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How to make your child’s secondary school timetable accessible

What is a school timetable?

A person standing by a whiteboard in a building to represent a secondary school

At secondary school your child will be given a timetable. The timetable tells them what lessons and breaks they have on each day of the week, who teaches the lesson and which classroom they need to go to.

Some schools have a two week timetable called Week A and A grid showing days of the week with dots on different daysWeek B. Sometimes the lesson times can be found at a different place in their planner.

Children with communication difficulties can find it hard to interpret, understand and apply the information in their new timetables. Therefore, it can help them if you make a more visual version with them that:

  • Colour codes different lessons
  • Uses symbols/pictures as well as text
  • Includes the lesson times
  • Includes only short, relevant information

How do I make my child’s secondary school timetable accessible?

This can be done at school with teaching staff or at home with parents.

A person with calm faceChoose a time when your child is calm and engaged to introduce and create their timetable.

You will need to wait until school send the timetable home. This will probably be when they start at their new school but if you can get a copy over the summer holidays then this is even better.

A list of times with a slot at 1pm blocked outBook in time during their first week (or before if you have a copy) to create their new timetable together.

If you book this time in advance then you can talk to them about what you will be doing so that they feel prepared and are not overwhelmed when they see their timetable for the first time.

Felt tip marker pensDraw the timetable out on paper or make their timetable on the computer. You might need some felt tip pens.

We are trying to keep the colours consistent across the city. Therefore, please try using the following colours below for the key lessons. However, you may prefer to colour code the timetable by faculty colour, for example if you know that Geography, History and Religious Education are all in the ‘yellow faculty’ at school then you could colour code all these lessons yellow.

  • Languages – light yellow
  • English – dark yellow
  • Religious education – dark brown
  • History – light brown
  • Geography – red
  • Food tech – dark purple
  • Design technology – light purple
  • Textiles – bright purple
  • Drama – dark pink
  • Music – light pink
  • Art – bright pink
  • PE – orange
  • PSHE – turquoise
  • Registration – grey
  • IT we’ve called computing – light green
  • Science – light blue
  • Maths – dark green

Three coloured squares, green with a black W, red with a person reading, yellow with homeYour child may access other lessons e.g. reading, groups etc. Colour code these different to above.

Person pointing to whiteboard with maths sums written onWrite the name of the lesson and choose a symbol or picture which represents each lesson.

Only include relevant information e.g. the lesson title and room. Most teachers are referred to as “Sir” and “Miss” so their initials do not need to be included. You could write down the teachers’ names and their initials for each lesson on a separate page in your child’s planner.

How to use your new timetable

Stick a copy of the timetable in your child’s planner.

Person pointing to colourful chart on wallStick a copy of the timetable at home somewhere that you and your child can see (at their eye level). Switch to each week if your child’s school use a Week A and Week B system. Use an arrow pointing down at the top which shows when ‘today’ is. To teach other time concepts you could also use arrows showing ‘tomorrow’ and ‘yesterday’.

Image of a blue workbookIf your child brings their school books home you could put a coloured sticker on each book which corresponds to the lesson colour on the timetable, for example, their English book would have a yellow sticker on it.

Talk through the timetable with your child telling them what it shows and why we have them such as “to get us to the right place at the right time”.

Smiling person with lightbulb in thought bubble to show a good ideaTop tips

1 – Keep it simple!

Keep your language simple and use short sentences.

2 – Make the activity fun and do at it your child’s pace

People discussing a colourful timetableTake regular breaks and come back to it. Play quizzes, crosswords or make anagrams to help learn about different lessons, teachers and more, such as ‘your new French teacher?’, ‘on a Monday, after Science you have….?’, ‘simuc = (music)’.

Use it as an opportunity to talk

Talk about different lessons and introduce new vocabulary e.g. humanities. You can also talk about exciting things about secondary school but also anything your child may be worrying about.

Keep referring to the timetable

Regularly refer to the timetable that is on your wall even when you think your child may know what lessons they have. Timetables often change each year and repetition of skills is helpful especially for a child who has language difficulties.

Practising and establishing this skill is functional for when they are a young adult planning revision timetables, extra-curricular activities and when moving into further education or employment just as we use calendars and diaries as adults.

Helping them learn the time

If your child is learning to tell the time you could:

  • Include a picture of the clock times on their timetable
  • You could play matching games such as 10:00 to the clock time
  • You could also teach them how long lessons and break times last

Timetable example before

Standard school timetable example

Accessible timetable

Accessible timetable example

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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