Flexible timetables work well with consultation
School timetables can be as unique and flexible as students
Early mornings, late starts, longer or shorter periods –state school timetables can be as unique and flexible as their students.
Provided this is done as part of a consultative timetable policy – a requirement of our collective agreements - it can, and is, working well.
Timetables, collaboration and the collective
The timetabling policy in the PPTA collective agreements provides a way for schools to be flexible for their communities and students while getting valuable input from staff. Under it schools must have a timetable policy and are required to consult with their teaching staff over its implementation. Consultation should happen whenever changes are considered – big or small.
Any school or PPTA branch can initiate a review of the school’s timetable, which can be a useful collaborative exercise in looking at how things are done.
Mount Albert Grammar School providing more options for students
An example of how communication with staff is important is Mount Albert Grammar School, which is introducing early starts for a small number of classes in a bid to address increasing roll growth and provide more options for its students.
‘Period zero’ will start at 7.45am, with three classes being held before school, in addition to the school timetable.
Early starts for three classes
Mount Albert Grammar PPTA branch chair Malcolm Nuttall said, though initial media coverage made it appear that the entire school would be starting at 7.45am, the early starts would only be for three classes. Next year the school would be introducing a new subject, psychology, which would start at 7.45am, along with a scholarship science programme which would run alongside a scholarship maths programme that already ran as an early morning class.
“It’s a way of offering students more. Sometimes they can’t take all the subjects they want. Physics and calculus might be timetabled at the same time for example. This gives the kids more options,” he said.
Later finishes for others
Another change to the timetable was that previously year 13 students had no classes after 2.10pm and could leave school early. Now there is more flexibility in subjects and students can stay until 3.10pm.
If students were taking one of the three early morning classes they were not expected to stay later however.
Staff involvement voluntary
Malcolm doesn’t think this is the start of phasing in early starts for the entire school. “It is just a way of trying to rejig things, to make it more flexible to have more subjects.”
No staff would be forced to take early morning classes and those that will be taking them had volunteered, he said.
Unfortunately this was where communication and consultation could have been better. Staff from the maths and science departments were aware of the planned early starts, but for much of the rest of the staff it came as a surprise when they read about it in the Saturday Herald, he said.
“It was a bad process from that side of things. The staff that were involved knew about it, but it wasn’t well known across the whole school, and the Herald article gave the impression that a lot more classes would be starting early. The staff representative on the board of trustees didn’t even know,” he said.
Staff now in the loop
The staff asked a lot of questions and as soon as they realised it was not going to be a pilot for all classes starting at 7.45am and that it was volunteer only, they were okay with the situation and interested in how and why it was happening, he said.
Communication has since improved, he said.
Keeping an eye on things
“Staff are okay with it provided it really is voluntary and that people don’t feel pressured into it because they teach a certain subject. It is a good way of giving students flexibility, but we will keep an eye on things,” he said.
How do timetables work in your school?
Is your school doing something different with its timetable? How is it working for you? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org