Help with categories and groups

Started by samantha.goddard, June 28, 2020, 08:45:04 AM

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I am new to using FET and I am struggling to set up categories, groups etc. In our Middle School, we have just grades 6-8. In each grade, there are just 3 or 4 homeform groups. In Grade 6, students do all their subjects in their homeform group so I don't need categories here.

But in Grade 7 and 8, students do most subjects in their homeform groups but then may be in a different group for Math, French, Spanish/Mandarin and Arts. They don't have to study these at the same time (in fact, sometimes they can't because the same teacher teaches both classes).

I have tried setting up categories for these choices but then I run into an error message when I try to generate the timetable (see attached). And I have tried setting up various groups (e.g. 7Math1, 7Math2 etc) but that hasn't worked either.

I don't need those categories for Grade 6 but it seems to automatically force me to have them.

Can you please help me with this? I've read the manual and watched the videos but I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. Many thanks, Samantha

Liviu Lalescu


The divide year automatically dialog retains the last division, not the division of the current year. I think you don't need to divide year 6. You can check the subgroups of year 6 for this.

I think you need to divide year 7 by 4 categories: (Math1/Math2, French1/French2, Spanish/Mandarin, Arts1/Arts2). Check then the subgroups of year 7, should be 2*2*2*2=16, if I remember correctly.

Please let me know.


Hi Liviu,

Thanks for your help. I've done as you said but it still comes up with this error (attached) and says it can't process my data. I have no subgroups for Grade 6. For grade 7 and 8, I have five subgroups (Homeform, Math1/MathExt, French/French Enh, Spanish/Mandarin, Art/Band/Drama.

It says it requires too many hours. Do I need to tell it to link together activities (as a constraint) to make it work?

Or should I just have two categories: one with just the homeform groups and then the options in the other (Math/Mathext, French/French Enhanced, Spanish/Mandarin, Art/Band/Drama)?

Thanks! Samantha

Liviu Lalescu

Hello, Samantha,

The attached picture is not an error, but only a warning which you can ignore without problems.

For grade 7 for instance, I think you need to divide the year by 5 categories: (Homeform - x divisions), (Math1/Ext - 2 divisions), (French - 2 divisions), (Spanish/Mand. - 2 divisions), and (A/B/D - 2 divisions). And this way year 5 will contains x+2+2+2+2 groups and x*2*2*2*2 subgroups. You need to add activities for groups (please ignore the subgroups, they are internal).

Could you send me your input file?

Liviu Lalescu

Hello, Samantha,

I am sorry, but I do not understand your input file versus cannot generate. It generates very easily on my computer.

If you have only 60 students in a year, you could add each one of them as a subgroup and create groups like Math1 which contains the necessary subgroups. But also dividing years by categories is useful if there are not very many resulting subgroups.

But I don't understand - you did not divide a year automatically by categories as I suggested? Do you need detailed instructions, like screenshots? I don't know how to make a movie out of my working with FET.


Hello! I'm posting this after the fact to help other users who might be struggling with subgroups, categories etc. Thanks so much to Liviu, who was invaluable in guiding me through using FET. It is a really useful software and works really well once you get the hang of it! Also, a reminder to just load one activity at a time and keep generating the timetable so you can see if it is working at every step (this was my mistake at the start - I tried to upload all the activities at once).

I finally figured this out - the subgroups element is a key part of using FET successfully and it isn't immediately obvious! I'll explain how my Middle School schedule worked and I hope that can help you. In G6-G8, our students are in homeform groups for all their subjects except Math, Language Acquisition and Arts. In G6, they are in the same homeform groups for every subject. So I set up my groups G6, G7 and G8. Then, within G7 I created the following divisions: Div 1 = Homeform 1, 2, 3 (etc) Div 2 = Math, Adv Math. Div 3 = Art1, Art2, Div 4 = French, Ext French, Spanish, Mandarin. This is then automatically copied into G8 (but not G6).

