin with explaining how it seems to me that your key principles will be compromised
through the installation of Vertical Tutoring within the school.

“Every child should receive a high level of individual care and attention that will help them reach their
true potential”
To reiterate my previous point, how are tutors supposed to attend to the needs of an 11-year-old
and a 16-year old simultaneously? I am aware of numerous cases where many tutors find it difficult
enough to attend to the needs of one age group on its own, never mind a spread of 6. And, of
course, there seems to be a leap in thinking that the emotional or mental needs of a 16-year-old will
be met within an environment where an 11- or 12-year-old is also being attended to. What should a
tutor do, make a middle ground? Talk to them all as if they were Year 9’s?

“Every child should have a strong sense of belonging and identity”

There are two issues which are immediately raised with this.

1) It is in my very honest opinion that a child doesn’t begin to form a proper level of
independence or identity until the age of 14. Having *personally experienced* going
through Tuxford School within the last 6 years, I can assure you the truth in this. There are
very few students who are ‘independent’, or who will establish an independence, before
around Year 9. I can only see great problems for a situation where a group of year 11’s, who
are beginning to assert their rebellious selves, will be shown to a group of ‘follow the
leader’-esque children.
2) Surely that sense of belonging will be VERY much oppressed when this child is having to
move back and forth between their class groups and their mixed form-group? Considering
the lower attendance of tutor time further up the school, it isn’t a great leap in my own
thinking to speculate the idea of fewer people, especially the older pupils, to be attending
their form times with vertical tutoring in place.

“Every child should not feel ‘lost’ in such a big school.”

I find it endlessly humorous how my own mother, a teacher, laughed at the idea that a child
wouldn’t feel lost in a school with Vertical Tutoring. Her own experience proved that a feeling of
isolation and ‘being lost’ was exacerbated by Vertical Tutoring. From my eyes, Horizontal Tutoring
allows a very clear-cut way of distinguishing oneself from the rest of the school and, for me, did
allow myself to stop feeling so ‘lost’ in such a big school. Splintering the way the school works by
fragmenting it into different cells seems only to serve to increase the feeling of being lost in any
school, including such a large one as Tuxford. After all, secondary school is hard enough WITHOUT
the idea of having to be plopped into a group of people who you don’t know and wouldn’t naturally
converse with.

“The majority of Tuxford students come to us from small village schools; we want to continue that
‘small school’ feel that contributes so much to our ethos”

How do you expect to maintain a ‘small school feel’ when these students from small village schools
will be instantly pushed into a reality including people from four other years?

“Each child should be part of a ‘Learning Family’ to help them fully develop as members of society
and as successful learners.”

Well, foremost, successful learning does not come from being in a ‘Learning Family’ (which I assume
you are referencing to be a form) but from the suggestion of teachers and days in which revision
skills are explained. Even more importantly, successful learning comes from the desire within
oneself to work and achieve, not from extrinsic factors of motivation (which no doubt, whomever is
reading this, knows that extrinsic motivational factors lead to lower morale within a working group
or person): so, the second clause of that sentence is redundant.

Secondly, the idea that somehow this ‘Learning Family’ – ie. A vertical tutoring form – will
help them develop as ‘good members of society’ would seem to undermine the whole idea of PHSE
or ‘Citizenship’. Even more drastically, it is through REAL-life experience, as opposed to the bubble of
a school, in which personal development takes place. Believe me when I tell you that my own
personal development has only been hindered by Tuxford School. However, in fairness, I can only
thank you for the counselling service that is provided within the school to mop up, so to speak,
where you have failed.

“The tutor should be a key person in the personal and learning development of each child in their
form.”

I totally agree. But, again, how can a tutor see to the needs of a set of children with vastly different
ages? Even if it would be possible, each year NQTs enter the school: would you expect them to be
thrust into the position of having to attend to all of their greatly contrasting needs? There are
rumours that support staff and ‘behind the scenes’ staff are to become tutors, too. Would you
seriously expect them to be able to attend to the needs of a group of such vastly different people?

“Children should find school a stress-free, healthy and happy experience, despite the increasing
demands placed upon them.”

Glaringly, what do you expect the mood will be from students in situations in which they do not wish
to be? Honestly, now , do you expect them to be stress-free and happy? So, you still want to put
them all into rooms together and not only be expected to get along with each other – something
which seems un-needed to a good majority of students – but to remain happy and stress-free? I
don’t wish to be overly rude, but are you kidding me?

