What makes a good timetable?

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I love this question!

Ask 10 timetablers, get 10 different answers. Ask all the subject leaders in a school and again get different answers! Put it simply there is no-real consensus of what a ‘Good’ timetable is. Please don’t get me wrong there are common traits to what is deemed a ‘Good’ timetable but even within these different schools around the world they may have a different take! As they say no one size fits all.

Although when I pose this question to people I train, human instinct almost by default gives ‘negative’ or ‘bad’ traits of a timetable. I trust it’s is the glass half-empty or half-full viewpoint!

Take 10-minutes and compete the table below of Good or Bad ‘traits’ of a timetable (if unsure look further down for a few ideas). Think of it from different viewpoints – the student, the teachers, a subject area.

Good traits of a timetable are:



Bad traits of a timetable are:





Good trait examples

  • A subject expert teaching the students (teaching their specialism)
  • Excellent spread of lessons
  • Teacher has ownership of a room
  • Subject staff have time in the week for a meeting

I’m not here to give a definitive list, but I would imagine some of the ‘bad’ traits may be:

  • Too many split teaching groups,
  • Teachers teaching out of specialism,
  • Too much Maths in the afternoon
  • Part staff didn’t get what they asked for

Although I’ve focused on four negative aspects, what do you believe is required from a timetabling viewpoint to make all the negative traits disappear?

Or maybe there is no such thing as a perfect timetable! As what is perfect for one stakeholder is seen differently from another stakeholder.

I don’t want to sound down-beat but imagine you have worked hard, you have delivered a great timetable, when you issue it to the individual staff what is typically the first thing they check? Yes, they count the ‘blanks’ to ensure they aren’t teaching too much! Once they are re-assured, they probably then check where group X is scheduled.

Coming back to previous articles, there are typically too many solutions to search and check the validity that there is bound to be a compromise! What is an acceptable compromise is unique to your school, staff and curriculum?

What’s the take-away here? Understand what rules of engagement you are working within and formulate a strategy.


Take the above and think it over in your context and update your strategy for your boulders, stones and sand list! If you have traits on the bad list, what is required to convert them to good traits? Consider the good traits, what do you need to do to ensure they stay on that list and not topple into the ‘bad’ list!

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