curriculum: the form
Your mental image of yourself teaching probably involves you explaining key elements of your subject. However, you will spend a significant amount of time in school doing something for which you may have had little preparation and which opens up innumerable opportunities to frustrate and fulfil. Government policy means that schools can be pressed to deliver national policies on such diverse matters as teenage pregnancy, the respect agenda, healthy eating, etc.; it is frequently the form tutor who has to manage this response. Almost certainly, you will be involved as a form tutor within months of starting to teach. With the pressures on young people seemingly increasing with each generation, you will play a major part in the lives of large numbers of pupils in ways in which it is hard to imagine now. This chapter is an attempt to help you to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead beyond your role as subject teacher in your school.
The work of the form tutor cuts across subject specialisms and emphasizes study and coping strategies as well as personal, vocational and life skills, creating a multidimensional role (Startup 2003). Thus, the form tutor needs to provide support and act as first port of call and a guide — in short, be available on a daily basis to provide stability for the pupils. Consequently, the role of the form tutor, which is currently undergoing changes, is challenging, unique and rewarding.
The character and ethos of a school are, according to Tattum, determined by 'decisions about the curriculum, the allocation of resources, the grouping of pupils and the arrangements made for guidance and welfare' (1988: 158). While government policy and funding largely determine factors such as school resources and the content of the curriculum, pupil grouping, student welfare and personal guidance, under the guise and auspices of the pastoral system, still remain within the decision-making processes