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Dixons Academies Trust

Flexible working at Dixons: making our ambitions a working reality

Posted 10th July 2024

Since we first shared the news that we are working towards a genuine nine-day fortnight for our teachers at Dixons, we have been inundated with questions on the how. We have been working hard behind the scenes to answer these questions, and on the technical details of the timetabling process to allow us to make our ambitions a working reality.

Providing the best possible outcomes for children are paramount, and a well looked after workforce is pivotal for that to be achieved. To start planning and achieving a nine in ten work pattern, we had to take an open-minded approach and accept a simple concept – staff will not be in work every day.

Simple enough as an idea, but it adds more parameters to our timetabling, and it makes one of our first decisions for us: it is not unusual for schools to run a two-week timetable – it can offer a more efficient delivery of the curriculum and maximise staff output. With the nine in ten vision, the ten-day cycle means this is the first of our baseline rules. To succeed, we will be working from a two-week timetable.

As always, before any timetable construction begins, key decisions have to be made and this time we needed to consider all the additional restraints that a nine in ten pattern would add. We also had to consider any impact on the delivery of curriculum, the setting, and the overall structures of how our academies operate.

It may seem like there is a fluid process in making these decisions, but in reality, decisions change whilst creating the timetable as problems arise – some solvable and others not.

This is not different to the normal construction of a timetable – there are just more constrains and therefore more decisions, or solutions to be made or found.

An additional challenge that is occasional on current timetables but now more prevalent with the staff day off is doubles – or repeated lessons on the same day. (If there are 10 lessons of English in the curriculum plan and only nine days when English can be delivered, all year groups will have to have at least one day when they have English twice).

We knew what we wanted to avoid – where possible repeated lessons are not back-to-back unless broken up by either break or lunch.

In conclusion, there are a thousand questions, and the process isn’t linear, as with all timetabling. What is possible or acceptable in one school may be very different to another, and student and staff experience must be the sense check factors.

We know from conversations with our partners that people really want to understand the messiness that is the process, not just the product: the behind the scenes that has enabled us to take steps towards this powerful new way of working for our teachers at Dixons. We aren’t there yet, but we’re confidently on the way. 

Visit our Dixons OpenSource website to find out more and see what we have to offer: www.dixonsos.com