February 23rd, 2021
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long wrote recently to colleagues outlining what the Prime Minister’s Roadmap means for our staff.
Last night the Prime Minister set out a roadmap for the gradual easing of national coronavirus restrictions in England including within education settings. I am writing to let you know how this will apply to our University community and support the further return of students for in-person teaching.
I have also written to all students today setting out how these changes affect them and the support available. You can read a copy of this communication here.
While education continues to be a government priority and there is limited evidence of virus transmission in teaching environments, mass movements of people remains a concern for the government, especially while new variants of the virus continue to emerge.
The Department for Education has therefore updated its plan for a phased return to in-person teaching in addition to courses that were allowed to resume in-person teaching in January, including those in Medicine, Education and Veterinary Science.
From Monday 8 March, undergraduate and postgraduate students who are studying practical or practice-based subjects and require specialist equipment and facilities can return to campus to resume in-person teaching.
By the end of the Easter holidays, the government will review the options for timing the return of remaining students. This review will take account of the latest data and will be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students will be given at least one week’s notice ahead of any further return.
Professor Sarah Speight, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience, will write to Heads of School and Departments with advice on contacting their students to confirm the detailed arrangements for their return.
Government advice remains that students should stay where they are currently until shortly before the dates outlined above, unless they meet the exceptional circumstances listed in Department for Education guidance which permit earlier returns to campus where, for example, students are unable to study from home, need to sit exams on campus, do not have alternative accommodation, or for mental or physical health reasons.
To limit transmission risks, the guidelines also make clear that students who return to Nottingham should expect to remain at the University and only travel home where they have a legally permitted reason to do so.
The University remains open and there is no change to the advice for staff who need to attend campus, for example to deliver or prepare in-person teaching, to support students or provide other campus services. Given the expansion of students resuming in-person teaching from 8 March, we will support a safe, gradual expansion of the number of staff working in Covid-secure environments aligned to support these students.
Staff and students engaged in research activities can continue with their work on campus if it cannot reasonably be done from home. All other staff should remain working from home where possible, in line with government guidance.
Looking ahead, a number of working groups continue to consult Schools and Departments to plan for a wider return of staff to our campuses during the summer term, as far as the ‘roadmap,’ national restrictions and social distancing requirements will permit at that time.
We know that many colleagues have now been working from home for an extended period, frequently managing home-schooling and the many other challenges resulting from the national lockdown. Many will want to see our campuses again, whilst others may be anxious about returning while the vaccination programme continues to roll out. At this time, in line with continuing government advice, we do not anticipate significant change to the numbers on campus beyond those required to deliver and support teaching and other services for the new groups of students returning on 8 March. Decisions on who returns and when will continue to be the responsibility of relevant managers.
Returning students are asked to book a Covid-19 test from the University Testing Service here to confirm that they are not carrying the virus so that we can keep our community and those around us safe. Thereafter, we expect all students to take our asymptomatic Covid-19 test at least once a week.
The University will continue to offer all staff asymptomatic Covid-19 testing on demand and we expect those staff working on campus to take these tests each week. These measures will help identify and isolate any positive cases early and help to reduce onward transmission of the virus. Staff do not need to book tests and can take these during work time.
Please do continue to support your physical and mental wellbeing during these challenging times. If you need any sort of support or advice, please do ask for help from your line manager in the first instance and they can direct you to more specialist services if required.
A dedicated set of activities and services to support staff mental health and wellbeing, ranging from self-help, counselling and mental health services to the free and confidential employee assistance programme are listed at staff wellbeing.
We have taken significant steps to provide a Covid-secure environment on our campuses and the wellbeing of our community remains our priority.
Please remember to Isolate, Notify, Test if you do start to experience Covid-19 symptoms and let the University know so that we can support you. Within our University the number of active cases of Covid-19 remains low. Our measures are most effective when we work together and follow the rules to keep everyone safe.
Thank you for your continued hard work and patience and I look forward to seeing more of us on campus more often in the months ahead.
Professor Andy Long, FREng
Provost & Deputy Vice-Chancellor
University of Nottingham
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