In the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns, many schools are planning for a partial return of students, using a variety of approaches to grouping, including family name, house and year cohort.
For schools, managing the return of students and structuring their timetables has presented yet one more challenge at a time when most staff, students and parents are still getting a grasp of what the pandemic will mean for schools in 2021.
Edval – one of Australia’s leading timetabling services – has been at the coalface throughout the pandemic, helping schools streamline their scheduling process and reducing the administrative strain that has exhausted teachers.
The company’s managing director, Michael Emmanuel, recently highlighted some of the key learnings for schools when it comes to how they timetable at a time of great change.
“Schools have shown they're adaptable and innovative through extreme challenges, and this is no different when it comes to their timetable,” Emmanuel told The Educator.
“We believe schools will continue this, seeing how the timetable doesn't have to constrict the workings of a school but is actually a powerful operational tool”.
Emmanuel said this can facilitate more flexibility for staff, opportunities for students and better experiences for everyone.
“Through the challenges, schools have learnt more is possible than they may have imagined before”.
Emmanuel said that despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, many schools appear to be maintaining their existing timetables to determine what work is to be distributed for each day. He believes this is unlikely to change in the new year.
“We're not seeing much change to timetable structures when we go about our BAU activities providing advice and support to our schools. We provide professional timetable creation services to many of our schools each year,” he said.
He said these services require close collaboration with each school, which provides a clear insight into how they are thinking and what, from a timetabling perspective, is important to them.
“For these schools, as we begin to prepare their 2021 timetables, we can see that their structures will remain largely the same, perhaps with some staggering of start times to reduce load on facilities during break times, recess and lunch”.
Looking ahead, Emmanuel sees some exciting opportunities for schools to use technology for meaningful impact across teaching and learning.
“Throughout 2020, schools have had to adapt, pivot, be more agile and open to change. I think they have been pleasantly surprised by the level of change their stakeholders can accept and sustain,” he said.
“It's amazing what people are capable of when there is a clear, important and common purpose”.
Emmanuel believes the year ahead will be exciting.
“I think the schools that have adopted new timetabling technology and, more importantly, a new mindset when planning their structures,” he said.
“Perhaps there will be more creativity when mapping out their curriculum. Perhaps more focus on collaboration, importantly, with a timetable that is geared to promote collaboration. It's possible”.