Curriculum diagrams/plans

Curriculum diagrams are an essential part of the review and planning process for the school timetable.  Without a detailed curriculum diagram that sets out clearly what is to be achieved the chances of producing a well-structured and balanced timetable that reflects the curriculum needs and aspirations of the school are significantly reduced.  The curriculum diagram is the foundation on which the timetabler will build to create the timetable for the whole school.  Without this firm foundation the super-structure will be flawed. 

The curriculum diagram should be seen as a dynamic document that should be carefully updated each time a change is made.  This may be a result of changes that are made as a result of discussions in the pre-scheduling stage or updates as a result of decisions are made as part of the scheduling stage.  At any point in time the plan should be an accurate reflection of intentions.  Ideally it should be in electronic format (spreadsheets are ideal) so that it can be easily shared with colleagues or any agencies that need this type of information. 

 

 

7A

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

7B

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

X

7C

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

7D

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

7E

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

7F

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

 

   

TE2

 

GA3

             

 

 

 

                       

 

 

7G

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

 

7H

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

Y

7J

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

 

7K

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

 

7L

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

 

 

 

 

TE2

 

GA3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SSS

SSSS

D

SSSS

DS

SS

SS

SS

S

S

S

SSS

SS

 

 

This is the curriculum plan for an 11 f.e (11 form entry) school.  The year group is divided into 2 cohorts (bands) X and Y.  Cohort X is made up of forms 7A-7F and cohort Y includes form groups 7G-7L. AR, MU and PS are the only subjects taught within tutor groups.

As well as the subjects and number of periods the diagram also shows the period breakdown.  Games and Technology are the only subjects requiring double periods. 

Maths, Science, Technology, English and Games are able to group students independently of one another within each cohort.  History, Geography and RE have linear grouping (common setting) as do IT and French in cohort X and Spanish in cohort Y (common setting). 

This particular model gives each subject areas considerable flexibility to organise student groupings as they see fit. 

In the present economic climate schools are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve this level of individual grouping in subjects and lower school groups in particular are being hit. In order to minimise split teaching groups timetablers are looking for increased flexibility and hence more linear grouping.

 

 

7A

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

7B

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

X

7C

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

7D

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

7E

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

7F

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

FR3

IT2

 

 

   

TE2

 

GA3

             

 

 

 

                       

 

 

7G

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

 

7H

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

Y

7J

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

 

7K

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

 

7L

MA3

SC4

TE2

EN4

GA3

HI2

GG2

RE2

AR1

MU1

PS1

SP3

IT2

 

 

 

 

TE2

 

GA3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SSS

SSSS

D

SSSS

DS

SS

SS

SS

S

S

S

SSS

SS

 

 

This plan is very similar to the previous one but it offers much more flexibility because History, Geography, Re, Art, Music and PS have common groupings.  The decision to extend the common grouping may well have been taken at the time the timetable was being constructed rather than at the initial planning stage but it is still important that the plan is updated.  The above curriculum diagram allows FR and SP to set within a cohort, although they have common setting with IT.

At the planning stage it would be useful for the timetabler to explore the possibilities of the extension of common groupings with curriculum leaders.  Early warning of the possibility of changes to groupings is always beneficial.  Some schools have found there is a strong correlation between levels of achievement in Maths and MFL and hence have common setting within these subjects. 

There are many variations for such a curriculum, we have just illustrated a typical curriculum and we acknowledge that the cohorts determine which language you study (or vice versa).  Although the curriculum could be altered to allow SP and FR on both sides of the curriculum.

Each year staff at MIST Services examine many curriculum plans and help schools to design them.  We are always more than happy to look at curriculum plans for schools and give feedback.  This is a completely free service.

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

Timetable and Curriculum review

During the second half of the autumn term MIST Services have received several requests from schools for our consultants to undertake a review of their timetable.  School leaders are increasingly looking to timetabling specialists to provide an independent review of the timetable in order to increase effectiveness of delivery, to inform decision making about recruitment or to make more efficient use of the resources that are available. 

Each year there are a few schools who for a number of reasons, start the academic year with a timetable that is not up to standard or incomplete in one way or another.  The impact of this on staff, student and parent morale is considerable.  Often the only way forward is a complete re-write with a new timetable starting after the half-term.  Apart from the disruption to student learning the whole exercise can be extremely costly.  No one sets out to produce a poor timetable but at times circumstances conspire to prevent even the best-intentioned staff to fail to deliver.

There are so many demands on the timetable and these are likely to increase.  We are living in a time of rapid change when many staff carry heavy workloads and at times things can be very stressful.  Forward planning becomes increasingly important.  The lack of time for advance review and planning for the timetable could well mean that the wrong appointments are made or courses are delivered by non-specialist staff.  Quality planning is the key to a quality timetable.

As a result of requests from school leaders MIST Services Ltd are offering a complete service to schools to support the whole timetabling process.  Schools will be given the opportunity to buy into any parts of the service they feel is appropriate.  This could include:

·         Review of the current timetable or curriculum plan

·         Management of the ‘Options’ process

·         Assistance with the setting up the timetabling software for the 2012/13 timetable

·         Support with the construction of the timetable. 

