Yes, the Timetabler is usually a Deputy Head or a Head of Department [often Maths or Physics]. Occasionally it's done by a team of people, which has advantages & disadvantages. Timetabling is mainly about problem-solving but it's also about diplomacy & negotiation, so the Timetabler needs to have some status in the school.
Originally Posted by speckytecky
There's a myth that big schools are always harder to timetable than small schools. Big schools have much more data to handle, but small schools may have a disproportionate number of part-timers, and staff teaching 2nd/3rd/4th subjects.
And just because the timetable was easy (or hard) last year, doesn't mean it will be the same this year [it depends on the conflicts caused by the particular arrangement of staffing each year]. That's all part of the drama (and fascination) of timetabling.
Don't use SIMS, but we have a member of our SLT who puts the bones of the timetable together manually then leaves the rest to me (Data Manager) to finish off.
It works quite well, and as we are a reasonably large secondary Academy on a two-week timetable it can get a bit complex at times. We don't like "automatic" timetabling (letting software do it for us), much prefer a manual approach as it gives a better end product and allows you to get a feel for the timetable as you build it.
The snag is that doing it manually it is possible to construct a timetable which won't actually work when term begins. For example, you know that part-timer Mrs Jones doesn't teach on Fridays, and you remember this well at the beginning ...but later, in looking for 'musical-chairs' moves to solve a problem, you find a solution, are delighted with it ...and don't realise until September that you have accidentally used Mrs Jones on Friday. A timetabling program won't allow you to do that ...once you've told it that Mrs Jones isn't in school on Fridays, it doesn't forget.
Originally Posted by s1monb
Similarly, it's very easy to accidentally double-book a teacher when working manually, so that he's expected to be in two places at once ...again a timetabling program won't allow you to do that.
Another limitation of manual timetabling is that in looking for 'musical-chairs' moves to solve a problem, it is possible, manually, to find 2-step moves, 3-step moves, 4-step moves ...but it is increasingly difficult ...and tedious. A modern timetabling program can find up to 16-step moves for you, and quickly. So your time is spent only in judging which is the best musical-chairs move to use.
There are other advantages of using a computer, too many to mention here.
Yes I agree absolutely ...for the timetable that you are going to 'impose' on your colleagues. It needs to involve the judgement & wisdom of a human being, working interactively with a computer.
Originally Posted by s1monb
But automatic scheduling is invaluable for doing 'What if...?' investigations. For example, what if we want to add an extra Maths set in Year 8, what if we want to change the number of options in Year 9, etc. With automatic scheduling you can investigate the effects of such changes while you drink a cup of coffee.
I couldn't agree more with what you've said.
I should have been clearer when I said "manually". There's no way I could do a timetable for a 1150 roll school in a traditional manual way, it would drive me mad and take me a lifetime!
The member of SLT does manually timetable a few key areas, then I use some timetabling software, inputting the various restrictions that you mention and then place his timetable into the system to check it, then build the rest of the timetable on top of that.
I don't like the "one click" timetable builder-type option, as you lose the personal touch, so I do a version of "manual" timetabling, but with the aid of the software which takes care of clashes and restrictions, such as part time staff etc. I like the idea of the "what if" scenarios though, and have never really considered using timetabling software in that way before, so thanks for that - it may open up some interesting opportunities.