Picture acknowledgement; “The timetabler’s cookbook”, Keith Johnson- http://www.timetabler.com/book.html
I have been composing this post for a while. The reason being that when i came into my current position in senior management i had a wide and varied remit, and as time has gone by those duties have changed. One of the new responsibilities i have now is that of constructing and managing the school timetable. When i first took this on i had no real experience of doing it, other than the conversations i had been having with my line manager, and seeing him in action. So when i was asked to take it on i had a quick search to see what others had said about the experience and there wasn’t much, and what there was out there was mainly technical and procedural.
From my experience of doing the timetable for the last few years the timetable is much, much more than a technical or software issue. I have found that the timetable is actually a relationship issue. The timetable is about communication with staff, the head and curriculum lead. I am currently in the process of planning next years timetable (2013/14) now, and have been for about 2 months. So to help any new comers this is the kind of process i follow;
1. Create/ edit/ modify your curriculum plan for all year groups. This involves thought around where the school is heading and the priorities the school has. This is also where i have considered the national agenda. So this year we have planned for the EBACC for example.
2. Once you have the model for your timetable give it to subject leaders and get feedback from them. Can certain groups access the courses you want them to do? Is there the expertise or will there be training issues? These are only two examples of the many questions you will ask.
3. Get subject leaders to tell you who they want in which classes. Don’t promise them this will happen. I always say i will work towards this model and get as close as i can.
4. Now is the time when the software comes into the picture. We use NOVA T6 on SIMS and it works quite well. I put in the staff subject leaders want, and then run an automatic timetable. This will throw up any issues you might have such as part time staff, a particular department which is going to be hard to timetable etc. Then you go back and you set the timetable. I use a mixture of hand placed and automatic scheduling of classes.
5. Once this is done you can go back to the subject leaders and outline the issues you have. I then give them choices. You can have that teacher on at that time, but then they can’t do that. This means that subject leaders know the issues and have had a say in the solution.
6. Speak to staff who may have oddities on their timetable.
7. Finalise the timetable and add rooms.
Obviously there are other ways of doing things, but i thought i would outline what i do so that it gives people who are new to timetabling a start!
Also it would be good to point whoever follows me in the role to this as a summary of what i did.