November 11th, 2020
As promised in my last communication, and following the Government’s recent announcement, I wanted to share details with you about the upcoming Winter break and plans for the safe movement of students who wish to travel home.
Colleagues across the University have done a lot of work to make our campuses COVID secure and our low numbers of active cases offer significant reassurance that these measures are working.
We now need to ensure we do everything possible to prevent onward transmission for students who wish to return to their home address at the end of term. The last thing anyone wants is to infect loved ones, especially those who might be more vulnerable.
The Government has now shared the steps it is asking all universities to follow. The full guidance, which I’ve summarised below, can be found here.
Follow current restrictions
The current national restrictions will be in place until Wednesday December 2. These offer some protection in terms of minimising the interaction we all have with others. Education is classified as an essential activity and the current blended approach to teaching and learning should continue during this period as COVID-secure measures are in place. Research activity will continue as now until the end of term.
‘Travel window’ and online teaching
Once the national restrictions have ended, the Government has advised students to return to their home time addresses during a ‘student travel window’ between Thursday 3 and Wednesday 9 December.
Universities will be asked to arrange staggered departure dates from accommodation and work with other institutions in the region to manage pressure on transport infrastructure.
All teaching that can move online should do so by Wednesday 9 December so that students can continue their education from home. There is no evidence that in-person teaching presents a greater risk but we are being required to move to an online approach for most students and as part of this we will adopt the best approach to ensure students can meet their learning outcomes.
Professor Sarah Speight, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education and Student Experience, will be writing to all Head of Schools this week to confirm the approaches Schools should be considering to enable a smooth transition to online teaching, or in some cases the deferral of practical teaching until January.
Test to Protect
To provide additional reassurance, all students and frontline staff will be offered testing – either through the national scheme or through our own Asymptomatic Testing Service.
These tests will be available from the end of November – giving students the opportunity to isolate, should they receive a positive result, and still be able to return home in good time for the holidays. Students would be encouraged to book tests at times that work for their academic programmes. More details about the process for booking tests will be shared in the coming days.
This week, asymptomatic testing is being offered to all staff on campus.
Remaining on campus
We have also written to students asking them about their plans to allow us make appropriate arrangements. For students wishing to remain in Nottingham for the break, the University will ensure they are well looked- after and supported with entertainment and activities across the period.
Teaching up until December 9 will remain as now: a blend of online and in-person activity. After this date it will move to online up until the break.
The University intends to revert to the blended approach to teaching and learning for next term. As we approach the start of the new academic term in January 2021 we will adopt a similar process to welcoming students back to campus, using a combination of staggered start times and asymptomatic testing to provide safe travel and reassurance to our staff and student community. We will share more details of the logistics in coming weeks.
It has been an incredibly challenging term and I am grateful for the effort everyone has made to give our students the best university experience possible in spite of the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in.
We will share further detail on the above as soon as possible.
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