Resource: Covid-19 Exceptional Circumstances Guidance

You are not alone, so please reach out if you need support on Exceptional Circumstances

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Exceptional Circumstances and the national Lockdown | January 2021


If the national lockdown is negatively impacting your ability to undertake an assessment, we advise you to submit a claim for Exceptional Circumstances.  

If you are unsure about whether you submit a claim for Exceptional Circumstances, please get in touch. You can email us at sac@staffs.ac.uk or call us on 01782 294629 to arrange an appointment. 

Whilst we cannot definitively tell you whether or not your claim will be accepted by the university, we can use our experience and knowledge of the regulations to advise you on building your case and making your claim. You are not alone, so please reach out if you need support on Exceptional Circumstances. 

 

Our top tips for claiming Exceptional Circumstances due to the national lockdown 


  1. Provide evidence if you can.  

  • The university has been clear that students who complete Exceptional Circumstances submissions due to the national lockdown are not required to submit supporting evidence. Instead, a self-declaration statement explaining your situation and how the national lockdown has compromised your ability to undertake assessment is in place. However, if you can provide evidence, you should. 

 

  1. Use your own words and experiences 

  • We’ve put some guidance below, but you should use your own words and talk about your own experiences. Exceptional Circumstances are really personal to you, so make sure that comes across. 

 

  1. Focus on the impact that the circumstances are having on your ability to undertake your assessments. 

  • You should explain what impact your circumstances are having. It isn’t enough to say: “I am home schooling”. Instead, you should focus on the impact that this is having on your ability to complete your assessments. So set the scene of the circumstances but focus on describing the impact that they are having on your ability to undertake your assessments. This is the most important part of claiming Exceptional Circumstances. 

 

  1. Familiarise yourself with the process 

  • You can read the Exceptional Circumstances Procedure here. We recommend you read the procedure before you submit a claim. You can make a claim online, by logging into e:Vision and going to My Modules and Assessment. You will need to select every assessment task you want to claim for, not just every module. You must submit your claim via e:Vision. Speaking with your lecturer is not enough, so make sure to follow the correct process. 

 

  1. Submit your claim on time 

  • You should submit your claim for Exceptional Circumstances as soon as possible and no later than two weeks after the assessment date. This excludes bank holidays. If you are submitting a claim before your deadline, you should make it clear that you will not be able to overcome your circumstances by the time of your assessment. 

 

Writing your Exceptional Circumstances Claim 


In your submission, you should outline the circumstance.

Using the example of being a parent: 

“I am homeschooling my child. This means that, during the day, I am having to support my child with their education. This involves two hours of zoom calls with teachers, three hours of workbooks which I need to complete with my child and a thirty-minute lunch break which I need to organise each day.” 

 

You then need to explain the negative impact that the circumstance is having on you

“This is having a negative impact on my ability to undertake my assessments because I have no time in the day when I am able to focus and concentrate on my studies. When my child goes to bed, I have a very narrow window when I can complete some university work, but this is not sufficient to catch-up on lectures I might have missed, undertake independent reading, plan, prepare and complete my assessments.” 

 

Explaining the negative impact that the circumstance is having on you is the most important part of your submission, so really focus on this and give as much detail on the impact as you possibly can. 

 

Exceptional Circumstances due to the national lockdown 


This is not an exhaustive list. These are examples of claims you could submit, but it is important that you adapt these to cover your own situation. Focus on the impact that the circumstance is having on your ability to complete your assessments 

If you are a parent who is homeschooling due to the national lockdown and if this is negatively impacting your ability to undertake an assessment, you should submit a claim for Exceptional Circumstances. 

“I am a parent and I am having to home-school due to the national lockdown. This is negatively impacting my ability to undertake this assessment because <your reasons here>”.

Those reasons might be: 

  • I am having to home school for X hours each day. This is the time I would normally be available to complete university work. 

  • I am unable to focus and concentrate during the day and this is impacting my ability to undertake my assessments to a high standard. 

  • Homeschooling means I have had to miss some lectures in the day, so I am behind on the course content. 

 

If you are struggling to access appropriate study space and if this is negatively impacting your ability to undertake an assessment, you should submit a claim for Exceptional Circumstances. 

“I have been unable to return to my term-time address because of the national lockdown and I am struggling to work from home in this space. This is negatively impacting my ability to undertake this assessment because <your reasons here>”.

Those reasons might be: 

  • I am now sharing space with siblings as I have not been able to return to my term-time address and this has a significant impact on my ability to focus, concentrate and study. 

  • I do not have access to a desk and chair. This means that I have to sit on the floor/ bed which is not a suitable space to study from for prolonged periods of time. 

