Wednesday 10 March 2021

All staff email

Covid-19 update: Easter break and Summer Term


Dear colleagues


We have been progressing our plans against the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.


While the future continues to look brighter, I must stress that there are many uncertainties around the roadmap timetable the Government has set out and there is still caution about unlocking too quickly. Whilst there may be some setbacks, and we will all have to remain patient and flexible, I have provided a summary below to look further ahead to Easter and the Summer Term.


Revised annual leave

I recognise the pressure that staff have been under over this past year and this has meant many people not taking or rearranging annual leave to accommodate workloads. We have been encouraging annual leave to be taken, knowing the positive impact this can have on general health and wellbeing, so we are also strongly recommending that as many staff as possible take advantage of the Easter break by taking two of their leave days on Thursday 1 April and Tuesday 6 April.


Of course, I appreciate that not all staff will be able to do this, but where possible on these two days, I ask that you avoid scheduling meetings and advocate a wind-down in emails and messages. Please discuss these arrangements with your line manager, and I hope that this will allow for an extended period to take some time away from work.


More broadly, we have also approved revised guidance on annual leave 2020/21, which includes the requirement for staff to take a minimum of 28 days holiday during the current leave year and up to a maximum of 10 days to be carried over into the next leave year (2021/22) where necessary. The guidance for annual leave has been updated on our HR website.


Working from home

Even with the further limited changes from 29 March and the Stay at Home rules ending, many social restrictions will remain, and Governance guidance remains clear that we should continue to work from home if we can.


We are carefully considering how and when we reopen more campus spaces within the restrictions, as well as developing a working at home policy which will build on the flexibility created in the past year, but all departments and directorates are asked for now to continue limiting numbers of staff and PGRs on campus. Given social distancing restrictions will be in place for some time to come, we continue to expect building occupancy to remain low and to follow the risk assessments we have put in place.


Research

Our Research Contingency Group is following the roadmap and working with Departments to help them to actively manage a transition to increased research activity . This includes a gradual increase to building and lab occupancy, as well as research fieldwork restarting with revised mitigations in place for Covid-19 security. I know that the fieldwork restrictions during lockdown have necessitated fundamental changes in research methods and that so many of you will welcome the opportunity to restart some in-person interaction and activities again, even with continued travel and social restrictions in place.


In-person teaching

From this week, we have also seen more - although in very limited numbers - degree programmes requiring access to specialist facilities able to return to in-person teaching. We are currently coordinating with Departments on their plans for next term and each will be updating students with their Summer Term timetables next week.


We wrote to students today with an update, including travel arrangements over the Easter break and plans for the Summer Term.

  • For UG courses requiring access to specialist facilities, we will have in-person teaching and learning activities from the start of term until the start of the Common Assessment Period. These will broadly follow the blended model of online and in-person activity we used back in November. Additional activities are also being planned by some Departments for later in the term.

  • For PGT courses that require access to specialist facilities, in person activities will be scheduled throughout the term.

  • Teaching on other UG and PG courses is likely to remain online only, in accordance with government guidance.


Whilst much teaching will remain online in the Summer Term, we are looking to offer opportunities for students to come together in person, for example, academic community building, skills workshops or group study sessions. We will use our campus and facilities as best we can to accommodate all teaching and learning activities within the covid constraints we will have in place.


Next steps out of lockdown

Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing our progress as we take our next steps out of lockdown. We look forward to hearing that we are on track as the Government reviews the situation every few weeks.


In the meantime, thank you for your continued hard work. I hope your friends and family are also looking forward to the easing of restrictions and that the vaccine roll out is going well for your loved ones. Keep looking after yourselves, and each other - and do plan a break over Easter if you possibly can.


Best wishes

Charlie