Learning and Teaching
Unlike in the first lockdown the campus is not physically closed although access is limited for staff and students and you should continue to work from home unless you are required to be on campus to deliver or support the delivery of courses or other essential services. Please ensure you have the agreement of your Dean/Director before coming onto campus. The Executive is available at all times if required and a member of Executive can be on campus very quickly if necessary.
Please refer to Infozone updates regarding car parking arrangements.
Using public transport
The government advice is to walk or cycle to work if you can rather than to use public transport.
Please note that at there is a mandatory online module on health and safety that staff must be completed before attending campus.
Signage and entrance/exit management
All buildings have signage that clearly identifies how to enter and exit buildings and how to move around a building that encourages social distancing. Please ensure you use the correct doors to enter and exit and follow the signage to reduce risk.
The timetable has been managed to reduce overlap of entrance and exit times for students and classes. In addition, it is important that staff keep to time with teaching and other sessions. However there will be circumstances when clashes occur and we encourage you to remind students to be considerate when waiting in corridors to access a class or at the end of a class if there are others exiting at the same time and wait until the corridors are less full before traversing the building. Also ensure you leave enough time to get too and from teaching sessions which may take slightly longer than usual.
Managing in the classroom
Schools have been identifying where small groups will be used, for example for large cohorts, for tutorials and seminars etc. Students will need to be reminded initially to keep at a distance of at least 1 metre from each other in classroom settings alongside adopting the wearing of face coverings. Adapting teaching to keep the 1 metre distance will need to be undertaken, for example ensuring groups in circles are suitably distanced; choosing to teach from the front with suitable space between the member of staff and the group.
The Government have confirmed that they expect libraries and study spaces to remain open where appropriate. COVID-secure measures will be in place to support students to continue their studies including the use of click and collect services and social distancing approaches.
Paddy and Scott’s and Cult in the James Hehir building are open for takeaway.
Our approach to COVID-19 is to minimise the risk of exposure to infection for our whole community. We have carried out risk assessments, including specific risk assessments for specialist teaching spaces and other areas where social distancing is more difficult to observe. Therefore, whilst the principles of a COVID-19 Secure environment will apply throughout the campus, additional risk control measures will be in place in some areas. These will be clearly signposted and have been developed with managers, technicians etc who are responsible for the safe operation of those environments.
Our institutional risk assessment can be found here, and risk assessments for specialist areas can be obtained from the relevant school or department.
However, in addition to the arrangements that the University is putting in place, the most crucial factor in ensuring the safety of our whole community will be how all of us, as individuals, conduct ourselves on campus. The responsibilities that we all carry as individuals, including our students, to protect the health and safety of ourselves and others have never been so important as in the current pandemic. We are developing a University of Suffolk Community Commitment and will be asking all students and staff to sign this in the coming days as a way of us all declaring our intention and confirming our actions to support a COVID-19 safe culture within our community.
The following sections relate to the risk mitigations that we have put in place for all staff to provide a COVID-19 secure environment for us all to work in.
You should continue to work from home unless you are required to be on campus to deliver or support the delivery of courses or other essential services. Please ensure you have the agreement of your Dean/Director before coming onto campus. The Executive is available at all times if required and a member of Executive can be on campus very quickly if necessary.
There is guidance on the IT Services website for working from home.
Working from Home and Home-Schooling or Caring
New guidance from the Government states that all employees in Higher Education institutions (both academic and professional services roles) are considered to be critical workers and as such are entitled to access schooling provided for families and individuals that fall into this category.
We recognise that some schools are not able to provide this to all parents and some schools will only accept children where the key worker is either the sole parent/carer or where both parents/carers are considered to be critical workers. You should contact your child’s school to discuss how you can access the school/lessons during this period if you wish or need to take this up.
We do appreciate the difficulties caused by schools closing and parents and other carers having to pick up additional responsibilities whilst also working from home. If you are struggling to balance your home and work life responsibilities, then you should speak with your line manager to see how we might help you during this period. It might be possible to temporarily adjust your contractual hours or your pattern of working to be able to continue to work whilst looking after your children or others that you might be caring for. You might also want to consider taking some annual leave or unpaid leave either in blocks or odd days to support these responsibilities and we will be sympathetic to such requests.
All staff, students and visitors are expected to wear face coverings when moving around in our buildings. For the avoidance of doubt, this includes foyers, corridors, receptions, cloakrooms, lifts and staircases.
In addition, in order to provide our students with a blended approach to their learning and teaching, our timetables and use of teaching space have been based on the 1 metre + rule. We are therefore expecting all staff and students to follow the government guidance and wear face coverings within general purpose teaching spaces. Specialist teaching spaces have undergone additional risk assessments which may require further measures. If you are unsure as to the specific guidance for your workspace, please ask your Associate Dean for learning and teaching.
For those staff where wearing a face covering will make their role more difficult, e.g. in classrooms, in the library etc, we will be providing a face visor to facilitate communication.
For staff offices, the use of face coverings is not required where 2 metres social distancing is able to be achieved or where other measures have been put in place such as sneeze guards which meet the requirements of the 1 metre + rule. However, where these measures are not possible – or if individual members of staff prefer to – face coverings should be worn. In any event, staff are expected to wear a face covering when moving around University buildings.