As an aside, I would like to point out that I commend your efforts in having a set of ‘key principles’
and, no doubt, are acting upon them. I am very much aware of other schools that are no doubt very
reluctant to create principle documents like this and, for that, I thank you.

--

I have absolutely no opposition to the college system. Naturally, therefore, I won’t be pointing out
any of its flaws.

--

Now please allow me to indicate to you the flaws which appear the most pressing and problematic.

“Three or four Post-16 students will be attached to each Team for part of the week”
It seems suspicious that a buddying system was implemented only a couple of years ago and now
Vertical Tutoring will be implementing a more strict form of the same thing. However, with the
benefit of the doubt in place, let me continue to something more pressing.

Firstly, what you seem to fail to realise is that Post-16 students tend to have a lot more going
on that a lot of staff members realise. In a typical week I have only 1 ‘free’ form time when I don’t
have some responsibility which needs to be attended to. It seems almost irresponsible to force a
Sixth-form student to detract from their extra-curricular activities (which will almost certainly be
placed upon their UCAS applications). I would have no opposition in ‘attaching’ some Sixth-form
students to a form if they had volunteered for it. However, it seems that once again the ability for a
student to decide what they want to have or do is being stripped, and so once again I must protest.

Moreover to this is the fact that some Post-16 students do not already visit the form that
they chose to be ‘buddied’ to. More visit their form extremely infrequently and have a whole
plethora of valid reasons why. It seems to me that the percentage of the forced sixth-form visiting
their ‘buddied’ form will be even lower.

“The older students will have opportunities to act as leaders, advisers and assistant tutors within
each Team.”

Foremost, which ‘older students’ are we referring to here? As in Year 10’s and 11’s or Sixth-
formers?

If discussing Year10’s and 11’s, I find it amusing that with Vertical Tutoring comes the idea
that, somehow, they are going to magically change their behaviour and try to support each other in
a ‘leader’ or ‘adviser’ role. Those that already act in such a way will continue to do. Those which
don’t will very much likely stay the same. I find it curious that there is the idea that changing the
systemic structure of the school will change the behaviour of students (beyond, perhaps, making
students more frustrated or feel more unheard – something which, as I have seen, has already
begun).

If discussing Sixth-formers, I once again find it quite laudable that there is a belief that we
are somehow going to change our behaviour into that of ‘form advisor’ or ‘form leader’ when, after
all, the systems ‘lower down in the school’ change frequently. You, yourself, admit this at the front
of the leaflet sitting in front of me. It’s put as, “the education environment is in a state of constant
change”. So, then, are you going to start briefing us every Monday morning, too?

“Learning Team time will be fifteen minutes a day, in the morning. At this time, everyone takes
part.”

Re-writing this point will show the Sixth-Form reality.

“Learning Team time will be fifteen minutes a day, in the morning. At this time, no Sixth-formers will
show up.”
Fewer and fewer Sixth-formers arrive at form time as it is. Plonking a system in that few Sixth-
formers support, regardless of whatever upper management buddies of yours have told you, will
certainly reduce the amount that turn up when the next term begins.

--

Now, please let me address the ‘Our Belief’ section.

“[...] all kinds of advantages, such as:

A reduction in bullying; An improved attitude to learning; A more supportive atmosphere; Better
relationships between students and staff; More students reaching their potential and beyond.”

A reduction in bullying? I was under the impression that the majority of bullying that exists for
Tuxford School pupils now occurs on the school busses. Moreover, how deeply can that ‘reduction
of bullying’ exist if, as you say, this change will only affect ‘4% of their daily routine’?

An improved attitude to learning? It seems to me that a student’s attitude to learning is directly
proportional to their enjoyment and warmth within and towards their school, respectively. I have
witnessed this first-hand, with two friends of mine already going to investigate other options for
schooling due to their lack of comfort and enjoyment within Tuxford School. With that in mind, how
do you expect to improve anyone’s attitude towards learning if the environment in which the pupil is
in is one which they do not desire? Would you hire a teacher who consistently screams at children?
No? Why, then, undertake a systemic change to the school that will employ similar effects?

More interestingly, it is also curious why you haven’t picked up on the fact that, though form
time is a ‘development time’, an overwhelming majority of forms use the time to converse between
each other while the tutor finishes bits and bobs of work, sends e-mails or reads out ‘pervert
warnings’. Hence, it seems curious why the fact hasn’t been picked up that many of these pupils will
bring their conversations into their lessons. Hence, again, going against that supposed ‘improved
attitude to learning’ benefit.

A more supportive atmosphere? Interesting that this ‘more supportive atmosphere’ should be listed
as a benefit when, ironically, I know of year 6’s who are now afraid of joining the ‘Tuxford School
Family’ and students throughout the school who now feel unheard and, effectively, demoralised for
coming to school or trying to voice their opposition.

Better relationships between students and staff? Well, let me tell you, this Vertical Tutoring debate
has caused more than enough rifts between many sixth-formers and staff members. Even more
importantly, I find it hard to understand how any relationships would change between students and
staff members beyond the debate of Vertical Tutoring in itself. A form typically always finds some
level of rapport with a form tutor. General teachers no doubt see no reason to change their
teaching style or attitude towards students by putting in Vertical Tutoring. How will better
relationships exist between the two which will be any different than they are presently?
More students reaching their potential and beyond? Well, foremost, let’s strip that ‘and beyond’
out. Why on earth wouldn’t a student reach their potential in the school already? It seems to me
the teachers, at present, do as best a job as they can possibly do. It seems a fallacy to include the
achievement of students into what is, really, an already-failed-in-the-80’s blue-sky-thinking system
which affects the students and, in reality, much less of the teachers (beyond some pay scales, I
believe).

My penultimate point is as follows:

“Learning Team Time will consist of 15 minutes, compared to 300 minutes of lessons and 90 minutes
of break times every day; that’s less than 4% of their daily routine.”

It seems to me that there is a rather big flaw in thinking here. Though it’s true that a comparatively
small amount of time is spent in these ‘Learning Team Time’ sessions, the point is being missed a bit:

a) Though highly extreme, in might take an experienced rapist only 15 minutes to do his dirty
work and be gone. It’s a comparatively small amount of the day, but it’s a nonetheless
horrifying one ; being beaten up for 15 minutes is a comparatively short amount of time in
the day, but it doesn’t make it any less painful or disturbing ; being around someone you
absolutely detest for 15 minutes a day is a comparatively short amount of time, but seems
nonetheless excruciatingly slow and difficult. Though, yes, it is only 15 minutes a day, they
are 15 minutes which few students within this school seem to want. They are 15 minutes
which are currently spent quite well by a majority of students. 15 minutes of shovelling
horse excrement is nonetheless 15 minutes of shovelling horse excrement, no matter how
you look at it.

And, finally,

“We are involving the students in planning for this radical change.”

But, yet, at the same time, you won’t consider the idea of stopping installing Vertical Tutoring?
Presupposing, again, that this change is going to happen is almost a bit offensive. When I joined
Tuxford School, I joined with the pretense that I would be given the right to voice my opinion and
that opinion would be heard and, if there was a majority which thought the same, then your plans
would change in accordance with the students’ wishes. This is what was communicated when you
created a student council and an eco council. You inferred a democratic procedure, and if you are to
now shout that there was never any democracy within Tuxford School, then I am to brand the
management as snakes. In a certain subject I am currently doing, a key term used at one point was
‘double standards’. You endow responsibility and voice to those that support your ideas, but
steam-roll and ignore those that oppose. Iron rule of Oligarchy much?

Even more alarming, you claim that Sixth-formers are treated like adults now that we have
returned voluntarily to do our A-levels. Yet, you still force changes upon us without our
consultation, vote, or opinion. It is deeply offensive that you would promise us difference to what
we had previously experienced -- and a new level of respect for us --, and then turn around at your
own will and decide that this ‘respect’ was never really given to us. Are you kidding me? I almost
didn’t come back to Tuxford because of the thought that I would be promised difference but given
the previous status quo.
--

Please do not take this e-mail as one with an aversion to change. Please do not take this e-mail as
one with intent of abuse or griefing. It is in my belief that, after reviewing everything I could get my
hands on regarding Vertical Tutoring, that changing to it would be a mistake. Please don’t dismiss
my previous arguments as simply uneducated, unworthy of respect or empty of value.

Audrey Hepburn once said, “People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived,
reclaimed, and redeemed: never throw anyone out.” See where I am coming from: do not throw
me out.