Curb bullying with smarter timetabling

Bullying is an increasingly difficult problem to tackle in schools.

Restricting mobile phone use or blocking access to social media within school hours can reduce cyberbullying, but anti-social behaviour in the classroom is still a serious issue.

These five smarter timetabling approaches, coupled with advanced timetabling software, can help in reducing bullying in your school.

Flexible class structures – dynamically tuned

Allowing ‘pairs’ or groups of classes to be scheduled together allows for easy movement of students in/out of classes. This doesn’t impact other class changes, nor restrict the timetable, like fully blocked subjects. Advanced software can group classes effectively, but also dynamically respond to issues. E.g. a school may pair group classes 7A+7B and 7C+7D but later decide 7A+7C and 7B+7D is a better mix of social groups.

Being able to ‘regroup’ classes in a working timetable in minutes, and to see different combinations, is powerful. It allows schools to tune the timetable dynamically. It also helps show ‘what if’ scenarios, and to address social problems arising during the year.

Clever class list management tools

Software that can show issues with class lists, and help to resolve them quickly with minimal disruption, can be invaluable.

One such issue is undesirable student combinations in classes. This can be avoided by tagging 2+ students for separation. If the students are placed together in the same class, they will be flagged, signalling adjustments need to be made. Conversely, pairing students with others who may protect or support them, can insulate against antisocial behaviour.  Here, students are flagged if they are not placed into the same class.

Smaller class sizes allow for better supervision, and naturally discourage negative behaviours. While it’s easy to balance classes in blocks, balancing class sizes across elective blocks is complex. Smart timetable software can manage size balance via complex algorithms during generation and facilitate cross block movement of students.

Increase rooming consistency and reduce student movement

Smart rooming also helps curb anti-social behaviour. Reducing movement lessens opportunity for bullies and victims to cross paths while unsupervised.

The ability to define preferred rooming for student groups increases rooming consistency for classes, benefiting both teachers and students. Knowing the spatial arrangement of rooms (how far apart each room is from others), sequential lessons are scheduled to limit movement to the same area.  This is otherwise time consuming and difficult to do manually.

Improve staffing quality

Students placed in classes that are shared between two teachers may suffer from reduced supervisory oversight. Shared classes are more disruptive to students and can aggravate negative behaviours. A teacher may not be aware of social issues occurring in a previous lesson of that class, taught by a colleague. Consistent staff for a class helps teachers in managing bullying.

Using algorithms to perform staffing according to rules determined by head teachers, can balance load across teachers and reduce the need for split classes. Enhanced reporting gives visibility of students who have many different teachers, scheduled in too many split classes. This may be a contributing factor to anti-social behaviour.

Increase student engagement

According to a 2004 American Educational Research Journal article by Fredricks, Blumenfeld and Paris, “students motivated by and engaged in learning, perform considerably higher academically and are better behaved than unmotivated or unengaged peers”.

Students given choice in elective based subjects are happier, more motivated and engaged in these subjects if granted. Smarter timetabling grants more requested subjects to students than legacy methods. Improvements here keep students focused on their education and less disruptive in class.


Forward thinking school leaders see smarter timetabling as an effective strategy towards reducing bullying. 

Rather than waste time dealing with distressed students, angry parents and poor grades, reconsider your timetable, and software. The solution to bullying may lie here – an area you hadn’t previously considered as such big lever for change.

Chris Cooper

Chris is from Edval, an Australian scheduling software company. This article appeared in the latest issue of School News.

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