The clock is ticking

Forward-thinking independent schools are finding creative ways to improve efficiency, says Richard Manby

Independent schools have a duty to parents to improve standards and efficiency. With some schools having in excess of 1,000 students and more than 100 teachers on site, just getting staff and students to the right place at the right time can be a major logistical problem. 

Learning time

Most classrooms have clocks, but if they are even a couple of minutes out, it can make a big difference to the time available for learning. A two-minute delay in starting a class can result in a loss of one hour’s teaching time for each student every week based on six classes per day. Over a 40-week year, this amounts to more than a full week of potential learning time that can be gained.

To ensure efficient class changes, Caterham School installed an automated programmable system. Estate bursar Robert Charlesworth explains: “All clocks are driven via a wireless signal from the central server so each one shows exactly the same time all year round. The system is set up to give a two-minute warning before a class change or break end, which gives staff and students time to pack up books and be ready to change classes immediately when the alert sounds. As a result, changes are very efficient and all classes start punctually.”

The latest generation of class-change systems are run from a central PC, with different tones, melodies or voice announcements stored as MP3 files. The software can then be programmed to use specific announcements for class changes, wet breaks, lunches or end of day.

Greater safety

Lycée Francais Charles de Gaulle, an independent French school based in London, used to announce class change times by alarm bells. “With the bell-based system there was no distinction between normal class changes, wet breaks or any emergency situations that may arise,” says facilities manager Frederic Lavocat. “A fire or gas leak requires immediate evacuation of the site, whereas other security issues may demand a lockdown. For the safety of the children and the staff we wanted a system which could broadcast specific messages across the whole site.”

Lycée Francais Charles de Gaulle installed a voice-based class-change system which linked directly to their synchronous clock system. Lavocat adds: “Our new system stores a range of pre-recorded voice commands so whether it’s a class change or an emergency situation, tailored announcements are broadcast throughout the site so everybody knows exactly what’s happening and what actions that they need to take.”

In addition, zones can be set up so announcements are only broadcast in relevant areas of the school. “With our new system, we can isolate specific areas so students aren’t disturbed when taking exams,” says Robert Charlesworth. “We can also programme the system for holidays so we don’t have bells going off when nobody’s on site.” 

Cost saving

Modern automated systems can also incorporate relays to activate utility systems such as lighting, heating and security. This not only saves a site manager’s time, it also ensures systems run more efficiently and the savings in energy costs can then be utilised to fund additional education resources. 

Well-proven systems such as Bodet’s Class Change provide better communications and improve efficiency in schools. Savings in administration and management time, gains in learning time and potential reductions in energy costs means the investment can pay for itself many times over. 

Richard Manby is managing director of Bodet Class Change Systems W:www.bodet.co.uk