Team Manifesto 2020/21 - Leaving a legacy

Where your elected officer team are up to with the team manifesto.

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For students, by students.

 

Leaving a legacy

We always talk about officers leaving a legacy, but students never know what that is. So here we go!

Our wins in statistics

  • We have recruited 475 academic reps to support the student's voice 
  • Extensions in March 2020 and January 2021
  • Lobbied for Emergency Regulations in March 2020 and January 2021
  • Transparency on how fees are spent for students
  • Supporting students evacuated from their halls 
  • Building online communities for students
  • Securing rent reductions from the University
  • Making testing available for students at our Stoke campus
  • Secured compensation for students due to poor local accommodation
  • Developed the student charter to enable students to understand what to expect from their experience
  • Achieved Green Impact Excellence 
  • Supported 483 students with Advice since September 2020
  • Delivered over 100 emergency food parcels for students isolating in student accommodation 
  • We have secured an additional £65k for students in bursaries and grants since September 20
  • 1080 students have engaged in clubs and societies
  • Launched a student mental health campaign to tackle isolation, stigma, self-care as a partner in OFS
  • Delivered mental health lounges on campus for students.
  • Develop a voice framework for partner colleges.
  • Ran pulse surveys on value for money, digital poverty and student experience to inform policy and decision making at learning and teaching.
  • Provide 54 food parcels and over £1k of crisis loans since September 20 
  • Secured finance for over 200 places on Race Equity Training to support our work on REC and the awarding gap for BAME students 
  • Housed 590 tenants through GreenPad
  • Communicated fortnightly with students with a 33% open rate
  • 6082 unique students' interactions with the union and its services 6082

Representation

Circuit

After over 4 years of campaigning the university to look at its laundry provisions, we finally broke the chain and chose to end our contract with Circuit in August 2021. We had lots of consultations and discussions around why Circuit was such a large issue for our students here at Staffs. Smelly and still damp clothes just weren’t good enough and Circuit failed to provide any support to fix these issues. We ran multiple student sessions around what other options were available to students, and what options the university could provide in the future. The final outcome from these was the proposed move to ‘WashStation’ – The union and university met with WashStation to look at how they could provide for our students in the future and are in the midst of putting together a business case to take these plans forward for our future students.

We hope this is something the next officer team can finish off and push forward.

Regulations and Extensions

More than ever, it’s been important for students to understand the University’s Regulations and Policies. This year we have pushed for easier to read regulations for students, that are positive and reassuring. It was important that the language of our regulations didn’t push students away or confuse them in times where it was critical that they made sense. This was especially important during the lockdowns and when guidance seemed to be changing every week, it ensured that students got the correct message at the right times!
We were also able to secure deadline extensions in Semester 1, due to the lockdown & impact of school closures and provided extra support & Guidance in areas where extensions weren’t available.

BLM – Respect Video and Microaggressions

The university recently held a staff conference that would “Explore Race Inclusion” which had a massive uptake with both the morning and afternoon sessions full with over 200 staff members in each session. The uni asked for student input on this so we worked with some students who had been interested in re-invigorating our BAME society to input and collaborate with the conference. A video on tackling racial microaggression was shown at this conference that we had worked closely with the university team on to get our members of our BAME student community to give their answers on what racial microaggressions are, how somebody can be racist while not meaning to, and how to be better with actions and words. This video was a great collaboration with us and we’re really proud to have been able to help so much with it.

Christmas Celebrations and Events

We worked with a wide group of staff within the university to plan the Christmas celebrations and events – this was tricky at the time as the covid guidance rules were ever-changing. We put a lot of thought and planning over the few months beforehand to make sure we were being inclusive to all faiths and religions and had something for everybody, making sure we were being sustainable with what we were giving out, making sure it was accessible to students from location and time to be affordable, and overall trying to make sure we were treating our students warmly and with respect at this time that could be quite hard for many students staying at university when they would usually be going home to family.

Blended Learning

As everyone is aware by now, this year of university (and most of the 2nd half of last year) has been incredibly different to what students have experienced in the last few years due to learning being majorly online with some face to face teaching where possible and plausible. As a Union, we supported students as much as possible, and wherever we found that courses had said they would be doing face to face teaching but were only doing online we brought it up to the university executive team which it was then dealt with and the student experience improved from there.

