A school timetable is a table for coordinating these four elements:
studentsteachersroomstime slots (also called periods)
The task of constructing a high school timetable involves the following issues (not an exhaustive list):
Assigning periods to classes: There is a need to spread out lessons across the teaching cycle as much as possible.
Some classes need 'double periods': This especially happens with practical lessons such as science lab work or art classes where it takes a long time to set up equipment.
Assigning teachers to classes ('staffing'): Sometimes the department head teachers stipulate what the staffing will be, but often there are alternative teachers that can be given to a class, and the timetabler must make the decision based on timetabling considerations.
Assigning rooms to classes: Some subjects require specialist rooms, e.g. science labs.
The last period of a day is often less desired and these must be shared fairly across all classes.
Assign periods to subjects: There are a variety of lengths of classes: 9 periods per cycle, 8, 7, 5 and so on. If this is the case, it means that it's not possible to have a 'coherent' structure to the timetable. 'Coherent' means that the classes in each year up neatly with classes in other years in school-wide 'super-columns'. Non coherent timetables are much more difficult to construct.
Individual teachers have 'unavailabilities' periods when they are occupied in external or non-teaching tasks and therefore cannot teach on those periods.
Part-timer teachers need to have certain entire days off: They will either specify to the school which weekdays they are or simply how many days per cycle they need off. Such teachers can greatly add to the difficulty of timetabling when they are assigned to large blocks.
» version 2008.15.1 - posted on 2009-01-28
» version 2008.14.5 - posted on 2008-11-07
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