Thursday 31 December 2020

Student email

Important update - new guidance for Spring Term

Dear students,

Firstly, let me wish you a happy new year - 2020 has been a very tough year for us all and we are looking forward to the brighter and healthier times we will see later in 2021 now that we know a comprehensive vaccine programme will roll out from early January.

That will of course take time, so we still have a difficult period to get through. This was confirmed in the Government’s announcement on 30 December about tighter restrictions across a number of regions in England, which was a response to the growth in infection rates driven by the new Covid variant.

I know many of you will have questions about these restrictions, along with the further guidance we received from the Department for Education on 30 December about the start of Spring Term and what we need to do to help reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.

I appreciate this is all very confusing and unsettling. I know also that it is frustrating to get this new guidance at such short notice before the start of term.

Below is further information we can share at this stage (more will follow as we work through the details and as we get further guidance from the Department for Education). This email covers local restrictions here in York, staggered starts, and details about testing, so please read it all carefully.

What level is York now in?

For the time being, thanks to York’s efforts in following the safety measures, the Government has placed the City in Level (Tier) 3, which means we are not facing the highest level of restrictions, unlike most of the country.

This means many shops and other businesses like gyms remain open, organised sport can take place, and you can meet up in mixed household groups of up to 6 people outdoors. Read the basics on the current restrictions.

We will need to work hard, however, to make sure York stays at this level. We need to do what we can to limit virus transmission and prevent further restrictions for our campus and our city.

What does the new Department for Education guidance say?

Before the end of term, we let all students know about the Government’s staggered start to Spring Term.

This meant that students on some degree programmes would have a short period of online-only teaching to enable a later arrival, while students on other degree programmes would return to our planned blend of in-person and online teaching from the start of term as normal.

As a result of the rising cases of Covid-19 the Department for Education is now requiring us to extend this staggered start.

This now means in-person teaching at York from 4 January is restricted to students on certain courses:

  • Medicine

  • Nursing and midwifery

  • PGCE courses in Education

  • Social work

For all other courses, teaching will start online and we will confirm when your in-person teaching begins as soon as the Department for Education allows. The Department for Education has indicated that this will not be before week commencing 25 January at the earliest.

The Government will give us further advice on this on 18 January, but do keep looking at the latest information for when your course begins and we will update your timetable as soon as we confirm the arrangements.

Online assessments scheduled for the Common Assessment Period remain unchanged.

What do I do now?

Unless you need to return for in-person teaching, the Government’s guidance is for you to remain where you were over the vacation (for many of you, this will be your family home), in order to minimise travel in the next crucial few weeks. So, for those who travelled elsewhere for the vacation period, you should stay where you are.

There are exceptions to this guidance. Students who feel their physical and mental wellbeing will be better served by returning to York should do so. And students who do not have adequate study facilities at home (eg good wifi, computer equipment or study space) should also return.

In addition, we know some students are back in York already and that many stayed here over the break. You should remain here. We also do not expect our students to change plans they have already made, for example, international students who have already booked travel.

I’d like to reassure everyone that study spaces (including the library), accommodation, our on-campus supermarkets, on-campus catering, and student support services will all be available from the start of term.

For students in university owned, managed or approved accommodation, we’ll be in touch directly about the impact of this extended staggered start.

New term, new test

A reminder that we expect all students to get tested in York and minimise social contact until a negative test result has been confirmed.

We had an excellent take-up of our rapid results testing at the end of term (better than other universities in the region) and I was very proud that York students acted so responsibly. Based on the feedback we received about the quick and easy process, we will run the same scheme again in our Sports Centre.

You can find out more about booking a test and advice on travel. If you’re not sure how the testing on campus works, take a look at this video produced by York Student Television, giving you a step-by-step guide.

We need you to get a test as soon as possible when you return to campus. For students who have stayed in York or who were on campus over the break, you should also get a test to minimise the risk to yourselves and others returning.

These tests are being offered to all students, and we do expect you to take them.

  • They are a vital measure in limiting the risk of virus transmission following the relaxation of rules over the festive period and because more students are moving around the country, including from areas with very high Covid rates.

  • Results give you reassurance that you can resume your in-person activities and use campus facilities safely, and that you are not unknowingly spreading Covid-19 to others on campus and in our wider community.

  • Identifying any positive cases early will also help reduce the need for others to self-isolate.

New Year, renewed commitment

As unsettling as all this may be, we must continue to adapt and follow the safety measures to reduce transmission rates. We need to continue supporting each other until the vaccine rollout helps us return to something more like normal times. We need one last effort over the next few months - so please keep following the safety guidelines, and observing ‘hands, face, space’ advice.

Although we are sharing as much information as we currently have and trying to reduce uncertainty where we can, I know you will still have many more questions. Over the next weeks, we will keep updating you through email, our Covid website and on our social media channels. Your Departments will also be in touch with more detailed information about your course and arrangements for online teaching.

Finally, I would like to thank you in advance for your patience, and for the care and commitment I know you will show your fellow students and our staff. Every one of us has a role to play in keeping ourselves - and those around us - as safe as possible. Thank you for being part of a community that works together to support each other.

Whether in-person or online, we look forward to welcoming you for the start of term and I wish you a safe and happy 2021.

Best wishes

Charlie Jeffery