Harley Street

We’ve correlated student feedback around the on-campus doctor services, we also looked at the transition and core issues based around Harley Street. The main topics that were drawn from these were communication, access to prescriptions and overall professionalism from the GP. We’ve prepared a document containing all feedback with highlighted issues for the next team to take forward with the university to help tackle these problems, create a better GP experience and overall support for our students.  

Testing Centre and Vaccinations

At the start of semester 2, our LRV building started to be used as a lateral flow testing centre for the foreseeable future. We supported this with members of our venue staff working the admin along with our officers when needed to ensure we could get as many people as possible tested throughout the days. It was great to see an increased uptake in these tests when students were finally allowed to return to campus fully. Our testing centre also turned into a vaccination centre on the 9th of June where over 630 appointments to receive the first vaccine dose were fully booked up within a few hours of bookings being open. Over 100 people were on a waiting list and we are pleased to say that the majority of these people were able to receive their jab on the day. That means 734 more staff and students around the Stoke on Trent campus were a step closer to having maximum protection from the virus, which was planned before the announcement of the rollout of the vaccines to even over 25s.

HSC placement students & testing

Towards the end of the 2nd-semester students from the school of health and social care came to us to say that they weren’t being given access to regular testing kits while on placement despite being told that they would be, and seeing staff members that weren’t placement students there being given tests. We worked closely with the dean of the school (Ann Ewans at the time), members of the Union’s senior management team, as well as members of the University executive team and other important people to find out why this was happening and to find a solution for our students to be treated the same as others and to get what they had been promised. We all worked as quickly as we could to get this resolved and were all happy with the outcome.

Managing SV & harassment at Staffs – Kickstarting the work for next year

Over the last few years, Staffs has been working on its procedures and support mechanisms for survivors of Sexual Violence, Harassment & Domestic Abuse. The university has trained up a team of people from across the university to support students throughout their studies, support students with reports to the police and accessing specialised support to Students in the Local area such as Savanna. The university is still building on this work, but this is going to be a priority for the coming year!

Reps - Site, Community, Force reps (new representation structures for CoE’s and Apprentices)

Representation is a big part of what we do at the union, so it’s very important that our representation structures work for all students. We recognised that some courses and campus’ work a bit differently to Stoke and through the work of officers over the years we’ve been able to successfully implement bespoke representation structures. At Campus’ such as London & Stafford, we’ve ran elections for Site Reps & Community Reps, and For Policing Apprentices we’ve created Force Rep Roles which represent each different force in the Institute of Policing. These roles have been great and really allowed us to support all staffs students no matter where they are!

Hall Evacuations

At the end of October, our officers responded immediately to a crisis on campus where students had been evacuated from halls due to a strong smell of fuel across the site which was potentially a health and safety risk. We had 3 offices attend the campus along with various society committees and other student union team members and had another officer giving support and answers through social media (Facebook, Discord, Messenger, etc). Our officers helped in organising students, being friendly and cheerful to help make the day less miserable, getting students set up for the night in temporary accommodations, and ensuring students were fed at the time they could not access their halls. Two of our officers accompanied the students to the hotels for the following 2 nights to be a port of call and assistance and to give out information to students who needed it. Overall while this wasn’t a great experience for the students it was really welcoming to see people laughing and smiling, having fun, and making the most out of a bad situation by making new friends they maybe hadn’t had the chance to do as much so far.

Student Charter

This Charter has been produced jointly by the Students’ Union and the University. It sets out the University’s commitments to you, and your responsibilities as a student. The University is committed to putting students at the heart of everything that we do and this Charter supports that aspiration. The Students’ Union and the University will review the Charter on an annual basis.

Advice and Food Parcels

This year we have seen an increase in students accessing our advice centre for many different reasons. We are pleased to have been able to handle this increase of support and have done everything we can for students who have come to us. We have recently created a new online booking option that makes it even easier for students to set up an appointment to speak to one of our advisors. One of our other wins for this year is setting up ‘donation stations’ around our venues and some university buildings, where anyone can drop in food/health/hygiene items to be donated to our Food Hub service to give out to students in need. We were also successful in gaining the university’s support in installing some lockers in the library where we can leave food hub parcels for students who need support out of hours (i.e, over half term when the Union building is closed), as well as an open locker that contains free sanitary products for people to take as needed (which we implemented into our venues pre-covid with the Period Pride campaign and have tried to keep up with).

