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PM Commons Statement on COVID-19: update for colleagues

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A message from Professors Julian Park & Parveen Yaqoob, Co-Chairs of the Major Recovery Team.

Dear colleagues,

We are writing following the Prime Minister's statement on coronavirus to the House of Commons earlier today and what this means for us here at the University of Reading.

In his statement, Mr Johnson confirmed that the new restrictions announced this week are ‘by no means a return to the full lockdown of March'. He also clarified that the government were not issuing a ‘general instruction to stay at home'.

The announcement reiterated that keeping schools, colleges and universities open was a high priority:

‘We will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open - because nothing is more important than the education, health and well-being of our young people.'

As Co-Chairs of the University's Major Recovery Team, we have reviewed today's statement in consultation with the Vice-Chancellor. Based on the latest government advice, we are confident that in most areas we can continue to operate in line with ‘Phase 5' of our Phased Return Roadmap.

The recent Department for Education (DfE) guidance for universities set out four ‘tiers of restriction' for operating based on local infection rates. We remain at ‘Tier 1' (the DfE ‘default position'), with teaching delivered through ‘blended' learning, combining online and on-campus activities.

There are two areas of Phase 5 on the roadmap that we feel need reviewing in light of today's developments as follows:

1. Office-based working.

In his statement today, the Prime Minister said ‘we are asking office workers who can work from home to do so'. All colleagues in this category should work from home, unless their role requires them to deliver prioritised on-campus activities which cannot effectively be done from home. Such ‘prioritised' activities include the delivery and support for timetabled face-to-face teaching in line with our blended approach and research that can only be undertaken on campus. It also includes the wider provision of support services and facilities needed to offer our students the best possible experience and ensure our colleagues who need to be on campus are supported too.

It is important to recognise that we now have a much higher number of students on campus than we did even just a few weeks ago. This means some members of staff who could work effectively from home previously may not now be able to do so in term-time and thus need to be on our campuses to fulfil their roles. If you feel today's update means your current agreed working arrangements need to change, please speak to your line manager for advice. We have asked all Heads of School and Function to review the current approach for their teams and speak to individual members of staff where this may need to change.

2. Events.

We have been working on a detailed autumn term events policy relating and we will review this following today's update. Further information will be shared with colleagues in due course.

We hope this helps provide a quick summary of the implications of today's announcements for you and our students. There will be more detailed information to come from the government and Department for Education, which the Prime Minister indicated may extend over the next 6 months. We will carefully digest this advice and we will keep you updated.

Thank you for your continued support.

Best wishes,

Julian & Parveen

Professors Julian Park & Parveen Yaqoob

Co-Chairs of the Major Recovery Team

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