/ Liza Adebisi
We all know that timetables help structuring activities and give a chronological sense to the whole academic and teaching plan, which makes them essential within the education setting. Yet, they can be a source of concern, if you think about the different circumstances in which teachers and school leaders may have to repurpose the timetable and adapt it to focus on new learning requirements in a new school, or when new activities are to be added to the annual curriculum.
To add to the common concerns around school timetabling, over the last year, there’s been the increased exposure of the detailed schedule and the growing need for this to be shared with parents. During the numerous lockdowns, homeschooling has meant that parents have been much more involved in their children’s academic timetable. Schools are now having to schedule classroom times while keeping in mind parents’ availability and working with families around their other commitments.
Another challenge is added by the frequent updates in curriculum coverage in accordance with the changing requirements dictated by regulators. Timetables must be designed to reflect curriculum coverage, and therefore they need to be adapted correspondingly.
In a bid to refocus the national curriculum on teaching and learning, in September 2019 Ofsted issued a new inspection framework for schools across the UK.
The new framework promotes a more holistic approach to education, one that is reflective of a teacher’s efforts within the classroom, and measures success outside of exam results.
Quality of Education was introduced as a benchmark by the new framework. The new judgment presents a shift in focus from marks, or exam results, to learning processes and progress, as the curriculum’s essential fundamentals. It assesses how these are delivered and how well students respond to lessons while looking at the knowledge and skills they acquire and retain.
Being defined according to such steps, Quality of Education is visible and measurable through the timetable: which subjects are being taught, the number of hours dedicated to each subject, which activities are teachers focusing on and the time assigned to exercise them, and so on.
Changing times call for changing timetables
Current school curricula must adapt to current times. As new discoveries and developments are pursued by science; historical facts are reviewed in line with new interpretations; new techniques are developed in art and design – schools need to keep up to date and add these changes to their teaching plans that are then organised through the lessons timetable.
New techniques and methods in teaching are constantly being developed, and these developments too need to show in the timetable through the scheduling of new classes and topics.
Changes to the school routine have never been as frequent as for the last year. The outbreak of coronavirus has meant that teachers and students have experienced a more nomadic version of the academic life because lessons are constantly moved from on-site to online and vice versa.
Right now, the role of parents in organising their children’s time is more prominent than ever before. Structuring a timetable to schedule children’s activities outside of school life may be a good solution to give a sense of routine and security.
According to a recent guide published by The Standard, experts recommend that the best way of creating an at-home timetable is to base it, as much as possible, on children’s school timetable. The advice is that parents sit with their children and talk through with them what they would normally do on a school day, and build the timetable around that.
The same guide recommends that parents should try to schedule every part of the day into the timetable, such as reading time from 8 am-9 am, a project from 9-10 am, break time from 10 am-10.30 am along with slots for activities such as games or baking. It’s a good idea to write the timetable down and stick it to a wall or the fridge to help keep on track.
It’s true that most primary schools do not put together a timetable in the way that secondary schools do. In the case of primary schools, students are grouped together in one class run by the same teacher, hence the organisation of subjects is easier. However, timetabling can still present its difficulties, when it comes to planning curriculum coverage effectively.
While the outline of curriculum coverage for primary school pupils is clear and standardised at the national level in terms of subject areas, the same National Curriculum does not explain how teachers should cover it. This is great for stimulating teachers’ creative input, but at the same time not having defined guidelines to follow or a chronological order in which subjects should be taught can present its challenges. Teachers have to choose what different kinds of books and materials will deliver the best results for their pupils, in which context to use them and how much time the class should invest in using these.
As set out by the Department of Education, the primary curriculum covers school years 1 to 6. This is then broken up into Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. Key Stage 1 for school years 1 and 2, and Key Stage 2 for years 3 to 6.
Having the subject areas set out means that parents can keep track of and better support their children’s learning and follow their academic progression. However, because primary teachers have a lot of freedom in the organisation of the curriculum, it becomes very difficult to present all of that information tidily and in synchrony with the overall learning strategy in one timetable display.
When preparing timetables secondary schools must consider skills and availability of staff and rooms, or resources. Teachers have to be mindful about which subjects are better received in specific days too (for instance, long hours of maths, may not be ideal on a Friday afternoon).