MIST Services are unique in that as well as being able to offer a wealth of experience gained over a large number of years in both this country and across the world we can also offer consultancies specifically related to TimeTabler (Chris and Keith Johnson), Nova T6 (SIMs) and Scheduler (Serco Learning).  This is especially important for schools moving from one software solution to another or using software for the first time.

At MIST Services we pride ourselves in delivering the highest quality services and our aim is always to be the best in the market place.  As part of our offer there are two key parts:

·         We will not be beaten on quality- we will always work in the software solution/ environment that you are used to.

·         We will not be beaten on price.  We are prepared to price-match any other service company provided they are a registered company and also registered for VAT.

If you are interested in any of these services or if you would like further details and prices please email chris@mistservices.co.uk or call us on 0115 8781034.

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

Timetable trends – Reflecting on the 2011 season!

At this time of the year MIST Services look back and reflect on the timetabling season to see what has changed and where the likely demands are going to be in the coming academic year.  This year was extremely busy and we had the pleasure of working with an increased number of schools.  To meet this demand we have increased the number of associates with whom we work.  The key points are listed below. 

1.       Outsourcing.  There is a very strong indication that the option of outsourcing the timetable is becoming increasingly popular in one form or another.  There are many demands placed on academic staff and timetable construction comes at a time of the year when they are fully committed with other tasks.  Some schools went along the path of using support staff to construct the timetable but this trend is now fading in favour of engaging the services of professional, highly experienced consultants.  It is now recognised that this is a cost-effective option that offers the school a quality service without them losing control of how the timetable is constructed.  The consultancies that offer the high quality services are generally booked well in advance of the timetabling season and hence the earlier you make your decision the more likely you are to find a consultant suitable for your school or Academy.

2.       Budget cuts.  Budget cuts affected many schools and Academies across the country and in some cases significantly delayed the start of the timetabling process.  It was well into the summer holidays by the time some schools had completed their timetables and this added considerable stress all round. 

3.       Staffing levels.  Reductions in staffing levels for many schools have resulted in staff being asked to teach outside their specialist areas or areas of expertise.  For teaching staff this has meant more planning and preparation and for the timetabler it has introduced more challenges to an already very demanding task.  The flexibility that is key to curriculum innovation and timetabling is gradually being eroded to the extent that there are very few options left.

4.       International Baccalaureate.  There has been a significant reduction in the delivery of International Baccalaureate (IB) in several of the UK schools with whom we work.  In many ways this is very sad but with all the cuts schools have to make they cannot justify the costs of supporting advanced courses to often very small groups.

5.       Class sizes/Consortiums.  Class group size has very much come into focus especially at KS4 and KS5.  Many schools are now part of a consortium of one sort or another.  There are many things to commend this approach from the point of view of students but it certainly does not ease the task of the timetabler!  Due to the geographical separation of providers, courses are sometimes only available on certain days and this can provide interesting challenges when it comes to the construction of option blocks but it can also skew the curriculum delivery of core subjects that are reported in league tables.  Whole days are ideal for some subjects but when modern language delivery for examination students is concentrated this can be very demanding.

6.       Joint option blocks.  One or two schools have been looking at the possibility of joint option blocks across Y10 and Y11 or even Y9, 10 and 11.  There has been some suggestion in the press that schools can save one or more members of staff by combining groups in this way.  The analysis that MIST Services have undertaken casts doubts on the size of savings that can be made-probably at best a few thousand pounds but the long term cost could be huge!

7.       Part timers.  There has been an increase in the number of staff asking to go part-time for one reason or another.  Reaction to these requests from senior leaders has been very variable and there is certainly no overwhelming trend to the way things are going.  Every school is different and the needs and difficulties vary enormously.  Part-time staff certainly poses a challenge for the timetabler!  As with many things flexibility is the key and at the end of the day it is the quality of delivery that really matters.

8.       Timetable and curriculum reviews.  Many senior leaders are now recognising the need to review timetables and curriculum structures much earlier than they did four or five years ago.  Some schools have the expertise to do this whist others feel it beneficial to engage the services of independent consultants who can bring a great deal of experience to the table.  There is a cost to this but the benefits that services such as this can bring hugely outweigh the cost of a day’s consultancy.

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

What timetabling software do MIST Services recommend?

Each year MIST Services are asked which timetabling software is the best.  Unfortunately there is no simple answer as there are many influencing factors such as type of school, MIS, your level of expertise and ICT skills to name a few.

 

At MIST Services we work with three leading software applications when constructing timetables for schools and over the years we have gained a high level of expertise in all three.  When this is combined with our vast experience of working with schools both in this country and across the world it puts us in a premier position to offer guidance and services to schools, academies and colleges of all types. 

 

We work with:

1.       TimeTabler- from October Resolutions written, developed and supported by Keith & Chris Johnson

2.       Facility Scheduler- from Serco Learning

3.       Nova T6 – from Capita

 

All these are excellent products and have stood the test of time.

