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Update for staff and doctoral researchers - 23 September

Dear Colleagues and Doctoral Researchers,

In this email I set out the University’s operational response to new guidance from the DfE and the escalation of the Covid-19 Alert Level to 4. The DfE guidance, which sets out a four-tier approach to operating at Level 4, can be found here.

Professional Services colleagues

Following consultation with Campus Unions, revised guidance has been issued to managers on return to campus following the escalation of the Alert Level to 4.

Teaching spaces

We have reviewed arrangements for teaching activity in light of the escalation of the Alert Level to 4, and the new guidance from DfE. We believe that the mitigations in place (face coverings, Perspex screens, one-way systems etc.), mean our teaching activity is as Covid secure as it is reasonably possible to be.

In light of the changing situation, we recently reduced our maximum room capacities to 50, going up to 60 only in exceptional circumstances, even though with social distancing in place a number of teaching rooms could actually hold between 80-100 students.

Given the rise in the Alert Level, we shall re-examine plans for muster space around teaching rooms – especially at the start of semester when many students will be new and acquainting themselves with these spaces, and both staff and students will be adjusting to the new ways of moving around to accommodate social distancing.

As a result we will switch some classes to online for the first two weeks of term to build up gradually and assure ourselves that the muster spaces can work with the socially distanced flow into and out of the teaching rooms. Professor Thomson has discussed this with the Associate Deans for Teaching and we will prioritise switching online classes on programmes where there is already a reasonable amount of in-person delivery, taking into consideration the location of the room and ensuring that we provide maximum opportunities for new students to engage positively and inclusively with their studies. This will relieve immediate concerns. The London Campus is being co-ordinated locally by Chris Euden to ensure that classes can be effectively convened.

The release of the final timetable will therefore be slightly delayed as we work through this second order process to review the muster spaces as above, although we still intend to release an advanced new version of the timetable that does not include the room allocations, early next week as planned. Thank you for your patience, understanding and ongoing support as we work through the details of these revised arrangements.

Challenging poor behaviour

We issued guidance last week on how colleagues can challenge poor behaviour when they experience it. Additionally, the University’s Covid Ambassadors will be in key areas of campus and available to support you. I know that the Vice-Chancellor, other Senior Officers and I will support any colleague who challenges poor behaviour in the way described in the guidance, including in the classroom.

Professor Allison, Professor Thomson, Dr Alonso and I have met in person and online with hundreds of student leaders over recent days. It is overwhelmingly the case that we have been impressed with the responsible attitude that our students are taking. They understand that if we are to avoid a further lockdown, everyone must follow our Covid-19 rules.

Responding sympathetically to concerns about in-person delivery

Deans, Operations Managers and Professional Service leaders are seeking wherever possible to respond sympathetically to concerns about learning and teaching. We have commitments to our students to deliver a reasonable amount of activity in-person and believe the measures we have in place are able to mitigate risks. The University’s Occupational Health referral process is key to this process. If you have any concerns please can I encourage you to speak to your manager, Dean or Director of Service who will do whatever is reasonable to address those concerns.

Procedures for caring responsibilities and self-isolation

I again draw colleagues’ attention to the new guidance issued for self-isolation and caring responsibilities. Please can I emphasise that the guidance on self-isolation takes precedence over any other guidance or requirement you may receive about returning to Campus.

Covid-19 testing

The University has been in extensive discussions with local health partners about access to testing for staff and students.

  • All new arrivals at Halls will have a temperature check
  • A Covid-19 walk-in test centre is expected to open this week in the centre of Loughborough. Charnwood Borough Council will announce the venue tomorrow (Thursday) morning.
  • There is capability for the deployment of a mobile testing site to be located on campus if necessary.
  • The University has developed its own contingency plans for testing if the national testing system experiences unacceptable delays
  • Arrangements are in place at our London campus to help students access local testing. The contingency plans described above also cover the London campus

Connect and Protect

Connect and Protect, the University’s own Covid-19 reporting and contact tracing service, designed to complement the public health system, will launch on Friday. Please look out for notification of how to make contact. This will be the primary place where students and staff should report if they are experiencing symptoms or have tested positive for Covid-19.

We also intend to publish information on Covid-19 cases associated with our campuses in a transparent manner.

Consultation with Campus Unions

We continue to listen to the concerns of Campus Unions and meet regularly. Where it is reasonable and practical to change our approach in relation to these concerns, we do and have done so. I am appreciative to colleagues for their support and engagement.

Finally

I know how hard colleagues across the University continue to work to prepare for the new academic year in many, many different ways. I know you have seen me write thank you before, and I fear it risks wear out, but thank you, again.

This situation is complex, challenging and fast moving. Our plans remain flexible and will alter as the operating context changes. Transparency is important. All members of the University community will be updated regularly in an open and honest way.  Please be assured that we do not approach these challenges with a closed mind and we shall continue to revise our plans as and when it becomes necessary to do so. 

Thank you for all your support and contribution.

With very best wishes

Richard

 

Richard Taylor
Chief Operating Officer