We have also been able to support students who have needed to go into sudden isolation without enough food due to possible COVID cases with food parcels delivered to them in a safe and distanced way, to ensure they had food to last them before they could arrange an online delivery/other alternatives.

Rent reductions

A large campaign we focused on this year was student accommodation and rent rebates. This year students had been scapegoated and told to remain at their current location whether this was home or university. Students had signed for properties that they weren’t using within the university or private landlords, we worked together to ensure that students within university accommodation had rebates for the period that they were not using their accommodation.

Within the private sector, we had more of a fight to persuade individual private landlords to give refunds to students. We

  • Wrote a letter to Jo Gideon asking for support within the student Movember and asking her to work alongside the Minister of Education to support students in these desperate times. 
  • Wrote letters to local landlords asking them to help reduce students fees by discounting rent, reducing overall prices for unused times and taking into account bill costs that had not been used.

Overall we did see a portion of landlords sympathising for students and we were glad to see the support that they were providing for students. Some even went the extra mile and delivered food parcels to their own isolating students.

Greenpad only generates a small amount of profit from its housing that is returned to students through services. As a union, we took the decision to not ‘profit from students’ pain’ and chose to directly refund any profits back to our student tenants.

Greenpad Covid Clause

Following our issues with private landlords, we wanted to ensure that if there were any future issues arising around Covid and this caused a lack of access to accommodation, students until August were able to access an escape clause from the rented properties if this was the reason, was pandemic related.

New Beacon Group issues

Early on in the academic year, it was brought to our attention by Reslife that students staying on the Stafford campus within the New Beacon Group halls were having a bad time with the company who owned and ran the accommodation, from complaints being ignored to internet dropping out regularly during tests, to rude and unhelpful security staff. We worked closely with Reslife to get these students voices fully heard by the company on all of their issues and worked to get a partial refund for the inadequate service they had received during their time. We are pleased to have gotten some good results out of this situation and hope that it continues to improve.

Opportunities

Alumni – Postgraduate Qualification

With a drop in graduate jobs around the country, we’ve worked with the university to develop extra support for our student Alumni’s. If students who have finished university have not become employed in what is classed as a graduate-level job (a role which requires an undergraduate level degree or higher) they’ll be offered a 1-year part-time training qualification equivalent to a postgrad within Staffordshire University. This also means those students become eligible for student benefits and bursaries again, while also being able to take part in societies and clubs again.

Graduate Work Schemes  

We’ve worked with the university to ensure that students are given the opportunity to gain work experience within Staffs. Going forward we are trialling new graduate positions within the business school that our own students can apply too, while also gaining priority over outside applications.

Placements within Staffs

Alongside graduate schemes and postgrad support, we’ve also worked to enable students to gain more experience by partaking in placements within the university. New opportunities are being created with a student focus so that these options are open to students in designated areas.

Value for money

Students often did not know where their money was being spent or what it was used for. We made sure to talk to the university about this clarity and worked together to do develop Booklet the ‘Course Costs’ booklet. This helped show students what is actually contained within their tuition fee, and what is included within their spending. - https://www.staffs.ac.uk/students/money-matters/your-course-costs-and-additional-charges

Learning & Teaching Principles

As part of the academic experience and the quality of education the university provides, we have worked in collaboration with Colleagues in the University to create the core principles of Learning & Teaching. This meant that students had a written commitment from the university to deliver high quality, pedagogy-driven, digital-first student experience. This has been doubly important around blended learning this year which has changed the way courses were delivered and providing high quality teaching no matter the circumstances.

Covid Response fund

This year the government announced a £50 million fund to support students impacted by Covid-19. We were invited to work on this with the university to get this money out to students as best as we could, working with them to get the news out, review applications, and reach out to people who were unsuccessful in previous rounds when new funds were released in the weeks after the first one. In the first two rounds, we were able to help the university support 2,876 students with £809,132 to go to what they needed support with. We have since completed a third-round that supported our partner students that saw 223 students supported with £73,705. And a recent fourth round with 320 students with £150,600 if all applications were fully granted. We were also able to reach out to students to offer support to both successful and unsuccessful applications, giving out contacts and advice and food parcels where they were needed to go.

Mental Health

MH Lounges

This year we started something called the Rest and Reset lounge. This is a relaxed safe event that allows for students to come to hang out, unwind and if needed talk to a mental health professional and get signposted to the university facilities, hopefully, next year this will become the main provision on campus.

