A sixth-form college has overhauled its timetable to give students a four-day teaching week – and the option of studying at home on the fifth day.
Under the new timetable at Ashton Sixth Form College in Greater Manchester, students are only allocated classes for four days per week, along with one "study day".
This could fall on any day of the week, depending on individual students' A-level subject choices. On this day, students can choose whether to work at college or from home.
The college says that the move, which came into effect in September, was drawn up to reduce "trapped time" which students would spend travelling to and from college, sometimes only for one class each day, or with gaps of several hours between lessons. The move has also reduced travel costs for students, particularly those commuting a long distance to college.
'Not a day off'
For staff, meanwhile, little has changed, with contact time, pay and conditions unaffected. The college insists it was not a cost-cutting exercise.
Sheridan Lewis, assistant principal, said: “We have gone to a four-day timetable for students, but teaching staff are on the same contact time. It had nothing to do with staffing. On four days, students are now very busy – we have filled those for them. On the fifth day, they can come into college for independent study, or they can stay at home. It is not a day off, it is a study day."
The move was made possible after Ashton, along with many other sixth-form colleges, decided to move to an offer of three A-level subjects for all students.
Reducing 'trapped time'
The changes came into effect in September, when small changes were also been made to the start and finish time of the college day to accommodate this. Feedback has been positive from both staff and students, said Mr Lewis.
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form College Association, said the move had attracted interest from others in the sector.
“As the majority of sixth-form colleges now offer three subjects as standard rather than four, many of members are looking at ways to refine and update their timetable," he added.
"Ashton Sixth Form College has a reputation for innovation so it is no surprise that they have already adopted a new approach to timetabling lessons. This has been driven by changes to the curriculum rather than funding pressures – students receive exactly the same teaching and support time, and the move has been received very positively by students."
Yesterday, Tes reported that Greenhead College in Huddersfield was considering increasing teacher contact hours in a bid to save money and ensure its financial sustainability.