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Update from MRT: Government announcement about start of Spring term

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The following message was sent to all colleagues from Professor Julian Park and Professor Dominik Zaum, Co-Chairs of the Major Response Team.

Dear colleagues,

You have no doubt seen the government announcements about changes to the return of schools and universities in England in January. The Major Recovery Team met this morning to review this latest announcement and a subsequent letter from the Minister of State for Universities.

We understand that more detailed guidance from the Department for Education will follow, but we wanted to provide you with some initial guidance on how the changes mentioned to date affect us here at Reading.

Most teaching to move online until 25 January

Our Spring term will still begin on 11 January. However, with a small handful of exceptions, the government has instructed universities to move all teaching online only, until 25 January at the earliest. The government will review this position in the week commencing 18 January and we will revise our position at that stage.

The government advice allows for some priority subjects to recommence COVID-secure face-to-face teaching before 25 January. For our University, this is:

  • Education
  • Physician Associates
  • Clinical Language Sciences
  • Pharmacy

For students in these areas, we anticipate that their blended online and face-to-face teaching will recommence as planned. We will work with Heads of Schools to communicate directly with students on these courses early next week.

Working from home except for essential services

While we anticipate that the number of students returning to campus at the start of term will now be considerably lower, there are some students who will need to return or, indeed, who stayed in Reading over the Christmas closure period. It obviously remains important that we have support in place for these students. Our halls of residence have remained open throughout the break, and we will be reopening other facilities on campus as previously communicated from 4 January including the Library. URS study space will now remain closed until 11 January.

The Minister’s letter is helpfully very clear that colleagues who are required on campus to keep these critical services running are considered essential workers, vital to the continuation of education, and will be able to travel to work. This includes colleagues involved in the limited amount of face-to-face teaching that will take place at the start of term. We would like to emphasise how grateful we are to those colleagues who will be returning in the new year to support our students in this way.

All other colleagues who are not involved in delivery of critical on-campus services should work from home wherever possible. Please speak to your line manager next week about your individual circumstances if you are unsure how this applies to your role or where there are other priorities that may require you to work on site.

In relation to research specifically, the Minister explicitly states that research colleagues, including PGR students, should work from home where possible, but those who require access to specialist facilities for their work can return to campus.

COVID testing available on campus from Tuesday 5 January

We will re-open lateral flow testing in the Sports Hall on our Whiteknights campus from 5 January for students who are returning to or who have remained in Reading as well as for any colleagues who will be working on campus. If you wish to book a test, you can do so online.

If you had previously booked a test but these latest changes mean that you no longer require it on the date booked, please take a moment to cancel it so that we can make your testing slot available to others who may need it. Simply click on the ‘change your appointment’ link in the confirmation message you received when you booked your test. If you cannot see this link, check that you have enabled pictures to be downloaded for the email.

Our testing centre in the Sports Halls is currently scheduled to be open until 29 January. Given the delay in the return of many students and colleagues to campus, we will be reviewing and are likely to extend this date once we have more detailed guidance from the Department for Education.

 

With final approval now granted in the UK for a second COVID-19 vaccine, we can all have cause to hope that 2021 will bring significant improvements in the national and local outlook.  In the meantime, we can no doubt expect further change as the government response continues to evolve, and we will continue to keep you updated.

In the meantime, if you need support, please do not hesitate to speak to your line manager and check out the many resources available on our wellbeing pages. Our COVID-19 support hotline (0118 214 7813) will also re-open at 9.15am on Monday 4 January.

With our very best wishes for the new year,

Julian and Dominik

 

Professor Julian Park (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education and Student Experience) and Professor Dominik Zaum (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation)

Co-Chairs, University of Reading Major Response Team

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