I don’t even understand my son’s new school timetable – what does it all mean?

I know that going to secondary school would be a huge change for my son – after all, once upon a time, I was a bewildered first year too.


I remember getting lost on the way from English to PE, struggling to keep all the books and homework in order and feeling extremely small.

However, when I looked at my son’s first timetable it didn’t bring it back at all. Instead, it the unrecognisable new acronyms could have represented the parts of a new central heating system for all I knew.

HFT (I thought women of a certain age took this), RMPS (isn’t there one of these in my car?) and PSE (a government office?). You have the PTA and the SMT. What about guidance teachers – I didn’t know guidance was a subject.

So I thought it would be helpful – certainly for me – to translate this newspeak school jargon for those of us who finished high school quite a long time ago.

  • ABC – Administration and business management and computing
  • ASN –  Additional Support Needs. A little extra help for a pupil.
  • D&T – Design and Technology. This includes things that were called “techie” when I was at school. My son made a pot stand in the first few weeks in this class.
  • Guidance Teacher.  A guidance teacher may be allocated to a pupil all the way through school and will watch progress, give advice, help out and be a point of contact for parents.
  • HFT – Health, Food and Technology. In the olden days this used to be domestic science and I see from what comes home that the menu hasn’t changed much.
  • ICT – Information and Computer Technology.
  • Modern Studies – Right. Modern studies “aims to help pupils understand the political, social and economic forces which affect individuals, groups and nations. It is concerned with contemporary issues in Britain, Europe, the USA and the developing world and encourages pupils to consider these in an objective, tolerant and natural way”.
  • NQT – Newly Qualified Teacher.
  • PSE – Personal and Social Education. May also be known as Personal, Social and Health Education or Citizenship. It is “everything that a school does to support and promote the personal and social development of its young people”.
  • PTA – Parent Teachers’ Association.
  • RMPS – Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies. Formerly known as RE.
  • SMT – Senior Management Team. Like the Cabinet but more powerful.
  • SS – Social Studies/Subjects. In my son’s school this history, geography and modern studies, but it does vary.
  • Support for Learning – Provision of support for children with Additional Support Needs. In mainstream schools this can be as high as one in five children.
  • TE – Technical Education. The department that teachers D&T.

I hope that helps shine some light on some of the jargon that comes out of school. However, I know it’s a long way off exhaustive. Perhaps if you know others you could add them.

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Laura is a Francophile with a passion for literature and linguistics. She also loves skiing, cooking and painting.