Start To Success

The start to success project was developed over 3 years to help students transition from Further Education to Higher Education institutions. Focusing on 3 areas; Stigma, Isolation and Self Help – These campaigns have been pushed throughout the year to highlight to students about the services available and to help counter underlying issues around Mental Health

                                                                                                           

Society, Club and Gym Support

One thing that helps tackle mental health is physical exercise and support through social activities. Working with student services those students who are not able to afford these activities or those who often miss out are now able to receive support to participate.

If a student is struggling mentally we can help provide them with the means to take part in clubs, societies or get access to the gym through the wellbeing services for a period of time.

Sustainability

Catalyst Furniture

With the Catalyst being built throughout the academic year, the union has been invited to discussions on the furniture that would be going in. Sustainability is a priority to students at Staffs and this was echoed by the university in picking sustainable options for the new building. As a Union, we highlighted any Accessibility issues with the furniture and represented what students’ priorities, needs & expectations were for this project!
We can’t wait for everyone to see this!

Recycling with the council

From the start of the year, we were in contact with the Waste & Sustainability coordinator from Stoke City Council to try and work on a project to get more consistent recycling implemented into Shelton, the area around the Stoke campus. While this main goal wasn’t able to happen due to issues relating to Covid, we did work closely with this contact and with the Head of Campus Facilities Management to spread more information about the recycling available and how to access these facilities and how to use them to full effectiveness.

Network Changes

Over the year the officers and Student Voice have worked to assess how our networks run, how effective their structures are, and how we can help them to get more engagement. We also set up what we called an Equality Forum where we invite network committees to get together and brainstorm ideas/ask the Union questions/etc. This didn’t get much of a turnout when we ran it, but for the 2021/2022 year we have more activity within our networks and so expect to get much more engagement for it this year.

NUS

Three of our officers this year (Tuesday Forrest, Connor Bayliss, and Carter Fitzpatrick) represented our Union this year at NUS along with student staff member Amber Kirkland – have a look back at this article to see what they did!

www.staffsunion.com/news/article/staffsunion/National-Conference-2021

Interviews

Throughout this academic year, the university has included Students’ Union officers on interview panels for important positions within the university structure, such as for the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Education, the Director of Learning and Teaching, the Executive Dean of the centre for business innervation and enterprise, and we are also being involved in the upcoming conversations to recruit the new Vice-Chancellor, for which we are grateful for all of these opportunities. We’ve found it really insightful to be involved with all of these conversations and really appreciate our input being valued and listened to, we’ve had feedback that our comments, questions, and the way we conducted the SU interviews with candidates were really helpful to the University executive board make the final decisions.

Campus Development

We’ve been heavily involved in the development of the catalyst building, attending meetings, vising the site and overall contributing to the future build. From a student perspective, we’ve been approached around things like the furniture and use of the building, prayer rooms, and the digital approach and how students can benefit from new technology but also how students can make use of a new library system. Most of all we’ve been asked what students needed and we’ve made sure that student opinions and choices are involved in the process.

Alongside the catalyst we’ve also been involved with the new nursery process, this has been great to see as our parent students can now feel more comfortable coming onto campus to learn to know that there are new provisions to support them.

Student Village

We have been involved in the Student Consultation period of the proposed Student Village. As always, we communicated the priorities of students around Sustainability, Belonging & Community, we also highlighted the need to make spaces feel comfortable and the ability to personalise spaces. We also suggested having well-being spaces around halls to encourage students to connect with the environment and practice good mental well-being, which is always a priority to officer teams.

We’ve made sure to push that the new team are involved in the next steps.

Handover

We put together our handover document to ensure the new team hit the ground running hopefully this will help them get started and overall deliver a great year for students.

23 pages, 6290 words, lots of hard work!

                                                                                                           

It's been an absolute pleasure representing students in such a strange year,  we are so proud of what we have accomplished as a Union and wish everyone the best of luck in their own future as well. 

We will forever be #ProudToBeStaffs and will miss Staffs very much.

One last article and one last goodbye from your 2020 - 2021 Officer Team.

- Connor, Carter, Anthony and Tuesday - Officer Team 2020/2021

If you have any questions for your Elected Officer team or suggestions for what they should talk about next, get in touch.

Email union@staffs.ac.uk or have your say:

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