Your Elected Officers have been doing all they can to improve the standards of living and education during Covid19, including reaching out to Jo Gideon MP.
As the elected representatives of the students of Staffordshire University, our responsibility is to ensure that our students have their voices heard, and their needs supported.
Following government announcements, we face yet another lockdown, and while we understand that this is necessary for our staff and students here at Staffs, but also for everyone in the city of Stoke on Trent. We want to make you aware of how this lockdown is affecting our students, the concerns they have, and the issues that it presents to them. Many students signed tenancy agreements for a yearly period and have only been able to use their accommodation for a limited amount of time due to the new tier 4 lockdown.
The university has again shown its supportiveness for its students by offering rent reductions to those in on-site accommodation. This is great for our students, but it does however mean that a large number of our students in private accommodation are left to suffer due to landlords not being willing or able to show the same sympathy and kindness. There is a role for government to play in supporting these landlords to help students.
Many of our students have been placed on furlough, reduced hours, or even been made redundant through the past year due to Covid -19. These jobs were vital to our students in order to support their families, pay for rent and meet their day to day living cost needs. More work needs to be done to support our disabled, mature, and parent students who require extra support to complete their degree and to not be disadvantaged during these periods of uncertainty.
Our students whose education has been impacted by not being able to fulfill placements or vocational training. What support measures are you going to put in place to ensure that they can achieve their goals of becoming great teachers, paramedics, nurses, and our front-line workers of the future. Students need your assurance that they can be supported by being on priority vaccination lists as they move out of education, they need financial support and to be offered the chance to extend their learning without financial detriment.
Most of our students who lived in private accommodation had returned home for the Christmas period, only to be told not to return following the 2 - week period. As you can expect this proved quite a shock to students, considering those that had face-to-face teaching had been told to return on the 5th, to then be thrown into another lockdown. Possibly being forced to cover the cost of a whole house alone whether that being covering bills and utilities or other factors.
Amidst the panic, students have been treated differently and unfairly, and support is needed. Students have been ignored, left out, and at some institutions mistreated. Students nationally have received numerous guidelines scapegoating them into corners, where they cannot escape, causing them to be isolated, and overall damaging their mental health.
Despite this, students did what they were told to do to tackle this virus. Not only did we abide by lockdown rules, but we also went the extra mile for our loved ones, our local communities, and the most vulnerable. We raised money for the NHS, we shopped for our elderly and vulnerable neighbours, and even hosted online events to maintain a sense of community, all while still working hard studying in our homes. Students’ Unions and Universities worked tirelessly to keep education going, we adjusted learning spaces, ensured students' need were met, delivered food parcels, and overall made sure support was available to all our students.
Students and their futures are in jeopardy. They are locked down in halls and trapped in private accommodation contracts. They’ve not been given the chance to meet people, make friends and build support systems that they so desperately need here at university.
We are asking for your support to ensure the government and universities commit to: upholding students basic legal rights, with no different treatment to any other member of the public; the right to leave the accommodation and our courses with no financial penalties; fair treatment during lockdowns, including rent rebates, food, and welfare support; an effective strategy for education, including effective test and trace and high quality online learning.
So, we’re writing to you, as part of NUS’ #StudentsDeserveBetter campaign, lobby to the government on our behalf to:
- Uphold students' basic legal rights?– ensure students are not treated differently to other members of the public or scapegoated in any way. Under no circumstances should students be restricted, threatened or policed by private security forces.
- The right to leave without financial detriment?– including exiting accommodation contracts to access education entirely online, deferring or permanently dropping out of the course.
- Fair treatment during accommodation lockdowns?– rent reimbursements for lockdown periods and free internet access, care packages with food, household products, wellbeing materials and general necessities, and targeted educational & mental health support, with facilitation of social activity.
- An effective strategy for education now and for post-COVID recovery
- Now: an effective test & trace system in place with asymptomatic testing, a move to online teaching as default and immediate financial & wellbeing support.
- Post-COVID: investment into digital infrastructure and mental health support. Future: a new strategy that delivers lifelong, funded and accessible education for everyone in society.
I would be very grateful if you could show your support for this campaign by sharing the demands on your social media accounts and signing/sharing our petition.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Connor Bayliss | Carter Fitzpatrick | Anthony Wallace | Tuesday Forrest
The Elected Officer Team
Staffordshire University Students’ Union