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COVID-19 FAQs: Spring term teaching and lockdown guidance

As part of the current UK lockdown restrictions, colleagues must work from home where possible. 

If you have any queries or need support, please do not hesitate to speak to your line manager and make use of the resources available on our wellbeing pages

Students, staff and members of the public can contact our dedicated COVID-19 Support Hotline at covid-hotline@reading.ac.uk. This inbox will be monitored daily from Monday to Friday.

What is the plan for teaching for the rest of spring term?

From 8 March, universities will be permitted to offer face-to-face teaching sessions for practical or practice-based subjects which require specialist equipment and facilities. All other students should continue to study remotely online and should not return to campus.

Now the government has confirmed we are permitted to do so, from Monday 8 March, we will schedule face-to-face teaching for some placement, practical and studio activities that cannot easily be replicated online, as outlined in our update from 5 February.

We are currently working through the detailed government guidance to finalise which sessions fall into this group. We have previously contacted colleagues and students on programmes likely to be affected by this and, once we have agreed a final list of on-campus sessions this term, we will work with the relevant Schools to send further information to students, including advice if they are unable to attend these sessions. Students should not plan to return to campus until they have been notified of the dates for any on-campus teaching. Timetables will also soon be updated accordingly. 

For all other students, as previously confirmed, all remaining scheduled teaching sessions will continue to be delivered online only for the rest of the spring term.

In January we took the decision to increase distancing in teaching spaces to 2 metres for the rest of the spring term, given the risks from the increased transmissibility of the new variant of the virus, the high case numbers in the local area and across the UK, and the colder weather. This control measure remains in place for teaching for the rest of the spring term. It will be kept under close review, along with our other control measures.

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What are the plans for the summer term?

The government will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of remaining students. This review will take account of the latest data and will be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students and universities will be given a week's notice ahead of any further return and we will share information with students and colleagues as soon as we hear from the government.

We have already confirmed that the majority of exams will be online this summer. In line with the government's plans to ease restrictions over the coming months, we will work with Schools to provide further guidance about the provision of any face-to-face activity in the summer term. We know many Schools will be keen to offer revision sessions, field classes and activities for taught postgraduates in particular. While we recognise the value of these activities, we must also ensure appropriate safety precautions are in place to minimise the risk.

For more information on the summer team, please see our latest email to staff (15 March).

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Do students need to change their status on RISIS?

No, students studying online during the current lockdown restrictions do not need to change their status to ‘at a distance' on RISIS. 

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What are the plans for exams and assessments?

The University Board for Teaching, Learning & Student Experience (UBTLSE) recently reviewed proposals for mitigation measures with regards to exams and assessments this year. We've written to students with further information about our plans for assessment and our mitigation policy for spring/summer 2021. 

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How is research affected by the new lockdown guidance?

In line with legal regulations and government guidance, we must work from home where possible, and that includes research. Some research activities require access to specialist facilities and, in these cases, researchers (both staff and doctoral students) can come to campus to use these facilities if required for their research, subject to the approval of their Head of School.

To ensure that facilities can be used in a COVID-secure manner, Heads of School might have to prioritise access for some colleagues. MRT is finalising criteria for access and prioritisation for this and will share these early next week.

Any research activities that involve the public or bring members of the public onto campus must be postponed, as should any activities involving travel other than to the campus, unless authorised by MRT.

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What health and safety guidelines should we follow?

As outlined by the government, the current lockdown restrictions will remain in place until at least 29 March, but many restrictions will continue after this date.

We will continue to encourage students to stay at their current address and only return to campus if they have timetabled face-to-face teaching from 8 March.

The new variant of the virus is more transmissible and now more than ever it is vital that we play our part in keeping our community safe. Please remember: 

  • all colleagues must work from home unless it is absolutely essential for you to be on campus and this has been agreed by your line manager;  
  • if you need to work on campus, please make sure you have completed the two COVID-19 Health & Safety modules on UoR Learn, as well as having  the appropriate permissions and risk assessment completed;   
  • the basic precautions continue to be the best way to minimise the risk of spreading the virus - washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering (unless you are exempt), and maintaining a distance from other people.  

Colleagues and students on campus are strongly encouraged to take a free lateral flow test twice a week, to give extra reassurance that you are not unknowingly carrying the virus. Students returning to campus for face-to-face teaching will be asked to book a Lateral Flow Test for when they arrive.

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Is building access restricted?

As with the previous lockdown in March 2020, most buildings on campus will now be accessible by Campus Card only. Access is subject to approval from your Head of School/Function. There are some exceptions, predominantly where students need access to buildings. Any colleagues who need access to buildings that are not currently enabled on their Campus Card should speak to their line manager in the first instance and, if approved by the Head of School or Function, this can be arranged locally as normal.

We have shared the following documents with the Leadership Group about the process for approvals. The documents are all password protected:

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Can I get a Lateral Flow Test?

Yes, if you need to be on campus for your role, you can book a Lateral Flow Test to provide reassurance that you do not currently have the virus.

Following updated guidance from Public Health England (PHE), staff and students who are on campus are strongly advised to take a Lateral Flow Test twice a week, ideally 3 days apart, at the SportsPark. Although not mandatory, testing can identify those who are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19 but are unknowingly carrying the virus. Regular Lateral Flow Testing on campus is expected to be in place until at least the end of March, when we expect further advice from the government.

