COVID-19 update: important end-of-term information for students

 


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An email from Ian Blachford, Chief Operating Officer at Staffordshire University has been sent out to all students, it reads:

 

"Dear student,

Last week, the UK Government announced plans to enable students to return home from university at the end of the current term in a COVID-secure manner. Following this announcement, Staffordshire University and our Students’ Union set about making arrangements to ensure we could continue to meet our existing commitments and maintain a high-quality student experience whilst supporting those of you intending to visit your families during the ‘travel window’.

The student ‘travel window’ will commence on 3 December 2020, and all face-to-face on-campus timetabled teaching and learning will be completed by 9 December 2020 to ensure those who intend to travel are able to do so during this period.

If you are a healthcare student on a placement, you are considered an essential worker and should therefore remain in your placement until the end of term. You can then travel home for the holidays, following public health guidance and the latest instructions concerning self-isolation, if appropriate. We believe that other placements will also continue, but if you are unsure please seek advice and guidance from your course leader.

Below, we have included details of how we are working to enable you to make end-of-term travel arrangements in a staggered and safe manner.

 

Until Wednesday 2 December 2020 – current national guidance

Blended teaching and learning will continue throughout this period, helping us to ensure we maintain the quality of your student experience in a COVID-secure manner. 

Our academic staff are working to ensure that all scheduled on-campus elements of delivery are maximised and that, where appropriate, key content from these sessions is tailored to aid forthcoming assessments.

You should not travel from your term-time addresses to your family home – or more generally – during this period, as doing so would be in breach of the current national lockdown requirements

 

Thursday 3 to Wednesday 9 December 2020 – student travel window 

The UK Government has selected Wednesday 9 December 2020 as the cut-off date for in-person timetabled learning and teaching on campus, to ensure the last date students are required on campus allows enough time for them to complete self-isolation before Christmas, should they develop symptoms that day or be identified by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

In line with the latest government guidance, we advise that if you are travelling home, you use private transport wherever possible and only use public transport if you have no other option. If you are living in University-managed accommodation, our ResLife team will adopt an individual timeslot-based approach for those of you planning to have parents, families or friends collect you using private transportation. If you are travelling by private vehicle, please try to avoid car sharing with anyone outside your household or support bubble.

When booking a timeslot, please select a time and date after your final on-campus session to ensure you can continue to engage in your remaining in-person learning. The time and date of your final on-campus session will be communicated to you at a local level by your course team. To book a departure timeslot, please contact reslife@staffs.ac.uk.

 

More information about the student travel window 

We are also liaising with local public transport providers to facilitate smooth departure during the ‘travel window’.

If you are planning to use public transport, you can help control coronavirus by wearing a face covering unless exempt; keeping your distance from people from other households when you travel, wherever possible; washing or sanitising your hands regularly; avoiding the busiest routes, as well as busy times like rush hour; and downloading the NHS COVID-19 App before you travel and using it wherever appropriate.

We recommend any students intending to travel during this period to read the UK Government’s ‘Safer travel guidance for passengers’ in full and book ahead wherever possible.

If you are planning to return to your family home over the end-of-term break, we strongly recommend that you depart during the 3 to 9 December 2020 ‘travel window’, as advised by the latest government guidance. If you are currently self-isolating or are identified as needing to self-isolate, you must adhere to all self-isolation requirements before travelling home.

Whilst we anticipate that national restrictions will be lifted from 3 December 2020, we ask that you continue to limit your social interactions throughout the current term. By maintaining social distancing and limiting your contact with others ahead of your departure, you will not only help to protect your loved ones and communities when you return, but also reduce your risk of infection and self-isolation and, therefore, the possibility that your end-of-term travel plans will be disrupted.

Due to the low risk profile of our University and the need for resources to be targeted to high-priority institutions, we will not be offering voluntary lateral flow device (LFD) testing. However, we will be able to support you if you wish to arrange an asymptomatic test prior to your end-of-term departure – including if you need to do so for international travel purposes. For further guidance, please contact covid-19@staffs.ac.uk.

