General Timetabling

General Principles of Timetabling

General principles of Timetabling with VSware in Second Level Schools (Read time, 5 minutes).

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This information is from a presentation, the full PDF of the presentation is available to download here.

School Timetable

  • It will control the daily movement of students and teachers throughout the school year in rooms and corridors 
  • Teachers will plan internal and external activities around their timetable - ownership very quickly
  • It should allow the school to maximise limited resources
  • The timetable should be making a best effort too implement your planned curriculum as required by your school/BOM

Terms used in timetabling 

  • Lessons - the individual periods of teaching, usually between 30 minutes and 60 minutes
  • Double/Treble lessons - more that one lesson with the same subject and class group 
  • Spread - How are the lessons scheduled (Eg. 5 lessons - 5 single lessons, 1 double and 3
    single lessons or 2 doubles and 1 single) This can depend on the subject and school
  • Grid - This shows the slots available to receive lessons or breaks during the week. It varies
    considerably from school to school with some schools finishing earlier on some days.
  • Base Class - 1A, 2B etc - This is used by a school, mainly in the junior years, to place
    students in several class groups at once. It is also used to help with roll call etc
  • Teaching Group - A collection of students who attend the same lessons in a subject
  • Team Teaching - An additional teacher is assigned to a teaching group. This teacher
    does not have to take attendance (but could do) and does not have to enter examination
  • Learning Support - Extra teaching groups added to the timetable to allow students to
    drop out of other teaching groups taking place at that time
  • Core Subjects - These are Subjects that are assigned to Base Classes. It simplifies the assigning of subjects to students. Students are assigned as a group instead of having to assign them individually
  • Blocks - Consists of Classes which must always be scheduled at the same time. This could be done to allow students move from one class to another (honours/pass) or to allow students from different Base Classes to choose an Optional Subject (students might be asked to select one subject from a few different blocks). Blocks normally include students from all Base Classes.
  • Split Blocks or Mini Blocks - This is the same as a Block but might only include students from some of the Base Classes in that year - Sometimes schools split a block to allow easier scheduling or to allow the same teacher to teacher in two different block within the same year.
  • Year Split - Large schools sometimes divide a year in two halves and students from these separate halves never mix for lessons. They have two set of blocks (sometimes identical) within the same year
  • Co-Scheduling - This is when a lesson from one year is always scheduled with a lesson from another year (year 5 & year 6 might combine in a small school)


Teacher Allocation 

  • Whole-time Teacher Equivalent (WTE)
  • Permanent Teachers
  • Part-Time Teachers
  • Job-Share
  • Assistant Principal Post
  • Special Duty Post



The teaching and learning activities that will take place in the revised junior cycle programmes will encompass a wider range of activities, a new balance between the development of skills and competences and the development of student's knowledge. To facilitate this learning and the implementation of good formative assessment practices, a minimum class period of 40 minutes will be required. As at present, certain subjects will require double class periods (2 x 40 minutes) during the school week. As soon as it is practicable to do s, schools should move to ensure that class periods of less than 40 minutes are not timetabled. Some schools may find the use of longer class periods of up to 60 minutes (rather than 40 minutes), more suited to the learning needs of their students and the subjects they study. It should be noted that, for the 2017/18 and subsequent school years, all class periods of less that 40 minutes duration may not be timetabled. 


Good Timetabling

  • Compromise
  • Be creative enough to allow students to study the
    subjects they wish to study - but with some caution!
  • Be consistent with the codes and nomenclature
  • Does it comply with Dept of Education and Skills
    circulars - Time in School etc
  • Assigning teachers to many different years


Planning the Timetable (1/3)

  • Deciding the number of lesson periods in the grid -
    minimum of 40 minute duration. Some school have moved
    to 60 minutes lessons
  • Establishing clear policy on Job Sharing, Allocation of
    Teachers to Classes, Half Days, Reduction in Hours for
    Post Holders etc.
  • Forming Option Blocks
  • Team Teaching
  • Learning Support
  • Class Size - Maximum & Minimum
  • Classes in Core or Blocks - Subject, Year etc
  • Arrange Option Blocks to benefit Student Choice or more restrictive in order to allow streaming within certain subjects (which subjects should be allowed this?)
  • Splitting Classes between two teachers
  • What lessons need to be scheduled at definite times - Fixed on the timetable
  • Managing those exempt from studying Irish
  • How do we deal with Science - Normally 24 max but usually a Core Subject
  • Do certain subject get higher priority on the curriculum/timetable - (placed earlier in the day - never on Friday afternoon)
  • Retirements during the year
  • Do you take timetable requests? - (Teachers, Subjects Departments, Parents’ Council)
  • Keep a To-Do list


Fine tuning the Timetable

  • Examine spreads
  • Examine individual teachers’ timetables to
    see if there is anything that can be
  • How & When to communicate the
    timetable to teachers
  • Publishing & Allowing Access


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