As both staff and pupils get ready for the start of a new school year, there are a lot of unseen things that go on behind the scenes to get things ready for the first day back. Mrs Blackie in the office looks after the enrolments of new pupils throughout the summer break, sorting out paperwork, visas etc. for the new arrivals and organising new blazers and uniforms. Mr Allen speaks to many new pupils via Skype. Miss Anders and her boarding team get the boarding houses ready to welcome everyone back. The cleaners make sure everything is shipshape and clean. And of course teachers are busy preparing their classrooms and planning their lessons.
I have an additional role in that I am responsible for creating the timetable for the new school year. Many people think this just happens the week before we come back but actually preparations begin way back in April when we ask our year 11 pupils what they would like to study in the Sixth form, ask our year 9 pupils what GCSE subjects they would like to do and ask our year 8 pupils about their options around languages, drama and design.
Dr Richardson and I collate all this information and try to come up with a set of option blocks which works for as many pupils as possible and to give them all, or almost all, of their choices. Being a small school we are able to change the option blocks every year to accommodate individual preferences which doesn’t tend to happen in larger schools. It is virtually unheard of for pupils not to get 3 or all 4 of their GCSE choices, and even where there are unavoidable clashes, we can often overcome them.
Over the summer holidays I set to work on creating the timetable using some software called ASC Timetables. All the teachers are colour coded and every lesson for every teacher has to be entered – the subject, the teacher’s name, the classroom, how many lessons a week etc. The software automatically generates a timetable though it can’t always fit all the lessons in so then I have to look to see where I can fit the missing pieces.
Once the timetable has been completed and checked, they are printed out and laminated for the tutor groups. Individual staff timetables are emailed out to staff the week before term starts to make sure there are no problems to sort out. There is a prep timetable to create so pupils know what preps they will have on different nights and a rota of when staff are not teaching so they could cover any potential absences.
And that’s it . . . we’re ready for the start of a new school year! The pupils will receive their new timetable on the first morning back when they write everything into their planners. Another year has begun; another year to work out where they should be and what lesson they have next. After a short while it will become second nature again.
Wendy Banks, Head of ICT