When Wycombe High School first announced the prospect of implementing the Vertical Tutoring system at the School in January 2011, many students were left outraged at the very idea, with the creation of Facebook groups opposing the motion and damning petitions galore. The system was finally put into action in July of the same year, with the School welcoming the change through a ‘VT Launch Day’, complete with house competitions, bouncy castles, ice cream vans, a barbeque and a live band. Vertical Tutoring is an arrangement whereby a tutor group consists of three to four students per year group, resulting in groups of nineteen to twenty three students, as opposed to large tutor groups assembled on the basis of age. Each tutor group belongs to one of six Houses, all of which are named after influential women in history; Austen, Bronte, Curie, Nightingale, Pankhurst and Parks. Despite the hugely successful launch day, students and parents alike still held doubts over the system and it was clear that the anger inherent within the student body, though largely dissolved, had not subsided completely.

Two years on and it appears that Wycombe High girls have had a great change in heart. Many are grateful for the chance to mingle with other students and the implementation of Vertical Tutoring has definitely led to the materialisation of new friendships between year groups. Nethmi Welivitiya, a Year Twelve student in Austen House, commented; “my attitude towards vertical tutoring has definitely shifted with time. When the faculty initially announced that they were going to be bringing in VT, I was devastated as I thought that its arrival would lead to the destruction of friendships. However, having now experienced Vertical Tutoring firsthand, I can safely say that the system has absolutely worked with regards to integration with other year groups. The girls in my form are very comfortable with one another and new friendships have blossomed; indeed, one of my best friends is in my form, with VT having bought us closer.”

At Wycombe High, there has been an ongoing rivalry of sorts between ‘Blue Jumpers’ (Years Seven to Nine) and ‘Red Jumpers’ (Years Ten to Eleven). VT has aided the dispelling of this opposition and has bought with it a bout of tolerance between the year groups. Another Year Twelve student proclaimed her support for VT and added that she loves being able to interact freely with girls in other years. VT has also boosted the confidence of students from younger years, with one Year Nine commenting that she loves being able to converse with the sixth formers, something that she definitely would not have done had she been in a horizontally structured form group. Aside from a sense of rooted cohesion, the vertical structure allows students from different years to ask each other questions regarding matters of academia and life beyond the classroom. For example; Year Sevens often ask the more experienced, older years questions about life at Wycombe High, Year Eights are able to use Years Nine, Ten and Eleven as aides when considering their future GCSE options and Year Elevens, similarly, are able to query Year Twelves with regards to their A Level options. Year Twelves themselves take advantage of VT and question Year Thirteen girls about University processes and future life paths. This evidently exhibits not only the sense of togetherness that VT brings within the School, but also the provision of social, practical and moral support between year groups that has become inherent post-implementation.

The introduction of a House system with the arrival of VT has not only resulted in students enjoying an in-depth feeling of belonging at Wycombe High, but also enjoying the competition that the House system brings. Inter-House competitions, Sports Days, House Point competitions and themed events such as the recent Chinese Dragon competition have led to a strong rivalry between the Houses, with the banter getting very heated at times. In addition to this, due to the fact that the tutor groups are a lot smaller in size now than they were pre-implementation, girls receive a higher level of undivided, individual attention with regards to personal issues. This means that tutors are available to listen and provide support for their students, aiding them through their school life and enabling them to fulfil their potential.

Although there are still a few students with some negative feelings towards Vertical Tutoring, i.e. the fact that they have suffered a breakdown in friendship with members of their old tutor groups, it is clear to see that the implementation of VT has greatly improved the wholeness of the WHS girls’ social circles and that it comes with many benefits to be enjoyed, such as academic, moral and practical support. The initial suggestion of Vertical Tutoring back in 2011 was collectively despised by students and parents alike; however, two years on and the concept is wholeheartedly adored, with plenty of Wycombe High girls showing their appreciation and reaping the rewards that Vertical Tutoring has to offer.