Like primary schools, secondary timetables can be affected by the addition of new subjects, the removal of others, and changes to the whole structure brought on by new regulatory policies. Of course, because the secondary curriculum’s intent and implementation must align with exam times for GCSE and A-Levels, the chronology in which lessons are arranged can rely on a more defined structure.
Nonetheless, secondary teachers should consider variations in popularity of different optional subjects at GCSE and A-Level, and increases in the size of year groups, which will impact the nature and the scope of the classes.
Unfortunately, the latest restrictions and measures have made it harder for schools as they’ve had to change the course of action several times, with closing and re-opening, and exams being cancelled in 2020 and re-scheduled for 2021, and then once again cancelled, or at least according to the latest governmental directions.
Timetable software choices should be shared with school administration staff, who deal with finances and accounting. . The cost of the timetabling software a school chooses to buy, should be accounted for in advance.
To make life easier, timetable software is available, and indeed the offerings on the market are various. Through these, dynamic timetables can be created containing information about lessons, activities and events. Each school can choose their own software according to needs; there’s no guidance from regulators to suggest a specific product.
However, it is important for the timetabling product to be supported and integrated within the school management system or MIS.
To hop from one platform to another when accessing school information is not fun. Neither is it practical. It can slow things down significantly and disrupt the school system’s experience, making it more difficult to find information and increasing the possibility of error when manually transferring data from one software to another.
Like most other features required for school management, the timetable should be supported by the one comprehensive MIS.
Bromcom supports most school timetable software. Whether the school uses October Resolutions’ TimeTabler, Capita’s Nova-T, Edval timetabling or Bromcom’s eTimetable, Bromcom’s MIS will integrate it within its cloud-based platform with these timetable design solutions, ensuring easy access and avoiding any possible disruption.
What other features does Bromcom integrate?
As part of our mission at Bromcom, we want to offer schools all the tools they need to grow and improve in an easily manageable way. Our platform is designed as a One-Stop-Shop to reduce workload and capital expenditure over time significantly. We want to eliminate all the inconsistencies caused by the different information systems (including timetable software provided by different suppliers), reporting and assessment, safeguarding and human resources.
Bromcom’s MIS is easy to access because it is cloud-hosted and as such, you can use it anytime, anywhere.
Here are some of the tools you’ll find in our one-stop-shop MIS:
MATs and LAs, in particular, have the possibility of accessing PowerBi, integrated within the same platform. Because MATs and LAs need to access large datasets comprising of information gathered from multiple institutions, they need a system that can handle the size of these datasets. The integration of PowerBi within the MIS infrastructure means that the whole database can be queried via a secure and automated feed.
Why else choose Bromcom?
Our product has been developed on the solid base of an ongoing collaboration with schools that we’ve had for over thirty years.
Our experience has taught us that what schools care about is having a reliable and secure system with integrated functions and a great user interface at a convenient cost.
As the EdTech industry keeps on growing, so does the number of MIS solutions on the market. Schools are often presented with a wide variety of choices, making decisions on which to opt for hard; however, what makes Bromcom stand out is the following:
We understand that, while additional responsibility for bureaucratic chores can stress teachers, the implementation of a modern school management system can be stress-free, and this is what we commit to provide.
Furthermore, over a short period of time, when our system is up and running, teachers will enjoy the benefits of a technology that really frees them from admin and paperwork.
Sara Spirng, Assistant Headteacher for Data, Systems and Curriculum, at Abbey School has said:
“What won it for us was the fact that Bromcom is a one-stop-shop, and that we’ve got the possibility to build in more analytics if we want to. We don’t need all these other things for it to operate. It’s also the open idea that you are going to move forward, compared to other MIS that are just not moving forward.”
Ultimately, we want to give the modern school the agility it needs to stay relevant and continually improve.
Training and reliable customer service for teachers and staff is offered by our team at the highest level. Feedback and questions are always encouraged, because as well as giving us a chance for informing, they also help the system to improve, adapt and evolve.
You can find more detailed information and explore all our tools on our website. And if you’d like to know more about how we work, or how we can support your current timetable, just drop us a line or call us, we are always happy to help.