You need to experiment to see whether you might be able to timetable all elective classes at the same time or whether they will need to go back to back with another subject. This all depends on the numbers of hours each elective will have. For example, in G8, I managed to timetable all Math classes at the same time so I allocated each subject just according to homeform groups. Eg: Math class 1 = Subgroup 8.1/Math. Math class 2 = Subgroup 8.2/Math. Extended Math class = Subgroup 8.1/Ext Math, 8.2/Ext Math, 8.3 Ext Math. I realise now that this is because all the Arts classes could be at the same time and also the Language Acquisition classes at the same time. But in G7, this wasn't the case (because of number of Arts classes and teacher allocation).

However, in G7, by experimenting, I realised that I had to back Math with Arts. So I looked at the numbers in each homeform who had chosen Art1 or Art 2 and then I had to schedule one Math class to have all who had selected Art1 and the other all who had selected Art 2. E.g. Math G7.1 = 7.1/Math/Art1, 7.2/Math/Art1, 7.3/Math/Art1. Math class G7.2 = 7.1/Math/Art2, 7.2/Math/Art2, 7.3/Math/Art2. Extended Math class = 7.1/ExtendedMath, 7.2/ExtendedMath, 7.3/ExtendedMath. I then revised it in a slightly more complicated way, so for example, students in 7.2 who had Math and Art2 would be in G7.1 Math to help with numbers - but I hope you can see how the subgroups helps you fine-tune numbers of students in a class.

I had to do the same with language acquisition (all our students do French/Ext French and either Spanish/Mandarin) - i.e. work out how to have two 'blocks' of languages so that during one block everyone who had chosen Mandarin (subgroup 7.1/Mandarin, 7.2/Mandarin etc), French (7.1/French/Spanish, 7.2/French/Spanish), Spanish (7.1/Ext French/Spanish, 7.2/Ext French/Spanish) in one block. In the other block Extended French, Spanish (7.1/French/Spanish, 7.2/French/Spanish) and French (7.1/French/Mandarin, 7.2/French/Mandarin).

So you have to do some thinking and experimenting with how to divide up your students using subgroups so that they can't be scheduled in different classes at the same time (if you pay close attention to ensuring the correct students are in each class, and you're not trying to put one subgroup in two different activities at the same time, you'll be good!). Instead of putting students in classes one by one, you are basically dividing up students into small subgroups so that then you can schedule their classes for their electives.

I hope this might help other timetablers out there! Thanks Liviu and Volker for a great piece of software! :-)

Liviu Lalescu

Quote from: samantha.goddard on August 10, 2020, 07:42:12 PM
So I set up my groups G6, G7 and G8. Then, within G7 I created the following divisions: Div 1 = Homeform 1, 2, 3 (etc) Div 2 = Math, Adv Math. Div 3 = Art1, Art2, Div 4 = French, Ext French, Spanish, Mandarin. This is then automatically copied into G8 (but not G6).

Thank you for the appreciation!  :)

I am not sure I understood perfectly your approach, I will read again later. It is so different from what I was used to. But regarding your quoted post above, did you have groups G6, G7, and G8, or years G6, G7, and G8? Respectively, did you add manually groups and subgroups, or divided the years automatically by categories and only use subgroups?


Hi Liviu,

Sorry if I wasn't clear in my terminology. I had years G6, G7 and G8. And I automatically divided the year by categories and then used the subgroups. I.e. for the core classes (Language & Literature, Social Sciences, Science etc), I just used the subgroup G7/7.1, G7/7.2. But for electives (Math, Language Acquisition), I had to use the smaller subgroups to allocate the students to the classes.

Does that make sense?

When I get a chance, I will edit my file (make teacher names generic) so I can share it for everyone and perhaps it can serve as a useful example.

Thanks, Samantha

Liviu Lalescu

Hello, Samantha,

Absolutely no problem, I just wasn't sure, because you said in your post "So I set up my groups G6, G7 and G8". This might be written clearer as: "So I set up my real-life groups as FET years: G6, G7 and G8" or similar - your English is better than mine.

Yes, it would be a very good official example! Thank you!


Thanks Liviu! And thank you again for all your help - I couldn't have done it without your assistance!

I'm hopeful that next year I can also use the customised FET BP version to do our Senior School block schedule. All the best, Samantha

Liviu Lalescu

You are welcome, Samantha!  :)

One more thing: I am very curious how your file looks like. If it is allowed, could you send it to me privately by email, so I can see the solving time and the additional constraints you added? If not, I'll wait for the anonymized file.