What are reduced timetables?
A reduced timetable is a method whereby the school will limit the amount of time a child is spending in school for a set period.
It may be that the child only does half-days in school, goes to classes in the mornings or afternoons only, or only goes to school for a few days per week. Reduced timetables are used in cases where children find school particularly overwhelming and struggling to attend usual schooling hours each week.
Reduced timetables, as specified in the Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools document, are to be used as a last resort option for a child who is overwhelmed in school and should only be used as a short term measure. The end goal for reduced timetables should be to gradually increase the child’s class time until they are comfortable enough to return to full-time schooling, or for the child to attend school for as many hours as is reasonable.
Reduced timetables are not a punishment and should never be used as such. It is the school’s responsibility to report all cases of reduced timetables to Tusla – the Child and Family Agency. As stated in the guidelines,
“Informal or Exclusion of a student for part of the school day, as a sanction, unacknowledged or asking parents to keep a child from school, as a sanction, is a suspension. Any exclusion imposed by the school is a suspension, and should follow the Guidelines relating to suspension.” (pg.74)
In April 2019, AsIAm carried out a study into exclusion and withdrawal amongst autistic school-children and their families. Out of the survey’s 500+ respondents, as many as 17% had been placed on a reduced timetable illegally (meaning that the school had not informed Tusla).
Parents and guardians are advised to critically engage with their children’s teachers and school if a reduced timetable is suggested. It is important to bear in mind that if your child does go on to a reduced timetable, that it is genuinely in their best interests, and that they receive appropriate support from their schools throughout the process. It is good practice to consider some of the following as well:
- ensure that you have a reasonable and realistic end goal in mind;
- that this goal and withdrawal from regular schooling are regularly reviewed;
- actively involve your child through the process as closely as possible;
- inform your local SENO of the decision, and;
- that your child’s teachers and principal are prepared to better engage and meet their needs upon their return to school.