We will strongly encourage all students to participate in regular testing, although students will not be required to provide evidence of a negative test result in order to attend face-to-face teaching.

For more information on the rapid testing process, please visit our Rapid non-symptomatic COVID-19 testing page.

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Can students travel between their home and term-time address?

All students should adhere to the current ‘stay at home' lockdown guidance and the government has asked students who travelled away for Christmas to stay in their vacation residence wherever possible until face-to-face teaching resumes for their programme.  Those students who have already travelled back to university are asked by the government to remain in their term-time accommodation during the national lockdown. 

The legal regulations and the DfE guidance make clear that students can travel back to campus from their holiday accommodation, but they can only do this once and then cannot move back and forth between addresses during the lockdown. We would, however, encourage students to stay at their current address if they can, and only return if absolutely necessary (for example, international students who cannot amend their travel plans, those who do not have facilities to re-commence their studies online at their vacation address, or those who need to return for health or safety reasons). 

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We do not anticipate making changes to the current provision of campus facilities until at least the end of the spring term. We will keep the opening of other facilities under review in line with government advice and the roadmap plan. The current arrangements are:

Are facilities open on campus?

  • Library, study space, museums and collections

We strongly encourage students to study from their current residence and only use the Library and other study facilities on campus if it is necessary to do so or they do not have access to suitable study space. Students will continue to have access to all online Library resources and remote support from our Study Advice Team. 

The Library will remain open for study space and Click & Collect during the following hours: 

  • Monday to Thursday:  8:30 - 19:00 
  • Friday, Saturday & Sunday:  8:30 - 17:00 

In addition to the Library, RUSU's The Study is open for non-bookable study space and is accessible 24/7 by Campus Card.  Given the reduced number of students on campus, Study@URS is closed, although we will monitor study space demand and keep this under review.   

Our PC Labs in the Palmer and Agriculture buildings are also open 24/7. These are accessible by Campus Card and do not need to be booked.  

Our special collections will be available for scan on demand. The MERL Reading Room and museums will be closed.  

  • Food, sport and recreation

The following catering services are currently open on campus for takeaway service: 

  • The Library café (9.00 - 16.00, Monday to Friday) 
  • Park Eat (8.00 - 22.00, 7 days a week) 
  • The Dairy (8.00 - 16.00, Monday to Friday) 
  • Wantage and St Patrick's Hall - for residents only (8.00 - 22.00, 7 days a week)  

The Marketplace at Park Eat is also open from 8.00 - 22.00, 7 days a week, to buy food and other household essentials.  

The SportsPark will remain closed and outdoor group exercise, including the sports fields and grass pitches, is also prohibited under the current lockdown. 

Students and colleagues are permitted to exercise outside on their own, with members of their household, or one other person from outside their household, including on our campus. If you are meeting someone from outside your household, this must be for exercise and not simply for social purposes (for example, you should not meet outside for a coffee). 

  • RUSU

The Students' Union has moved all support services online, and clubs and societies will continue remotely as much as possible. The Seoul Plaza and Mailbox shops are open, as well as the Bagelman for takeaway. Under government guidance, the nursery will remain open. 

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What support is available to students?

Our full range of specialist advice and support services are available remotely, including Support Centres and the Henley Helpdesk, the ISLI Administration team and the Graduate School. 

The Student Services Reception in the Carrington Building remains open for drop-in queries. 

We understand that students may be concerned about the impact of continued online learning on their academic performance. As outlined in our email to students, we have developed a suite of measures this year to ensure their academic achievements are recognised, taking into consideration any individual circumstances that may affect performance. Students can also use our enhanced Extenuating Circumstances process now if they feel the current circumstances are affecting their performance for a piece of assessed work, or later on in the year if they need to.

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Are halls of residence open and can students expect a rent waiver?

The current licence fee waiver for students who are not staying in their UPP halls accommodation will be extended until Friday 16 April, or until their return to their accommodation if that is sooner. Further information is included in our email to students.

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What support is available to staff?

If you have any queries or need support, please do not hesitate to speak to your line manager and make use of the resources available on our wellbeing pages. Our COVID-19 support line remains open on 0118 214 7813 from 9:15 to 16:30 Monday to Friday and the team is there to help. 

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Where can I find support for remote working?

  • The Guidance and resources for working remotely page includes information on setting up equipment, keeping in touch with colleagues, staying active, learning new skills, wellbeing support and tax relief.
  • You can also find a wide range of resources on supporting your mental wellbeing on the University's Wellbeing pages.
  • For colleagues involved in teaching, a new section on delivering teaching and learning remotely has been created on the Blackboard 'Help for Staff' website. This includes advice on making recordings (Screencasting) and using Blackboard Collaborate. There are also additional information and resources for teaching and learning in the autumn term on this FAQ page.

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How do I conduct a meeting with online participants?

We will continue to operate a ‘digital first' policy for meetings in the spring term. For guidance on conducting meetings during the 2020/21 academic year, view the Guidance for Virtual Meetings document (PDF).

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What health and safety guidelines should we follow?

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