Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff - 05 January 2021
- England has entered a new period of national lockdown, which will last for at least seven weeks
- A summary of what you can and cannot do is included at the end of this message
- All colleagues should now work from home if possible
- Colleagues with school-aged children, other caring responsibilities, or circumstances that may be further impacted by this new lockdown should talk to their line manager if they need support in making alternative arrangements
- The Department for Education have confirmed that University staff are considered ‘critical workers’ and their children are therefore eligible to attend school for face-to-face teaching, regardless of whether those colleagues are working on campus or from home
- Teaching will remain online until at least mid-February for all students, with the exception of a small number of exemptions, listed below
- Students who do not have any in-person teaching scheduled should not travel to the University or to term-time accommodation
- Students who are already in Exeter or Penryn should remain in place and not travel away
- We will move all coursework marking deadlines scheduled for this week and the week commencing 11th January back by one week
- Sports facilities are now closed and the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union are switching to online-only. Other facilities remain open for those permitted to come to campuses
- COVID-19 tests are available for those colleagues who are required to work on our campuses. Booking details are below
- Our wellbeing support remains in place. Full details are on our COVID-19 Wellbeing web page
- We must all abide by the new restrictions, and continue to observe the highest standards of COVID-19 hygiene
- The student-version of this message will be available on our COVID-19 website shortly
- We will keep you updated on a regular basis, so please look out for these messages and read them carefully
Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that England will enter a new period of national lockdown from today. This period will last for at least seven weeks, and the measures will be reviewed in mid-February. The full details of the new measures are available on the Government website and a summary of what you can and cannot do is provided at the end of this message.
The new measures mean that schools and colleges will close, except for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.
In line with the new Government guidance, University teaching will remain online until at least mid-February, apart from the previously announced exceptions of future critical worker courses and certain limited courses that require accreditation from a professional body.
This will be another worrying and challenging period for us all, and the University will do everything possible to support you. We worked together as one strong and collaborative community last term to help each other and those around us. I am confident that we can do so again.
Working arrangements for staff and postgraduate research students (PGR)
- All colleagues should now work from home, with the exception of those who are required to work on campus, or who cannot work from home for any reason. Colleagues should liaise with their line manager at their earliest opportunity
- Those who are clinically vulnerable should not attend campus, even if they are unable to work from home, and should discuss their situation with their line manager
- The closure of schools and colleges presents immediate challenges to colleagues with school age children and the University will be as supportive and flexible as possible. Where possible colleagues should prioritise urgent work, in agreement with your line manager, whilst working through the implications of this change on your household. If it is not possible to work at home, emergency leave may be appropriate. See the ‘Working Here’ website for more information.
- The most recent guidance indicates that Higher Education staff in England are classed as ‘critical workers’. The Department for Education (DfE) have further confirmed that the children of university staff are eligible to attend school for face-to-face teaching, regardless of whether colleagues are working on campus or from home.
- We know that many colleagues have other caring responsibilities, for example for older or vulnerable adults, and family members with long term illnesses and disabilities, including those who are classified as extremely clinically vulnerable. Colleagues themselves may have disabilities that may be impacted by this further period of lockdown, requiring additional support. Other colleagues, who may not fall into any of these categories, may find coming to terms with a further period of major disruption to normal life very difficult to cope with. A shared commitment to our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around us is as important now as it always been.
- If you are feeling unsure about how best to work at present the first step is to talk to your line manager, they will be supportive and talk through options with you. These may include flexible working, emergency leave or in some circumstances where you are unable to work some or all of your hours, whether you may qualify for the furlough leave arrangements.
- If you would like confidential advice on a health related matter related to work please talk to one of our expert Occupational Health Advisers. Our 24/7 Staff Counselling service (Spectrum Life) is available for you, either as a one off conversation or a series of up to x6 appointments; please do reach out to them, they are there to help you.
Teaching and assessment
In-person teaching will be delayed until at least mid-February for all students except for the exemptions listed below, which are for those studying future critical worker courses and certain limited courses that require accreditation from a professional body (PSRB):
- In the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
- final year undergraduate students requiring access to specialist facilities for projects in order to meet PSRB requirements in Physics, Engineering, Geology and Camborne School of Mines (and then only for project work)
- In the College of Medicine and Health
- all undergraduate BMBS, Medical Imaging and Nursing students
- In the College of Social Sciences and International Studies
- all PGCE students undertaking Initial Teacher Training (currently on placements)
In-person teaching has either begun already for students on these courses, or will begin next week. All other students will study online and the Government’s advice is that students should not travel to the University or to term-time accommodation. Timetables will be updated this week to reflect these changes.
Students who are already at the University have been advised to remain in place and not travel away. We will shortly be sharing a survey to all students to identify those who are at the University and who may need additional support.
Given the personal challenges this new lockdown will bring we will be giving colleagues additional time to complete marking. We will move all coursework marking deadlines scheduled for this week and the week commencing 11th January back by one week, and we will be releasing January examination marks to students a week later than originally planned (now Thursday 18th February 2021). Hubs will provide colleagues with the last possible date by which they must submit marks.
We expect further guidance from Government concerning University research and other activity later today, and we have emphasised the need to allow critical research activity to continue.
Campus activities and facilities
All sports facilities and services are now closed. Online fitness classes and virtual club activity will continue. Bookings can be made for free for the online classes here https://fixr.co/organiser/241194645 and further links can be found under ‘fitness classes’ on www.sport.exeter.ac.uk.
Due to the new restrictions, the Students' Guild and Students’ Union will be switching to online-only during this period.
Other campus services, including libraries and study spaces for postgraduate researchers, will remain open for those who are permitted to come to campus. We will keep this provision under review over the coming weeks and ensure you are updated.
Testing is important to reduce the risk of introducing infection to our community following the festive period in which additional household mixing has been permitted.
We can provide tests for staff who are required to work on our campuses. We encourage colleagues who are required to work on our campuses to help keep our community as safe as possible by taking two tests (separated by 3 days) as soon as they are able to. These tests are delivered on our Streatham and Penryn campuses.
We are requesting all students who are already in Exeter or Penryn, as well as students who have not yet arrived but who are beginning in-person teaching or placements for future critical workers, and those who cannot work at home and plan to travel, to get two tests as a matter of urgency.
Tests for students and staff can be booked via the following links:
These are difficult times for all of us, with further restrictions placed on our lives and inevitable concerns about the continued spread of COVID-19 and the impact this is having on our loved ones and those around us. Please remember that we have a full range of services and resources available to you if you feel you need additional wellbeing or mental health support. Many of these are collected in our COVID-19 Wellbeing web page.
There is a great deal that we can do as a University of Exeter community, even if many of us are apart. This begins by ensuring that we all strictly observe the new guidance, as well as continuing to practice important hygiene measures such as washing hands, covering faces and giving space to others. Please continue to look after yourselves and those around you wherever you are, and together we can play our part in keeping each other safe.
Registrar and Secretary
Summary: what you can and cannot do during the national lockdown from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home
You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
You should follow this guidance immediately. The law will be updated to reflect these new rules.
You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:
- shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
- go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
- exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
- seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
- attend education or childcare - for those eligible
Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term. Early Years settings remain open.
Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.
If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live. You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as for work.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work
You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).
You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble.
You should not meet other people you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.
Stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household.