1. Great form tutors spend time observing and listening.Any experienced form tutor, head of year or senior teacher will tell you that the greatest significance, or influence a form tutor could have, is to invest a great deal of time and energy on building relationships. Over a significant period of time, you will not be able to rely solely on your own discipline skills as a classroom teacher. For example, you are a secondary school teacher and you have a form class over the course of a child’s time at school. That’s a full 5 years! You will have many ups and downs together. At times, you will see them more often than your own family members(!) so it is vital to invest in building relationships so that you can pull out the ‘joker card’ when you need. This may be to save them from exclusion; a last minute reference request, or going off track when the exam season reaches fever pitch! Having some kind of banter or interaction with your students, you will probably pick up on any current issues.
2. Great form tutors are regimented.Any tutor new or old, experienced or not, will soon realise that routines are key to maintain discipline, relationships and sustain high standards. A sure-sign to see what a tutor class is typically like, is to observe how they behave when the form tutor steps out of the room, or on days when the tutor is absent from school. If tutees within the group respond to your instructions first time (as a cover teacher), or remind you that on Tuesdays that they always complete silent reading instead of what you’ve asked them to do, then you know that you’re working with a great form tutor. It’s clear that the hard work has been invested by the tutor, and over a longer period of time, today or any other day you can reap the rewards of your labour.
3. Great form tutors are the link between home and school.They will help them deal with various problems, including missing PE kits, late homework, detention disputes, lost locker keys, mobiles phones or letters from parents. More importantly, they may often be the first port of call for any Child Protection issues. Sometimes, needing to lend out equipment such as pens and pencils (and maybe even money).
4. Great form tutors connect the student with school staffand with other students. This is often under-estimate in day-to-day registration. I’ve seen countless tutor groups wallowing for 20-30 minutes everyday because tutor time has been left to rot, with no concrete activity or planning involved on the part of the year group or the tutor. Great tutors are checking that planners are completed and signed. They are often holding a tutor group discussion of some kind or processing and recording your students’ awards, detentions, homework and general problems. The energetic tutor will be often seen meeting to mentor or coach one or several tutees’ about their school work and progress throughout the school, dealing with a student’s academic life in some way via a letter or a phone-call home, a simple email, text or note in the planner. Whatever the case, the small detail makes all the difference.
5. Great form tutors monitor academic and personal progressof the students in their tutor group or form. Great tutors will help students organise themselves for whole-school events. Running, or being involved in, some kind of activity, assembly, tutor programme, or whatever is on that day! They may even help their tutees take part in a chosen charity event, often sacrificing themselves to do something embarrassing for Children in Need, or Red Nose Day!
6. Great form tutors provide relevant informationto other staff about their tutees. They provide important announcements in staff briefing, place a piece of work up on the staff room wall, or share a piece of information about the child, whether a bereavement or an academic celebration. Great tutors make all staff aware.
7. Great form tutors co-ordinate the way the school can meet their students’ needs.They are active in their year teams and contribute to whole-school pastoral planning. They are involved in the small detail, feeding back on school planner updates, annual activities and resources that can have an impact on other tutors in all year groups.
8. Great form tutors are human.They share the occasional story with their tutees to allow children to gain an insight into their own life. Tutors use real stories to motivate, to sadden and to raise awareness when each child encounters a particular milestone or conversation throughout school.
9. Great form tutors have great relationships with every member of the family.They go the extra mile in supporting families and their children throughout school, so much so, that in a difficult situation, the most irate parents are putty in their hands. They break down barriers and follow up, every single action.
10. Great form tutors have their safeguarding radar on everyday.They notice any change on appearance, behaviour or attitude. They keep an eye out for anyone who seems upset, especially quiet – or indeed noisy – and notify the right people at the right time.