Thursday 15 July 2021

All staff email

Subject: Our approach to the lifting of restrictions

Dear colleagues,

As you will know, Stage 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown begins on Monday 19 July. Our Contingency Groups have been working hard to prepare for the lifting of restrictions, to enable a gradual adaptation to the new situation over the Summer, and to plan for September and beyond.

Earlier this week, we shared our guiding principles and practical advice to help manage this period of transition with our Senior Leaders group, the campus trade unions, and our students’ unions.

I want to update all staff now on this latest University advice, as well as share my thoughts on how important it will be to continue to take precautions and to act with care and consideration in the coming weeks.

How we will respond

The Government direction - of moving away from legal restrictions to making informed decisions - means a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility.

We are all coming to this situation with very different viewpoints, concerns and expectations. Not all will respond to the removal of restrictions in the same way.

So we need to be supportive and considerate of one another, and work together to find the right balance, with empathy and respect. That sense of consideration and community has been a real strength of York over the last 18 months, and will continue to be important in the months ahead.

While the Government’s onus is on individual responsibility, we will continue to offer guidance to our staff and students to take precautions which support individual actions and behaviours, and through that bring collective benefit.

We set out our approach below, but of course will keep things under review both ahead of the start of term and midway through term one.

A measured return

We look forward to seeing more of our community joining colleagues in working on campus, given that work-from-home requirements end on 19 July. But as the Prime Minister made clear this week, we do not expect all colleagues to return in one go from Monday.

Campus is quieter over the summer, and we want to use that quieter period to enable colleagues to get accustomed in a more measured and gradual way to working on campus over the coming weeks. This measured approach will enable us to think through how our new remote working policy will apply in our individual teams. Find out more about reconnecting on campus.

Social distancing

Arrangements on campus will not change overnight when social distancing measures lift on 19 July, as our estates team will need time to reconfigure spaces and support those splitting their work between remote and on-campus working. We will no longer have strict capacity limits on building occupancy. But let’s be considerate of those who are nervous about social contact and keep distance when that makes them feel more comfortable.

For now booking systems should continue to be used to monitor use of laboratory space and other research facilities, and for field trips and off-site working we will continue to use risk assessments to assess and mitigate covid risks.

For teaching, we plan for in-person teaching to resume for all subjects from September (though we recognise there will be exceptions, like the need to continue to deliver online teaching for international students unable yet to travel to York).

While no longer maintaining social distancing, we will follow a precautionary approach around busy indoor spaces. So we are working on guidance to students that will encourage them to watch in-person lectures via the VLE in the first half of term, so we can keep on-campus lecture attendance low. Assessment arrangements will remain online. Our Academic Contingency Group will develop more detailed guidance in due course.

Face coverings

We know that face coverings can make a real difference in limiting the transmission of Covid-19. Our new policy strongly recommends the use of face coverings when moving around buildings, including communal areas, and areas where there are likely to be high numbers or concentrations of people.

We need to stress that we cannot mandate the use of face coverings, and the DfE guidance states that “No student should be denied education on the grounds of whether they are, or are not, wearing a face covering.” But at the University of York we will continue to emphasise that there are circumstances where continuing to wear one is appropriate, and that we expect everyone to be supportive and respectful of others’ preferences.

Other protective measures

You will continue to find comprehensive measures across campus, including provision of hand sanitiser and protective screens. We also know good ventilation remains important.

It is crucially important to stay at home when you feel ill and not risk transmitting infections to others (whether covid, flu, or a cold), and we will continue to promote the importance of good hygiene behaviours.

Test, Trace and Isolate

There will be no changes to our test and trace policies from the 19 July, because changes to self-isolation rules do not come into effect until 16 August. For the time being, please continue to follow the advice on reporting staff cases.

We also know that testing has made a real difference in breaking chains of transmission and regularly picks up asymptomatic cases in both staff and students. As more activity opens up both on and off campus, testing will be even more important. If you have not yet been regularly testing, please do start to make testing part of your routine as you return to campus. Thank you.

I continue to get feedback that these regular emails are helpful in offering guidance and direction, as well as giving you a sense of University priorities and considerations. With this in mind, I plan to continue with periodic updates over the summer and into the new academic year.

I very much hope to see more of you on campus soon, but in the meantime, as always, please do take care of yourself and others as we adapt yet again to this stage out of lockdown.

Best wishes

Charlie