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Timetables for all primary schools

31st May 2012

You would have thought that when your child starts primary school, one of the first things you would be given is a weekly timetable.  This is not so in the state sector however, and if your school does equip you with a timetable, you are one of the lucky few.  Given that activities such as registration, assemblies, breaks and lunchtimes are usually at fixed times throughout the week – there would be chaos otherwise – how difficult is it to schedule the class lessons in the remaining time slots?  Surely this is necessary for effective lesson planning? Literacy, Maths, ITC, P.E., and PSHE are core subjects taught in primary school so why can’t they be timetabled into your child’s week?

Timetables play a very important role in helping children to learn that their day ahead is planned and they can see what lessons or activities they have.  As they progress through the years, their timetable will prove an essential tool for enabling them to gradually become more responsible in planning what they need for their day, whether it be a pe kit or a musical instrument or to hand homework in.

It’s a different story in the private sector however and the timetable is usually one of the first pieces of information you are given when your child starts primary school or enters their new year group.  Private schools recognise that parents need to know what their children are doing throughout the day and that by keeping them in the dark doesn’t help anyone, least of all their child.  Some private schools even go as far as printing ‘picture versions’ of timetables for the younger children to help them understand what they will be doing each day.  Says one headmistress we spoke to:

“We consider school timetables an essential tool. They are very beneficial to parents and teachers but most of all they are hugely important to our children, as they know what is expected of them each day and turn up for school more prepared for what the day will entail.  We find that parents totally rely on timetables for making sure their children have items that they may need during a particular class. For many parents, having a timetable helps them support their child at home.  So for example, if a child has a swimming lesson, parents will know to bring in their swim kit, or if they have french in the morning, some parents may try out a few french words in the car on the journey into school. Quite frankly, it astounds me that state primary schools don’t have timetables, I really couldn’t manage without one and neither could my staff.”

So what is the real reason behind why some state schools won’t give parents a timetable? We have heard all sorts of excuses, the most common one being that lessons “regularly change from one week to the next” so “can’t be timetabled”.  This gives us cause for concern as it is well documented that children work better when they are in a routine. It also implies a lack of organisation within a school.  Another very common excuse is that “primary school lessons often involve an integrated approach to learning,” so they “can’t be specifically defined as being one particular subject”.  So, for example, a maths class may be combined with art, or an English class may be based on history facts.  This argument does not hold any water with us. If you are going to learn your multiplication tables, this would surely be designated as maths, regardless of whether you are allowed to draw pictures to help you learn them.  Likewise, if you are learning how to do joined up writing, surely this would be part of a literacy lesson even if it involves writing about Victorian times.

Does your primary school have a timetable? Do you think a timetable is important? Let us know your views.





1st July 2012 at 6:06 am

After reading this article, I discovered my seven year old has a French lesson every Thursday. I had no idea and we are nearly at the end of Year 2. He also told me last year he did Spanish! How on earth do schools expect us to help our kids when this can happen. I think its about time the government make school timetables compulsory for every state school.


4th July 2012 at 7:59 am

I would have thought by now all schools, state and private, should have timetables and if not, why not? It is unacceptable to expect parents to muddle along from day to day without any idea what their children are up to. Not all parents are lucky enough to have children who tell you what they did at school each day. I have no idea whatsoever what subjects they are taught on what days, yet alone what they are actually learning. how are we supposed to help them at home when this is the case?

P Leach

6th July 2012 at 8:11 pm

I would like to hear the argument for not having one. Ok so schools give some outrageous excuses for not having them, which I find laughable, but is there really a parent out there that thinks we don’t deserve a timetable? I would like to hear their reasoning behind it. So why on earth do we not have them? Maybe this is one for all the boards of governors…


18th July 2012 at 1:08 pm

We have just moved our children from state school to private school and just having a timetable alone has made an incredible difference. We now know what they are up to during the day and we just feel a lot more confident in what they are learning. Knowing that their day is structured is a great comfort and when we talk to our daughters when they come home, we get a lot more out of them because we can actually remind them what they did that day!


21st July 2012 at 5:31 pm

As a teacher in a state primary school I can tell you that we certainly do have a fixed timetable. The week wouldn’t work without it. The children all know when they have PE, literacy numeracy etc. and my yr6 class complete and take home a timetable in September. In my experience all schools do this, you can’t just make it up because all classes need to fit together and chaos would reign if you all decided to do PE at the same time! Obviously the timetable has a little flexibility as things can change slightly, but this is rare. Have you asked your child’s teacher for a copy of the timetable? or the head teacher, who should have a copy of what’s going on in their school.


22nd July 2012 at 11:25 am

I have three children who have been to two different state primary schools (we moved house when my oldest was in year 4 and changed schools). Neither school has a timetable and I asked both for one but was told they don’t have them. They never gave a reason but I did ask my children’s teachers and they seemed to find it strange that I would even ask for one. Two of my friends who are at different primary schools don’t have them either. None of us can understand it. You would think every school would have one.

significant other

14th August 2012 at 1:13 pm

My son’s school doesn’t have a timetable. I think it’s appalling. I don’t know how they get away with it. Infact, I don’t know why parents put up with it. My son tells me zilch about his day and I only find out snippets of what he gets up to from a couple of parents who have daughters in his class. God only knows how he is coping. I did ask for one at the beginning. Actually, it was more a case of thinking it had been lost from his bookbag, so I was very disappointed to learn the school doesn’t even have one. I am beginning to regret choosing this school. It is just one thing after another lately and communication is diabolical.


27th August 2012 at 7:26 am

I’m surprised parents are so accepting of being kept in the dark about what their children’s day entails. You would never get this at a private school. I’m a TA and have taught at both state and private schools and the difference in the level of information given to parents is incredible. In the private sector, in addition to the school timetable, parents get a weekly summary of what their children are actually doing in their lessons so that they can help them at home. In the state school I work in, not only is there no timetable, but the school goes out of their way to keep parents guessing about everything including how their children are doing. We have ‘ability tables’ which are constantly given new names so parents (and possibly the children) can’t work out who is bright and who isn’t doing so well. It’s completely pointless though as all the parents have worked out who the bright kids in the class are so just ask their children whose table they sit on for what subject. The kids are pretty quick to work it out too, so I’m not sure who benefits from it. It creates quite an unpleasant atmosphere between the parents though. I think the school should either have mixed ability tables or just be open about it. All this cloak and dagger stuff is ridiculous.


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