 

If you are a Key Worker and continuing to work throughout the national lockdown and if this is negatively impacting your ability to undertake an assessment, you should submit a claim for Exceptional Circumstances. 

“I am a key worker who is continuing to work through the national lockdown. I am doing this to provide an essential service to the public which is <description here>. This is negatively impacting my ability to undertake this assessment because <your reasons here>"

  • I am having to take more shifts than usual to cover this essential service because of colleagues who are self-isolating. This means I do not have enough time to study and complete my assessments. 

  • I am having to take more shifts to cover this essential service because demand has increased due to the pandemic. This means I do not have enough time to study and complete my assessments. 

  • My shifts take place overnight, which has an impact on my ability to work during the day as I am sleeping. 

  • My shifts take place during the day, which has an impact on my ability to work on my course and attend lectures at these times.  

  • The additional hours I am completing to maintain this essential service are impacting the time I have available to me to complete course work.  

You should be able to evidence this with a letter from your employer. 

 

If you are having difficulties with IT equipment and you are unable to find a solution and if this is negatively impacting your ability to undertake an assessment, you should submit a claim for Exceptional Circumstances. 

The key here is “if you are unable to find a solution”.  

If you do not have access to a laptop, you can apply for a long-term laptop loan from the university here. This might alleviate the need for you to claim Exceptional Circumstances.

If you are sharing a laptop or PC with someone else, you can still apply for a long-term laptop loan. For example, if you are a parent and your child is using your laptop for homeschooling, you can still apply for a laptop loan from the university so that you can both complete your studies.  

If your device does not have the specialist software you need for your course, the university can make the software available to you via the Windows Virtual Desktop which allows you to utilise the power of the Cloud from the device and gain access to the software you need. You should speak with your course leader, or email 3800@stafs.ac.uk for support with this. 
 
If you are unable to resolve your IT difficulties 

“I am facing technology issues due to the national lockdown. This is negatively impacting my ability to undertake this assessment because <your reasons here>.” The reasons might be: 

  • My home has poor WiFi, with speeds of <detail here> which are not sufficient for me to effectively engage with lectures and course content. 

  • Due to the number of people accessing the WiFi in my house, this is having an impact on the speed which is now not sufficient for me to effectively engage with lectures and course content.  

  • I am unable to access the specialist software I would normally access on campus because… 

  • I am having to share a device with my sibling/ parent/ partner/ child etc and have been unable to secure a long-term laptop loan because… 

If you are able to provide evidence, you should do. 

 

If you are unable to access key specialist equipment. 

Firstly, talk to your lecturer or course leader.

If you are unable to access key specialist equipment or facilities that are crucial for your course, like labs, kilns, and workshops, your course team should have contacted you around plans for alternative assessments that do not require the use of those facilities. If this is not the case, please contact the Student Voice Team at studentvoice@staffs.ac.uk  

 

Other information to consider 


  1. Claiming Exceptional Circumstances, with the self-declaration, for issues directly related to the national lockdown will be possible for the duration of the national lockdown. 

  1. You can still claim Exceptional Circumstances for non-Covid or lockdown related issues as normal, providing evidence, on e:Vision. 

  1. Don’t forget if you have been impacted financially by Covid or the lockdown you might be able to get financial help from the Student Success (Support) Fund here.  

  1. If you are home-schooling and sharing IT equipment, you can apply for a long-term laptop loan from the university here to support you with your studies. 

  2. As per the university’s guidance, students who are not on a “future critical worker course” such as: 

  • Allied health professions, including operating department practitioners and paramedics 

  • Teacher training courses – Education (initial teacher training) 

  • Healthcare science practitioner training programme 

  • Midwifery 

  • Nursing (all branches) 

  • Social work 

 

Or students who do not meet one or more of the following criteria: 

  • International students, including those who have remained on campus and those who have arrived in the UK and do not have alternative accommodation 

  • Students without access to appropriate study spaces or facilities in their vacation accommodation 

  • Students who have remained in their term-time accommodation over the end-of-term break 

  • Students requiring additional support, including those with mental health issues 

  • Students on placements, where necessary 

Should not return to campus before face-to-face teaching resumes. This is currently expected to be after mid-February 2021 but is dependent on government guidance. 

 

This would mean that, if you do not fit the above criteria, you should access campus facilities, such as the library, and this might have an impact on your students’ ability to complete your work. In this case, you should consider submitting an Exceptional Circumstance claim.

 


Have something to say about how covid-19 is affecting your studies? Get in touch at studentvoice@staffs.ac.uk or have your say:

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