Monday 19 October 2020

All staff and PGR email

COVID-19 update - reviewing our approach following new restrictions in York

Dear colleagues,

As you will recall the UK Government released a new 3 levels classification system for local areas in England.

The City of York has been moved, from Level 1 (medium) to Level 2 (high), due to an increase in the Covid-19 infection rate in the City.

The main additional restrictions Level 2 (high) brings is that mixing between households indoors is no longer allowed, apart from in specific situations, including education, training, and organised sport.

Together with the other higher and further education institutions in the City, we have had initial discussions with the City Council Public Health team to understand the local drivers and implications of the move to Level 2.

The Public Health team confirms that there is no evidence of Covid transmission in teaching and learning settings in the cases we have seen at the University, and that the vast majority of cases have resulted from transmission within and between households.

We have been assessing what this change in local area status would mean for our management of the campus, for student sport and social activities, and for mixing between student households, as the new rules preventing mixing between households indoors applies also to student households.

The move to a higher level may also have implications for our teaching and learning provision and our research activities. The Department for Education (DfE) has set out four ‘Tiers of Restriction’ for universities in England. We are currently operating at Tier 1 which involves a blended approach, combining some in-person teaching subject to Covid risk assessment, such as seminars and lab sessions, alongside digital provision for larger group activities including lectures.

In response to York being moved to local area Level 2 (High), and in line with DfE guidance, I have asked our Contingency Groups to consider whether we should move our teaching and learning provision to DfE Tier 2, along with any changes we may need in research and other on-campus activity.

DfE Tier 2 would involve an increased level of online learning, with a reduced level of in-person teaching and learning continuing, subject to risk assessment, and with an expectation that this in -person activity would mostly involve clinical or other practical teaching sessions.

If we do need to move to DfE Tier 2, we would draw on the planning our Academic Contingency Group has done with academic departments and work with them so that any changes introduced ensure the achievement of planned student learning outcomes. We will consult with our student unions and trade unions in defining our approach.

We will also be consulting further with the City Council Public Health team to ensure any changes we make align with their expert assessment of the public health situation in the City.

I will provide a further update later this week. Thank you all again for your continued commitment in these challenging times.

Best wishes

Charlie

Professor Charlie Jeffery

Vice-Chancellor