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Surviving and succeeding in the first year of teaching: Being an effective form tutor

surviving-teachingAlex Galvin, Senior Education Lead, SSAT, writes…

In this series we are sharing advice for new teachers from Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School on how to make a success of your early months in teaching. This latest entry focuses on how to be an effective form tutor…


Being a form tutor can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable elements of your role in school. You may have had some experience of working with a tutor group during teaching practice, but being given responsibility for a tutor group can feel daunting at first. Here are some ideas on how to get it right…

1. A great comment from a year 9 student at Little Heath School: ‘a good form tutor takes an interest, not just the register.’ The most important part of being a good form tutor is getting to know your class. Take time to talk to them informally, find out what they are doing at the weekend or in the holidays and how their subjects are going this year. Take time to share and celebrate successes and news amongst the group, put photos and praise for individuals and the group on your tutor group noticeboard.

2. Take every opportunity to talk to your tutor group’s teachers and ask how they are doing, don’t wait until there is a problem to deal with. Familiarise yourself with their data – you should be aware of their target grades, their current attainment and any concerns about their progress. This will encourage colleagues to keep you up to date and is invaluable if you are speaking to parents. Feed back praise from other teachers to individuals and the class as a whole. Your tutor group will get the impression that you know everything that they are doing – no bad thing!

3. If you have a concern, pass it on. You don’t have to deal with every issue on your own. If something worries you, talk to the head of year/learning manager. You will already know that you can’t agree to keep serious issues confidential – if a student raises something with you that you need to pass on, explain clearly who you will need to talk to about it.

4. Try to be as organised in your role as a tutor as you would be for classes that you teach. Keep a file with information relating to your tutor group. Your school will probably have a system for recording conversations and communications with parents – make sure you keep up-to-date with this. Ensure that you pass on key messages to the group and try to support their organisation by giving them reminders during tutor time and putting notes on your tutor group noticeboard.

5. Try to build a sense of identity, and remember that you too are a member of the tutor group. Have fun with them – set up competitions and group projects, encourage them to add things to their noticeboard. They should feel proud to be a part of their group – and should see that you are proud to be their tutor.



What are your experiences of your first year in teaching? What worked for you? What didn’t work? Let us know via Twitter with the hashtag #SSATsurvive or in the comments below.

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