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Health & safety measures in teaching rooms for autumn 2020

Social distancing sign

Social distancing signs have been placed around campus.

In June, when we started work on the timetable for the autumn term, it was necessary to make some important decisions relating to social distancing, room capacity and class sizes. We consulted widely with colleagues, examined government advice, and sought advice from our own experts in Health & Safety.

We would like to emphasise that our commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of our students and colleagues remains our foremost priority. If individual members of staff or students raise concerns (for staff, with their line manager) about these measures not being suitable for them (for example, due to a disability or increased vulnerability to the virus) we will consider this carefully. Where appropriate, we will agree alternative arrangements, in consultation with Occupational Health as needed.

We will also continue to monitor the evolving government advice and be prepared to adjust our approach, if required.

Our current arrangements are outlined below.

1.       Social distancing in teaching rooms

The government advice is that social distancing should be maintained at 2 metres, unless this is not possible. In these cases, organisations are permitted to maintain a 1 metre distance, combined with other health control measures in place, known as ‘1m+'.

Where it is not possible for us to apply a 2 metre distance for timetabling reasons, we will take a 1m+ approach and our teaching room capacities have been calculated on this basis and we are implementing a range of mitigation measures to minimise any possible risk:

  • Reducing class sizes by providing core course content online that would usually be delivered through large lectures and organising interactive face-to-face teaching in smaller groups
  • Directing all students and colleagues to stay away from campus if they have symptoms of the virus or are required to self-isolate
  • Providing students and colleagues with an induction about the safe and appropriate behaviour expected in relevant spaces
  • In addition to those instances where wearing a mask is a legal requirement, students and colleagues are expected to wear face coverings inside buildings (including classrooms and lecture theatres) and in areas on campus where it is not possible to maintain a 2 metre distance. In doing so, we must be mindful that some people are exempt from wearing face coverings, which can be for a wide range of reasons, including hidden disabilities, and students should not be questioned or asked to disclose this information in a teaching environment
  • Making face visors available on request to staff delivering face-to-face teaching, which can provide reassurance for both staff and students as well as allowing easier communication
  • Making cleaning materials available in all teaching spaces, to wipe down desks after each use
  • Staggering class times to reduce the numbers of people moving around in a building at the same time
  • Providing hand hygiene opportunities across campus.

While calculations for student capacity for timetabling have been working to the principle of ‘1m+', we anticipate that teaching colleagues should be able to maintain a 2 metre distance from students inside teaching rooms during sessions.  

2.       Room capacity and maximum class sizes

Current rules permit gatherings of people, including those of more than 30 people, where they are for educational purposes, provided that risks assessments have been carried out and control measures, such as those detailed above, are in place.

On this basis, our timetabling has assumed room capacities at the 1m+ distance as outlined above. We hope this will help reduce the need for colleagues to run multiple repeated sessions, unless they have specifically requested smaller class sizes.

For colleagues with any queries or concerns about these arrangements, please speak to your line manager of HR Business Partner.

You can also find links to useful information and resources to support Teaching & Learning for the 2020/21 academic year on the T&L information and resources FAQ page.

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