Remaining timetabled on-campus sessions scheduled during this period will proceed as timetabled but must be completed by 9 December 2020. Virtual delivery will continue as planned, in line with our blended approach to teaching and learning.

If you are a Postgraduate Research student, you are permitted to continue to study either on or off campus as best fits the needs of your learning and research. This should be discussed with your tutor.

 

Following the student travel window – Thursday 10 to Friday 18 December 2020 

Teaching and learning during this period will take place as timetabled using virtual delivery only, in line with the latest official guidance. 
Our facilities will remain available for those students remaining on campus or commuting to campus, including technical and specialist facilities, library and catering outlets. Please see the ‘Access to on-campus facilities and equipment’ section below for more details.

You are permitted to travel after the student travel window has closed, if you so wish, but of course if you are required to self-isolate, this may disrupt your future travel plans. Regardless of when you choose to travel, if you are self-isolating at the time or are identified as needing to self-isolate, you must adhere to all self-isolation requirements before travelling home.

 

End-of-term break – Saturday 19 December 2020 to Sunday 3 January 2021

All remaining virtual teaching and learning activities will be completed by the end of term, at which point our technical facilities will close for the Christmas period. The library will remain open during this period. Please see the ‘Access to on-campus facilities and equipment’ section below for more details.

If you or someone in your household develops COVID-19 symptoms during this period, or if you test positive for COVID-19, please follow our existing reporting processes.

 

Term two – January 2021 onwards

The UK Government has not yet issued guidance concerning students returning to campus in the new year. 

We will share all relevant information with you via email and the MyStaffsUni app once we have been made aware of national plans for your return to campus. 

International students will be covered by the UK’s international travel regulations, including the requirement for self-isolation depending on their country of origin.

 

Access to on-campus facilities and equipment

Library Services: Our library services will remain open throughout this period. Seasonal opening hours will be confirmed in due course and made available via libguides.staffs.ac.uk/library.
 
Technical facilities: Technical and digital equipment will remain available for long-term loans where appropriate. A limited supply of laptops will also be available from Digital Services for students who do not have access to such equipment. It may also be possible to arrange specialist equipment loans depending on your specific requirements.

For further information about access to laptops, PCs and loan devices, please visit the following page on the MyStaffsUni app.
 
Catering outlets: Catering outlets will remain open until the end of term. Squeezebox will continue to offer a takeaway service and the Students’ Union shop on Leek Road will remain open, including weekends, but with reduced operating hours from 19 December 2020 until the new year. Social distancing requirements will remain in place throughout.
 
Nursery: Our University’s Nursery will continue to operate as usual until the end of term, at which point it will close in line with usual seasonal operations.
 
Student Support and Wellbeing Services: Student Support and Wellbeing Services will continue to operate from the Student Hub, which will remain open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and from 10am to 1pm at weekends until 18 December. All services will remain accessible virtually during the end-of-term break.

From 19 December 2020 until the new year, support services will switch to virtual delivery, with the ResLife team also available throughout this period.

Students' Union: The Union Information Point will operate on a virtual basis from 10am to 4pm during the break.

A programme of support and engagement activities for students staying on campus during the end-of-term break has been developed by the University and Students’ Union. Please visit the Students’ Union’s ‘What’s On’ webpage for further details.
 
Social activities: Social activities will continue to take place virtually until further notice.

 

To find out more about our University’s response to COVID-19, please visit our dedicated coronavirus webpage or join our Students’ Union’s ‘Staffs Uni COVID Community’ Facebook group.

For full details of the UK Government’s latest guidance to higher education institutions, please click on the following gov.uk webpage. You may also wish to visit the following ‘End of term 2020’ FAQ page compiled by the Office for Students (OfS).

Please remember that national guidelines remain in place until Wednesday 2 December 2020, and we remind any students living on campus or in the surrounding areas that they should not return to their family homes or travel between these addresses until the current restrictions are lifted.

Thank you for your continued commitment and support in maintaining our COVID-secure environment."

 


Have something to say about this article? Get in touch at union@staffs.ac.uk or have your say:

 

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