 

For many schools/timetablers they see that the software they need to use is the one developed by the MIS provider.  Although historically this may have been true, if you had SIMs you use Nova, or if you had Facility then you used Scheduler but it is not necessarily the case today.  Also it should be noted that many MIS suppliers do not wish to develop timetabling  software and therefore rely on importing a timetable from a specific software solution.  At MIST Services we feel it is very important that as the timetabler you think very carefully about whether you wish to use Nova, Scheduler or TimeTabler and the decision should be linked in with the demands of your timetable as well as your ICT skills.  Should you wish to discuss your school timetabling requirements in relation to a timetabling package then please feel free to contact us?  Also if you currently using one of the mentioned timetabling solutions and need help or clarity on how to use it within a certain circumstance please contact us.

 

As we write, TimeTabler is the only software that we work with that is independent of the school MIS.  We are increasingly finding that for a whole host of reasons, schools change their MIS system and this has invariably meant that the person who is responsible for timetable construction had to move to a new software solution which could be a very traumatic and frustrating experience. Staff who use TimeTabler never need never experience this.  If the MIS changes or you move to another school with a different MIS you can still use TimeTabler- you are future-proofed.

 

Chris and Keith Johnson have produced a document that lists 10 good reasons why TimeTabler may well be the very solution you are looking for.  It may be worth contacting Serco Learning or Capita to ask if they have a similar list, or alternatively contact us and we’ll advise you accordingly.

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

Do we offer timetable construction services on a daily rate?

At MIST Services we do not believe in the approach of charging a daily fee for writing a school timetable, as we feel that schools need to have a clear idea of likely costs for budget purposes. 

We don’t believe there are many schools that would be willing to in essence write a blank cheque!  This is even more so in the current economic climate where many schools are making savings and going through redundancies, so having a project that isn’t a fixed fee is quite hard to justify. 

Quite often the timetable for a small school is more complex than a large one, due to amount of teaching resources available and hence if things are based on a daily rate the smaller schools are potentially at a disadvantage.  At MIST Services we have experience of timetabling gained over a large number of years and across a wide variety of schools which enables us to be realistic in our estimation of how long things take and hence the likely cost.  If we estimate ten days for a timetable and something happens (within the original curriculum plan) and it takes twenty days the school will not be charged anything extra.  Our service does not stop with the construction of the timetable.  During the year small changes to the timetable will be needed-e.g. change of staff  or room.  We are at hand to support you with these changes for the academic year that the timetable is valid.  There is no extra cost for this service.
 
If schools wish to work on a daily rate then MIST Services would recommend our timetabling weeks where the school timetabler can attend as many days they feel they need with expert help at hand.
Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

Teacher Pools

Facility Scheduler has got the concept of ‘Teacher Pools’ which in very simple terms means you could have a group (pool) of Art teachers and ask the system to allocate a teacher from the pool to say the Year 7 Art lessons.  Timetablers like the thought of using ‘pools’ in the lower end of the school as for many it doesn’t really matter which Art teacher teaches which group.

Below is a brief summary of checks and observations on the way teacher pools operate.  Having read this document you may wish not to use them! Continue reading

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

English Baccalaureate and option choices

You may well be undertaking the Year 9 option process currently and thinking about how to accommodate languages and humanities to ensure you get viable groups. Below is an example of a school and how they are tackling the Baccalaureate.

The school operates a four option block (each block receives 2 periods) curriculum where the option blocks are called A, B, C and D and the students have a complete free choice of the subjects they wish to opt for. Once all the preferences have been collected the ‘number crunching’ is completed and four viable option columns are produced. This has been working well for the school for many years. Continue reading

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

Hidden challenges in curriculum design

Each year at Mist Services we support schools with new and differing challenges. The past academic year has been no exception. Every school is different in the challenges it faces but we have seen 3 significant shifts this year:

1. A significant increase in the number of staff wanting to work part-time.
2. More schools moving towards Academy status
3. Increase in the number of establishments working across split sites.

If these are added to things such as Diploma courses, the difficulty of recruiting staff in some subject areas and falling roles there is no wonder than some timetablers have been wondering what has hit them.

Continue reading

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

The Timetable Calendar

Essentially there are two primary stages:

1. Timetabling the timetable
2. Timetable construction

1. Timetabling the timetable
There are a number of stages to this and these are normally spread throughout the autumn, spring and early parts of the summer term. The timing is very much down to individual school priorities but it is essential that sufficient time is set aside to a thorough job at each stage. This work will form the foundation for a successful timetable and it is important that no stages are missed or given insufficient consideration. Several of the stages will involve dialogue with colleagues and it is important for them to realise that a successful timetable is a team effort and not just down to the person(s) designated as the ‘Timetabler(s)’. In many schools this is not recognised and hence timetabling is seen as a mystery exercise and any problems are entirely down to the incompetence of the timetabler.

Continue reading

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment

Avoiding budget meltdown

The following e-mail is unfortunately not uncommon: We are in a major falling roll situation and need to look at the curriculum to reflect this. If we don't reduce staff costs we will be bust by 2011! Falling roll situation

This scenario is one that many schools may well find themselves facing. For some this is seen as a threat but for others it could well be an opportunity. At the very least it should stimulate a very healthy discussion regarding curriculum design and realisation. Continue reading

Posted in School timetabling | Leave a comment