Extending the ‘Time’ in Timetable

June 24, 2021
Daniel Burton
Melissa Crispin


School: St Mary’s Anglican Girls' School

Year Group: Year 2

Teacher: Melissa Crispin

Creative Practitioner: Daniel Burton

Creative Practice: Nature Pedagogue

We live in a world run on clocks and calendars, timetables and appointments. As adults, we spend a lot of time counting down to deadlines, finish lines and milestones. Our adult experience is defined by time boundaries and sadly, the same can be said for the world of education. That is not to say time bound expectations are not important – starting and finishing a school day at specific times is important to coordinate schedules between all of the members of the school community – students, parents, teachers, etc. When it comes to shared responsibilities of teachers such as playground duty, specialist classes and whole school events, a scheduled timetable is a way to respect each individual stakeholder’s time, but how far do we need to go with scheduling the minutiae of a school day, especially for primary aged children? How rigid does the primary school timetable need to be when it comes to the specific scheduling of lessons and in class experiences between breaks and what impact does it have on children’s engagement, creativity and passion for learning?

The Creative Schools program, whereby a Creative Practitioner works alongside a classroom teacher for 16 sessions over two terms to support the development of creative pedagogy and innovative classroom experiences, works firmly on an understanding of the need for extended time in order to achieve deep learning experiences, creative flow and rich, holistic outcomes. Each weekly session led by the classroom Teacher and Creative Practitioner is 1.5 hours long, much longer than any usual block of learning in a regular school timetable. There are elements of this specific time structure that comes from efficiency of the session, given that the Creative Practitioner is only in the school once a week. So this longer session makes best use of their visit, and the focus of Creative Schools is to embark upon a multidisciplinary project. However, one of the main underlying philosophies behind the length of time dedicated to this one ‘lesson’ or session each week, is because of the benefit of providing extended time to allow students to truly engage with concepts, exploration, collaboration, discussion and creativity.

In Term 3 and 4 of 2020, we embarked on a project with the aim of exploring the school’s outdoor environments to develop a sense of connection to space and place. This project involved utilising outdoor classroom spaces – the playground, school yard and grassy hills as learning spaces and following the children’s direction in these spaces. For this project the 90-minute session was a necessity. Transitions to outdoor spaces, time to freely explore and engage the senses, space to play and reflect, wouldn’t have been possible in shorter blocks of prescribed timetable sessions. Beyond this logistic, the need for more time became a realisation of the impact of the scheduled lives that many children live. By timetabling children’s lives in a way that requires them to change to a new topic, learning area, lesson in specific time chunks, we are limiting their flexibility of thinking, ability to go with the flow, explore concepts deeply and enjoy extended time. Children get used to cutting their thoughts short, moving quickly to a new task and expect that their ‘next’ action is going to be planned for.

What we discovered in allowing time and space in our sessions, was the opportunity for the students to work more collaboratively, more calmly, develop a sense of timelessness and engage deeply with the task at hand. If we are to support children to engage more creatively with learning outcomes, delve more deeply into curriculum goals and reach a sense of flow within their school experience, we need to provide more time, especially in the early primary years, and reduce the boundaries of rigid timetable structures in our classrooms.

“Flow is an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel and perform our best. We become so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The Ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought followed inevitably from the previous one, like playing Jazz. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the upmost” - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi