The formula for effective timetabling

Posted by Tribal Group

The school timetable sits at the heart of school life. Our goal, as administrators is to create a timetable that gives teachers the best chance of delivering, and students the best chance of receiving the curriculum that the school has planned by spreading classes as evenly as possible with the right lesson flow.

From blackboards with endless changes, to wallcharts and coloured pins, to hundreds of post-it-notes on whiteboards, and now timetabling software – the tools at our disposal have evolved to help us ‘get it right’, but the task of constructing a timetable can still take months of effort and present major challenges:

1. Blocking and setting that make it difficult to avoid clashes

Whilst blocking may appear a logical way to timetable, the more elective blocks or core subject blocks you timetable, the fewer degrees of freedom you have to move things around.

2. Split classes that fragment the week

The need for continual communication or to split the curriculum into sections needs to be balanced with the students’ need for continuity in lesson flow and subject teacher.

3. Part-time staff allocation within the whole cycle

When teachers work part time, building specific ‘working days’ into the timetable requires flexible scheduling.

4. Designated rooms to provide stability to teachers and students. 

Whilst new schools are designed on a principle of very high occupancy rates (around 95%, when teachers have a maximum 80% loading) most teachers don’t like to move around, and a good timetable supports this preference.

5. Allocating classes in a way that makes sense and seems fair to students

Avoid a poor lesson flow with students having classes for a single subject on consecutive days and then a big gap between the next lesson.

6. Allocating classes in a way that makes sense to teachers

Avoid teachers having three consecutive full days of lessons and minimal lessons on alternative days.

To overcome these challenges, we need a flexible timetabling solution that puts students and teachers, not processes, at the heart of the timetable. Check out our blog on what to look for in timetabling software for a checklist of must-have capability and features


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