We organise our Academy on a ‘vertical’ basis involving all our students aged 11-18 years. We believe that this has real benefits for the individual student and for the school as a whole. It is founded on the principle that if secondary schools can sub-divide into smaller, more ‘human-scale’ units, then each student is likely to feel truly valued as a person and more ‘at home’ in a family-like structure. A large number of successful schools have introduced such a ‘vertical’ system because it is shown to have clear benefits.
As of September 2019, our Academy is made up of three ‘Houses’, Ascot, Twickenham and Wimbledon, with all students and staff assigned to a House for the duration of the time that they spend in this school. Each House has eleven ‘Tutor Groups’ of approximately 20 students led by a staff member, known as their ‘Tutor’ in Years 7-10. Each Tutor Group has some students from every age group in the school, from Year 7 to Year 10. Students from all age groups work together in Tutor Period for 20 minutes every morning. Parents of students in Year 7 are invited to meet their child’s tutor early in the Autumn Term to discuss how they have settled into Academy life.
When a student reaches the end of Year 10, we assign them into tutor groups that are bespoke to their year group, with Years 11, 12 and 13 each having designated tutor time, relevant to their status and journey within the school.
Each House is led by an Assistant Principal, who, as House Leader, oversees the work of the Tutor Groups. There are approximately 350 students in each House. The House Leader has overall responsibility for the academic progress, personal well-being and social development of individual students in their House. All siblings from one family will be in the same House, although not the same Tutor Group. Parents are thus able to develop a deeper relationship with their children’s House Principal.
The House System provides staff and students with the opportunity to really get to know each other. Tutors have more time and space for each student, and they can focus on small clusters of students as they approach significant points in their school life. If a student has a problem, it is likely that the tutor can address this straight away, given the smaller size of the group. Within Houses and Tutor Groups, students can also learn greatly from each other. For example, when Year 7 students join our community, they are welcomed by the other students in the Tutor Group, and they make an easier transition from primary to secondary school as a result. When Year 8 students choose Options, they can discuss what new subjects involve with students in Year 10.
Within Houses, students learn to listen to and to appreciate the perspectives of other members of the school community. The House System counteracts negative aspects of peer pressure, and older students develop a more caring outlook, watching out for younger students in their tutor group. Sensible advice or ‘peer mentoring’ from older students takes place in Tutor Groups and it is often more readily received by younger students.
Our House System also helps us to raise the aspirations of our students. Our Sixth Form students are good role models and, as they move on to university or to training courses with major companies, we expect younger students to aspire to follow in their footprints. All students have the opportunity to be a leader in their Tutor Group and their House. Leadership qualities are important life skills that are highly valued by employers and in Higher Education.
The House System offers opportunities for healthy competition between Houses through sports, quizzes and other interhouse competitions. Rewards and sanctions are operated through the Houses, fostering a sense of loyalty, responsibility to others in the House and developing positive values and a strong community ethos. At the end of the academic year, a house is awarded with the House Cup which reflects the effort and contribution that the houses have respectively made to academy life over the last academic year.