For a number of years, Nayland College has debated the relative merits of horizontal and vertical tutor classes. In 2020, we have decided to go with both, in the hope of gaining the maximum benefit for our students. This means that year 9 and year 10 will have horizontal tutor classes (students of the same year group) and the senior school will have vertical tutor classes (years 11, 12 and 13 in each tutor group).

The horizontal system in the junior school gives the added bonus of tutor teachers also teaching their class for one of their core subjects, and for the first time at the college, we have two tutor teachers in each year 10 tutor class. This added support will help set the students up well for life in the senior school.

Each Year 9 tutor class is also supported by a group of Year 13 students who are being trained as peer mentors. Forty six of our Year 13 students have taken it upon themselves to give back to the school by volunteering to be peer support helpers.

Alice Scott, one of the teachers in charge of Peer support, hoped that having the year 13 mentors will forge a sense of belonging for those students new to the school. She hopes the peer mentors will see “…the importance of being there as an older support network, an older person to ask questions to, and give the Year Nines that instant sort of connection to the school.”

According to Ms Scott, the Peer Mentoring program was designed to give senior students a framework to interact with junior students effectively. “What the peer mentoring program was developed for was that there was quite a big disconnect between juniors and seniors (throughout schools). We kind of expected that they’d be able to interact without a program to follow,” she said.

Ms Scott feels that this will allow the seniors to interact with the junior students in a more meaningful way. “(As teachers) we know how to talk to Year Nines about serious stuff and just assumed our seniors could as well, but this isn’t the case. This is quite a structured program they’ve got about twelve sessions that run throughout the year on topics such as bullying, peer pressure, co-operation, those sorts of things which will help younger students to navigate the school a bit better,” she said.

The Year 13 students doing the program felt it was important to help out the younger students at the school. Ruben Grant, a year 13 peer support volunteer still remembered how daunting coming into a new school at Year 9 could be and was happy to make the transition easier for others. “It’s fun being able to help others who are in a position that we have been in, and help them to escape the awkwardness that we experienced,” Rueben said.

Anna Fincher, another Year 13 peer support volunteer, agreed. “I only came into the school last year into Year 12, and I moved here from Blenheim and I didn’t have anything like this before. So I thought I’d like to be able to work with people that were like me and in the same position that I was and help where I can,” she said.

Although it is still quite early in the program, Year 9 students such as Brook Geogakis, have so far found having the peer mentors beneficial. “They’re really nice and they help out the teacher by presenting things and playing fun games with us.”

Her classmate, Jolina Hunger, had appreciated having some extra people looking out for her around the school. “The year 13s have helped out alot. For example, to sign up for music they showed us where to sign up, and also how to get into other activities like art that we are interested in.”

By Duncan McKinlay