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In the Middle - Empower tutors to effect change

Many times over the past few years of teaching in a wide range of secondary schools, I have heard heads and pastoral leaders tell parents and carers that the tutor is the central figure in their children's educational lives. It is the tutor who is named as "the first point of contact for any concerns or issues you may have about your child". It is the tutor who, in many schools, shoulders the responsibility for the child's social, emotional and academic achievement. It is the tutor - instead of specialist teachers - who can be front of house at consultation evenings, feeding back to the parent or carer strengths and areas for development for the child.

How, then, can we empower our tutors to match the expectations we have of them and that we espouse to our school community? As a year head, or perhaps as a house leader with vertical grouping, how do you give the space and time to your team, so they can do this most valuable of jobs? I'd say the key is to give your focus to the staff themselves, enabling them to deal with their charges, rather than trying to be the all-seeing "Eye of Sauron".

It is important to ensure that your tutors have the trust and support they need to do their job properly. So, is your tutorial programme carefully planned, promptly disseminated and meticulously evaluated? Do you take your share of the monitoring of homework planners, feeding back to your tutors helpful ways of saving them time and effort? Do you generously share with them your access to administrative help and do you put into place clear systems for uniform or behaviour aberration?

It seems to me, at times, that pastoral leaders do not value themselves highly enough. In an attempt to prove your democratic management of the guidance team, be sure as well that you lead them. Your best chance of effecting change among the pupils in your care is by developing the tutors who work with you.

Di Beddow, Deputy head, Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

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