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Update for staff - 13 October 2021

From the Chief Operating Officer: Covid and teaching rooms update

Dear Colleagues and Doctoral Researchers,

I thought it helpful to give you an update on how the start of the new academic year has gone from a Covid perspective. 

Covid cases 

Covid cases across our two campuses have remained low so far. We are not seeing the growth in cases we saw at the start of the 2020-21 academic year and average daily positive cases are currently under five. Of the cases we have detected, almost all have been picked up through asymptomatic testing (see below).

13 October 2021 email graph showing Covid cases on campus 2020 vs 2021

Testing

Our students have again been wonderful in getting regular tests through the University’s asymptomatic testing centre (or through regular personal LFD testing in the case of our London campus). All new students were tested during arrivals week. We believe that approximately 92% of students are being regularly tested, and those that are not are receiving follow up. LSU are requiring evidence of testing for admission to many of their events. We are pleased that through the engagement of our staff and students in our efforts to keep everyone safe we are conducting an extremely high number of Covid tests compared to the sector. 

Vaccinations

We do not have accurate numbers, but we believe that over 70% of our students have received both their doses of vaccines sufficiently long ago to be fully effective. Not only is the vaccine reducing the severity of symptoms but it is also contributing to the slowing of any spread and reducing the number of students who must isolate.

Face coverings

We have asked and continue to ask that colleagues and students wear face coverings when moving around indoors. We have reminded students that we would like them to wear face coverings when sitting in classes, and that if a member of staff specifically asks them to do so, to respect their wishes. We know that compliance with this is mixed, as in the rest of society. Any colleague involved in a teaching activity can display this slide (available under the Face Coverings section of this webpage) at the start of a session to reinforce the message.

Teaching room capacities

Please note this section applies to rooms on our East Midlands campus. Colleagues in London will receive a separate email later this week.

Colleagues will be aware that we started the term operating at reduced room capacities in our larger lecture/teaching spaces. Some students were asked to attend some classes in person one week and online the next. We wanted to make sure that we were able to gauge any spread of Covid on campus and the effectiveness of local ventilation. We are sufficiently reassured by the data that we will now gradually recombine the split cohorts such that we can increase the number of classes which can be fully in person.  The first rotations to be removed will be those where the full cohort size remains smaller than the room size, ensuring some spare capacity is retained.

Laboratory classes, which have more complex student group structures, will remain as timetabled at the current time. If you wish to make a case for the capacity of a specific room/class size to be increased then please contact your timetabler.

Colleagues do not need to do anything other than be aware that these changes will be fed into the timetable from next week. We will continue to review arrangements regularly over the coming weeks with a view to recombining the remaining rotations.

Please note that the timetable changes are being made in the live system so please check frequently as the timetable team will work through the changes for the rest of this week in advance of them taking effect from Monday. In some cases, you may find that there is also a change of the teaching room where we can readily accommodate larger groups.

Please can we ask that you maintain dual delivery (ie have a live MS Teams session during an in person class) for the time being as we do have some students self-isolating and/or unable to attend in person sessions for legitimate reasons. If you need a reminder, additional support materials for dual delivery can be found here.

We have ensured that the ventilation in rooms is appropriate and some have CO2 monitors fitted to measure Carbon Dioxide levels. Do please ensure that rooms remain well ventilated and open windows and doors as needed.

Thank you for your support in helping the new academic year commence in an effective and safe manner.

Richard Taylor

Chief Operating Officer