Case Studies

Timetable Construction


1.   An 11 to 16 School in Central London


The school had an experienced timetabler who had always done the timetable manually.   A new timetabler was to assist this year and had been on an E.M.S. timetabling course.  The school had purchased ‘TimeTabler' and needed help getting used to it.  As it is such a straightforward program to use Mervyn worked through the data entry and they actually constructed the timetable during the afternoon!  Mervyn left them to do the printouts they required.  The whole task was accomplished in a one-day visit with one or two follow-up phone calls and e-mails. (This is not typical!  We are not guaranteeing we can do any timetable in an afternoon!  A few weeks is a more usual timescale).


2.   An 11 to 18 International School in South-East Asia


The experienced timetabler had reached a ‘brick wall' trying to construct the timetable using a computer.  The problem was a fairly typical one where the curriculum had become increasingly complex, eventually presenting structures that could not be properly timetabled.  The work was handled mainly via e-mail (with one or two phone calls).  As the timetable was being constructed on ‘TimeTabler' it was quite easy to transfer the ‘work in progress' back and forth between Thailand and the UK.  The necessary changes in structure suggested by Mervyn were negotiated by the experienced timetabler in the school and progressively all the problems were resolved by ‘remote control'.  The work was spread over several weeks but (unfortunately) no visits to Thailand were required!


3.   A Large 11 to 18 Comprehensive in London.


The experienced timetabler had been given a significant extra responsibility for the Summer term so the Head suggested getting someone external to construct the timetable.  The timetabler constructed the curriculum plan and worked with heads of faculty to allocate staff to teaching groups.  The timetabler also did a lot of the data testing before submitting the data (he had been on a E.M.S. timetabling course!).  The timetable construction was carried out in the E.M.S. office with constant update provided to the school.  Any ‘snags' were referred to the school with suggested changes.  These were quickly resolved by the timetabler with the necessary changes being e-mailed back to Mervyn.  As the timetabler had worked with Mervyn in previous years, rather more telephone communication was used.  The timetable was completed, printed off and distributed within the deadline required.


4.   An 11 to 16 School in Central London


The School was about to lose its Sixth Form (LSC had decided a separate Sixth Form Centre was needed!).  The timetabler was Acting Head for the Spring & Summer term so would not have time to do the timetable.  A one-day school visit in January allowed for the collection of data and a glimpse of the problems the school was about to face!  The new Sixth Form Centre had decided to adopt a lesson timeframe different from any of the four schools sending pupils and teachers to the new establishment.  The four existing schools did not share a common timeframe but assurances had been given to staff in each institution that they would be able to continue teaching beyond Key Stage 4 by travelling to the new Sixth Form institution.  This timetable had many delays in it caused by ‘political' issues generated by the reorganisation.  Most of the communication during construction was by e-mail, with the Acting Head in the ‘front line' negotiating with the staff.  The timetable was completed towards the end of the Summer term – to the great relief of the timetabler & Mervyn!!



5.  An 11 to 18 School in Wales


Two experienced timetablers had reached an impasse.  The rather involved curriculum structure had just had one or two refinements added and things would no longer fit.  Initial work was done ‘at a distance' with data being transferred back and forth.   Eventually a stage was reached when a visit to the school was needed.  During this two-day visit the three people worked together resolving problems as they arose, and the timetable was completed at the end of day two.  Many compromises had to be made and the school now intends to simplify some of its curriculum structures before next year, the timetablers having gained clear ideas about the structures that need modifying.

School-based Timetable Training

Two schools, both in different parts of the U.K., needed to replace their existing 'lone' timetabler with a small group (in order to allow the curriculum to develop!)  Both schools received two days training for the new group in a venue near to their school (they decided it was best to have the training off-site).  In one instance, the established timetabler attended the training session and contributed, at the other school the timetabler decided to be unavailable for the two days!  The two schools were very happy with the training which has established a useful basis for moving forward a situation that was proving to be 'limiting' to future curriculum ideas!  One of the schools has now decided to use Mervyn's expertise to make significant changes to their delivery of the curriculum (including a change of time-frame).

A few years back, an International School in Thailand needed help with 'simplifying' the curriculum as the timetable each year was becoming increasingly difficult and compromises needed for its construction were becoming more unacceptable (does it sound familiar?).  Mervyn spent two days working with a groups of seven staff from the school providing them with the necessary tools to achieve a solution.  To help finance this (air-fare being a major expense) the school organised a two-day timetabling course to follow their consultancy.  16 neighbouring International Schools sent people on this course which was held at the host school.

Costing & Curriculum Restructuring

1.   An 11 to 18 LEA school in NE England had been ‘in deficit' for a number of years and were under pressure to remedy the situation. The LEA offered to fund the consultancy with Mervyn who had worked with the LEA in the previous year looking at the funding of all their secondary schools. The school sent the information requested and Mervyn was able to work on it before the first of two half-day visits to the school. On the first half-day visit, Mervyn shared with the head the results of his analytical work and came up with a range of suggestions. Some of these suggestions may well have sounded outrageous to the head, but he didn't let it show! A few weeks later after the head had consulted with the rest of his team and talked to the Heads of Department and others involved, Mervyn returned and worked through the Head's decisions and checked through the cost implications to ensure that the Head was confident that the changes would produce results to satisfy the LEA while allowing his staff to feel reasonably satisfied about what they were providing for their pupils.


2.   A group of Independent Schools engaged Mervyn to do a one-day ‘Costing Course' specifically aimed at the private sector. The day was held in one of the member schools and from the feedback obtained it seemed to prompt a range of ‘new thinking' in many of the schools. As a result of this day, Mervyn was contacted by a few of the schools to help them individually to look at the links between curriculum and finance for their schools.


3.   An 11 to 18 school in Essex wanted to look at the way their options were presented to year 9 pupils with a view to considering the resource and financial implications of implementation in Years 10 & 11. The school was also looking at a similar problem concerning Sixth Form provision in an area with competition from other nearby establishments. The school provided a wealth of information before the one-day visit. As a result, the Leadership Group were able to work with Mervyn on the day to determine a useful range of possible strategies. Some weeks later, Mervyn received a note from the head indicating great pleasure at the outcomes of the exercise.


4.  A split-site 11 to 18 school in the West Midlands wanted to try to cut down on ‘wasted' travel time by both staff and pupils. Having received and studied data provided by the school, Mervyn spent one day at the school working through ways of transferring pupils and staff back and forth in a more economic way. Later after considering the various options the school decided that changing the number of periods per day (and therefore periods per fortnight) and changing their views on registration and ‘form periods' they could make life simpler (in terms of travel) for both pupils and staff. They subsequently used Mervyn again to help with the intricate business of changing the timeframe for the school timetable.

5.  A group of Secondary Schools decided that it was more economical to employ Mervyn to run the one-day 'Costing the Curriculum' course for them than to send twelve people on the course!  The course was organised at one of the schools with each school contribution only a fraction of what it would have cost otherwise.  They now plan to run their own three-day Timetabling Course for the very same reason!