Dealing with the 'dreaded' new timetable

The new timetable can cause worry, but spare a thought for weary timetablers, says one school leader

Ruth Golding


This time of year can produce all sorts of feelings; for example, satisfaction at classes well-taught and new learning that has been acquired. But there can also be a sense of unease at the uncertainty of what your new timetable will bring.

Firstly, there are the worries about which classes you might get. Will they continue to be the ones you have whipped into shape and have eating from the palm of your hand, or will you be moved to the dysfunctional Year 8 group that your colleague is now rubbing their hands with glee at losing whilst hastily passing their books over to you with the widest smile on their face?

Fretting over part-time hours

Then there are colleagues who work part-time, fretting as to whether their time off will still be a day or if it has been transformed into a series of early starts and early finishes instead. There can be genuine sleepless nights over changes to part-time hours. That 10 per cent flexibility in a contract can be the difference between the job covering all life’s expenses or not.

And for those teachers moving to a new school, this can bring all sorts of timetable worries. As a middle leader, you could be given a "baptism of fire" to test whether you can really cut it with the challenging groups.

Alternatively, the subject you teach may not fill the timetable because it is only taught at key stage 5. In this case, there is the trepidation about what new subjects you will have to learn over the summer. I teach social sciences, but the timetable has also decided I can teach IT, RE, graphics, PSHE and English. Of course, at KS3 this shouldn’t really be a problem in terms of subject knowledge, but it can result in not honing skills in the same way as the teacher who teaches only one subject.

'The craziest jigsaw'

It can feel like we are at the mercy of the timetabler; sometimes we are. Take the colleague new to timetabling who thinks they have the better system than the tried and tested one. If you are at the mercy of this type of novice timetabler then your worries could continue through the year as they tweak and change to get it right.

However, most timetablers are just putting together the craziest jigsaw ever invented and are trying their best, carrying out the instructions of the curriculum leaders for staffing and the balance of the day for students. When I asked headteacher Claire Price for her thoughts on timetabling, she told me: “It’s not personal and we don’t timetable to irritate! It’s a year-round process, and year-on-year teachers forget that the classes they are mourning the loss of were the classes they dreaded at the start of the year.”

Price asks us, on behalf of weary timetablers everywhere, not to expect perfection from the timetable at first issue and to instead see it as a work in progress. 

Ruth Golding is a head of school at Tor Bridge High, Plymouth. She tweets @LearnerLedLdr

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Ruth Golding

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