‘Outstanding’? ‘Good’? ‘Less than ideal, but we’ll muddle along for another year’? How does your timetable fare? Asked to give their new school timetable an Ofsted rating, over 25% of teachers told us that they would place it in the ‘requires improvement’ category. Moreover, almost all described their timetable as less than ‘outstanding’, offering a real opportunity for SLT to make meaningful improvements before it’s too late.
If the summer term is a time of reflection, then the autumn term represents fresh starts. Improvements. New ways of working. Changes that make sense for the school. And what better place to start than the timetable? After all, it’s the most important document in the school, and key to success on every level.
With this in mind, we asked experienced headteacher and Edval consultant, Paul Phillips, how a school can improve its timetables at this stage of the year - with minimal disruption. Here’s what he said:
1. Improve your staffing
“For accountability reasons, it is vital that teachers and school leaders can maintain ownership of pupil outcomes. However, it’s equally important for students to build meaningful learning relationships with their teachers. Too many teachers resulting from split classes mean that students feel that they are not known by their teachers. They also demonstrate stress behaviours when the delivery consistency does not go smoothly.
“Teachers also rightly want planning time with their co-teacher, where split classes are a regular feature on their timetable. Without this, curriculum delivery, homework and marking can be a major issue, for teachers and students alike.”
2. Improve your lesson spreads
“With a far greater emphasis on maximising pupil progress, it is essential that the timetable supports effective learning and teaching practice. The ability to offer short but regular language lessons, double sessions for Science and Technology lessons, and avoiding two lessons on a day, allows teachers to better manage learning, marking, homework and time for reflection.
“Control of this area has for many schools been an ad-hoc affair. The power to reduce occurrences of inappropriate spreads, but also the ability to improve teacher spreads, and class spreads, means I can give teachers and students a better timetable experience.”
3. Improve your rooming
“Rooming can be a real headache in schools, and is often an afterthought in many schools’ timetables. But if you ask a part timer, or member of SLT, who has to navigate through corridors and up and down staircases with trolley and boxes of books, equipment and materials, then you will get a very blunt response to this aspect of the timetable!
“Schools with split sites, complex buildings across a campus, buildings with multiple and narrow staircases, need to put much more care into their rooming requirements. Having the tools on hand to maximise rooming quality can dramatically reduce staff and student movement across the timetable.”
4. Improve your option blocks
“Optimising option blocks is essential for all kinds of reasons. Giving students their options ensures greater satisfaction in offers, and enables students to progress more rapidly in subjects that they have chosen, and want to excel in. By focusing on optimising student preferences, I can have far greater control and understanding of student requests.
“For schools in a ‘deficit funding-led curriculum’ cycle, optimising option blocks allows for lean timetabling, the opportunity to drop classes and maintain high student satisfaction. It’s a vital tool in reducing staff costs, and it’s not too late to improve them.”
The year ahead
So why not take this opportunity to tweak your timetable with minimal disruption to the school community? Edval Improve services give SLT the opportunity to supercharge more than just the timetable, positively influencing staff morale, student learning and budget bottom lines in the process.
Challenge our experienced Edval consultants to work on your chosen timetable improvement area and refuse to settle for anything less than the best. Interested in finding out more? Say email@example.com, or visit www.edval.education for more information.
Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!
Part-time staff may be seen as an obstacle, difficult and time-consuming to accommodate effectively within the timetable. This is largely a falsehood. By rethinking the problem and identifying innovative solutions, part-time staff can be seen as an asset, not an obstacle. This year, open up exciting new opportunities for part-time staff with smarter timetabling.
Bullying is a difficult problem. Limiting mobile phones or blocking social media can reduce cyberbullying, but not anti-social behaviour in classrooms. Curriculum-based anti-bullying strategies are not usually the first approaches that schools consider, but they can have a major impact, and are likely to save you money! Consider these smarter, budget-effective timetabling approaches and reduce bullying in your school.
A good timetable is a key to quality education for pupils and to an ergonomic working environment for teachers. The task of creating a balanced schedule for everyone is difficult. The cloud-based application Skolaris produces timetables that bring high level of satisfaction to both students and staff.
When did you last review your timetabling software, or school practices when it comes the complex area of scheduling? Chris Ellison, deputy headteacher at Kennet School in Thatcham (whose old timetable can be seen above), discusses how his school saved £300k - and a lot of hassle! - with Edval: