Update for staff and doctoral researchers - 16 September
Dear Colleagues and Doctoral Researchers,
I am writing to provide an update on a range of key issues as we approach the start of the new academic year. I acknowledge that the pace of communications from me has slowed in recent weeks – a significant reason for this is the rapidly shifting complex government guidance that we have needed to work through into operational detail. This email is by necessity long; however, please take the time to read through to the end.
I know we are all tremendously proud of our students. We look forward to welcoming them back in a managed way over the next few weeks. The Vice-Chancellor wrote to returning students last week setting out our clear expectations in terms of their behaviour. On Monday morning I issued the first 14-day exclusion to a student household who did not follow our requirement. Any further breach by the same students will result in their studies being suspended for the remainder of this academic year. They will have to leave the University until September 2021. I have spoken to student leaders from LSU, clubs and societies. They are clear in their support for our approach and understand that a return to campus comes with a responsibility to observe the rules to protect our community and avoid a damaging further lockdown.
We continue to ramp up communication with students as term approaches. You can read all messages sent to students and colleagues here.
Preparations in offices and teaching facilities
Many colleagues from across the University have been working very hard to make our campuses as Covid-secure as possible. You are likely to be familiar with the measures in office areas and other inside spaces and the requirements for face coverings in public areas. Please remember a face covering is available from your School or Service if you do not have your own. They are also being distributed to students. Teaching facilities have now been marked out for reduced capacities, Perspex screens are being installed where a distance of two metres from the front row cannot be guaranteed, and measures to manage egresses are in place.
Preparations for teaching
I know all of us, Deans, the Vice-Chancellor and the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching are sincerely appreciative of how hard academic colleagues are working to prepare teaching for the new year. Professor Thomson has asked me to share the following key steps that academic staff can take to be fully ready:
- Update the Learn page for your module – copy across, update and prepare the required resources, including flagging specific resources as ‘key resources’;
- Create a strong narrative/roadmap/storyboard for your module and prepare clear guidance as to how and when students should engage with the resources;
- Engage with your timetable – familiarise yourself with which sessions are planned to be delivered in person, which will be delivered through live interactive sessions and which will be pre-recorded on-demand;
- Finalise assessment briefs, ensure that they are really clear, conform to best practice, and are as inclusive as possible, remembering that any essential in-class tests will need to be online via Learn, and exams should be prepared so that they can be taken as ‘open book’;
- Attend the available online training courses covering both the pedagogy and technology of remote teaching. The courses called ‘MS Teams for Teaching – The Basics’ and ‘Engaging students in MS Teams sessions’ should be really helpful for all staff to discover the many features of Teams over and above those used in virtual meetings. There are also three on-demand sessions covering the ‘early engagement’ sessions delivered in August, and a ‘Teaching and Learning Q&A Session’.
- Access the available guidance and best practice on the Teaching and Learning 2020 website.
Connect and Protect – contact tracing and case monitoring
The University will be launching its own contact tracing process, Connect and Protect, next week ahead of the new term. This team will work with local public health to trace and contact any individuals who may have come into contact with any Covid-19 cases. It will also hold the University’s definitive records of cases associated with campus. Contact details will be published next week. Please look out for more detail.
How to say when it’s not ok
In order to stay safe on campus, we must take shared responsibility for reducing the transmission of Covid-19. We can take care of each other by following guidance about physical distancing, face coverings, hand-washing and other mitigations. However, it can be difficult to know what to do or say when you see someone not following the guidance. We have produced this short guide to help colleagues Say When It’s Not OK.
What to do if you have to isolate
We have issued new guidance as to when colleagues should self-isolate and who they should notify. We have also prepared an updated edition of the staff handbook issued in August. We anticipate a testing centre will open in Loughborough at Browns Lane over the coming days. I am concerned about reports of the rapidity and capacity of the national testing regime and am monitoring this closely – I shared these concerns with colleagues from the campus unions yesterday. I am seeking to make arrangements to mitigate the problems with the national testing regime and will hopefully be able to say more on this over the coming days.
A flexible plan that can escalate and scale down
With cases rising nationally, our measures to mitigate Covid-19 become even more important. Our plans, developed over recent months, are flexible and will respond to the local conditions and national alert level. For example, we have made the difficult decision to further reduce lecture theatre and computer room occupancies in recent days given new DfE guidance on reopening universities. I know this has led to additional work for a number of colleagues – I acknowledge and am genuinely grateful for this. It will be necessary for our plans to flex and we will notify you of any significant changes.
Returning to campus
Return to campus is being managed in a careful way, with mitigations and rotas of activity to enable colleagues to maintain social distancing in the workplace. If, however, you have any queries or concerns with your workspace on campus, please contact your manager or supervisor in the first instance.
We understand some colleagues are unable to return due to underlying health reasons and a process involving the University’s Occupational Health Service is in place to support those colleagues.
Our self-isolation and Occupational Health protocols referred to above, take precedence over the statements that follow in this paragraph. In July we wrote to colleagues asking them to complete online social distancing training and work from one of our campuses for at least a short period over the summer, in order to familiarise themselves with the health and safety measures in place. For any colleagues who have not yet done this, please do this before the start of the new academic year. Our campuses are returning, and all colleagues not covered by the self-isolation and Occupational Health protocols should return in the limited and managed way as required by your School or Professional Service. What this means will differ between different colleagues in different roles. Please speak to your manager or supervisor about what this means for you if you are unclear.
To say these are challenging times feels understated. I know colleagues are doing the very best that they can for our students and each other. I know some colleagues are contending with high workloads and it’s clear that some things have had to take priority over others to make this manageable – that is ok. Many colleagues continue to manage caring responsibilities. Please do make use of the support available. As we return to campus in the ways described, I remain hugely grateful for everything that is being done by colleagues.
Chief Operating Officer