Face Coverings When Teaching
We strongly encourage staff to wear face coverings in classrooms. Our classroom capacity and timetabling has been based, where necessary, on the government’s 1 metre plus guidance, noting that around 50% of classroom sessions planned will allow for the full 2m social distancing. For the University of Suffolk, the ‘plus’ includes the use of face coverings, with a preference for visors for better visibility and communication to students. We remind staff to be aware of known and hidden disabilities around hearing/lip reading etc.
Several staff have asked if they need to wear face coverings if they are more than 2 metres away from students in a teaching space. Given that most classes last for more than 15 minutes which is the government guidance on being in an enclosed space with no measures in place to reduce risk, we strongly encourage staff to wear their face coverings, ideally visors, in teaching spaces.
Exemption from wearing a face covering
The wearing of face coverings will be expected as identified above unless you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:
- people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability;
- employees of indoor settings (or people acting on their behalf, such as someone leading part of a prayer service) or transport workers - although employers may consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidelines;
- where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress;
- if you are speaking to or helping someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate;
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others.
Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this, this includes exemption cards. No member of staff needs to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering.
Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign. This is a personal choice and is not necessary in law.
Clear desk policy
This will apply throughout the University to enable our cleaning regimes to be effective. The only items to be left on desks at the end of the day are permanently situated office equipment, including IT.
We have enhanced the approach to cleaning across the campus; this now includes anti-virus cleaning of touch points on a twice daily frequency. Anti-viral wipes are available on request for use in areas where there is shared equipment, for example keyboards within the library. There are also provisions in place for implementing targeted deep cleaning at very short notice should there be specific concerns raised about the risk of infection on campus.
Government guidance identifies that good ventilation is one measure of risk reduction. Our buildings vary in relation to methods of ventilation. For the Waterfront Building, James Hehir Building and The Hold we have modern ventilation inbuilt within the building infrastructure and we will be using this as part of our approach to mitigating risk. In other buildings, namely the Atrium, Library, Arts Building, Neptune Marina and Sir Thomas Slade Court, ventilation is achieved predominantly by natural, unforced means with varying degrees of localised mechanical ventilation in some areas. Where mechanical ventilation is not installed, increased ventilation can be achieved by opening windows.
Handwashing and hand sanitisation facilities
Washing hands regularly and for the recommended length of time is considered one of the best ways of reducing the risk of catching COVID-19. We have provided hand sanitisers across campus in all buildings and toilet facilities have signage reminding us all good handwashing technique and there is ample soap to use. Please ensure you use this as necessary.
Our approach to compliance is to create a culture whereby all members of our community take both individual and collective responsibility for their behaviours and actions to keep us all safe. For your information and as noted above all students and staff will be required to sign a University if Suffolk community commitment as they join or return to the University.
On a day to day basis we recommend adopting the following approach:
- do not simply assume that everyone understands the official guidelines;
- ensure you understand the rationale for expected behaviours and preventative measures;
- make COVID-19 secure behaviours the norm;
- support an atmosphere within our university that supports following COVID-19 secure behaviours;
- maintain consistent messaging and guidance.
We will be asking all staff (academic and professional services) undertaking any session with students on campus to either display an agreed statement at the start of a session or read the statement out, whichever is the most convenient. The statement has now been provided by email.
Mobile Testing Facility
The University is supporting the national Covid testing programme by providing a location for a mobile testing facility. This is located in The Wharf car park two days a week (Mondays and Fridays).
Please be reassured that those who are going for Covid tests will have a booked appointment and will remain inside their vehicle at all times.
Although we will have the mobile testing facility on site, this does not mean our staff and students will be given priority for testing; it is part of the national network of covid testing facilities and will be managed by Public Health England. If students or staff require a test they should go to gov.uk or call 119.
We continue to offer the asymptomatic testing service to all students who fall into the above categories including commuter students and as per government guidance we expect all students to take up this offer. For those who choose not to then they are expected to self isolate for ten days.
Similarly, we are encouraging all staff who need to be on campus to also take up the testing, so if you are on campus please can I encourage you to be tested. Testing of staff and students is part of our endeavour to provide a campus that is as safe for us all as it can be. You may access the testing centre as many times as seems appropriate to your attendance on campus.
Booking can be made by email on https://commisceo-pcs.shiftpartner.com/ or by phone on 0333 7726144. When you book you will be asked if you are a University student or general public. Staff should register as a member of the general public. We continue to host this facility in the former gym on the edge of Athena Hall.
The University continues to work closely with Public Health Suffolk and the Waterfront Test Centre will remain open until the 30 June 2021. Although our centre will continue to be open 7 days a week, its opening hours will reduce to 7am-2pm. Home testing kits are available from our testing centre.
COVID-19 Home Testing Programme
As you will be aware, the Government advises that staff attending campus should engage in twice weekly rapid testing to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. More broadly, you may have picked up that a nationwide free home testing programme is being rolled out.
The latest testing options available to staff are therefore as follows:
- Home testing kits can be ordered online by following this link Order coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow tests - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) or you can call the NHS England COVID-19 testing hotline number 119.
- To find a test centre or collection site near to you please use the Find a Vaccination or Test Centre interactive map. A new window will open and you can filter your search depending upon the type of site and service you are looking for.
- The asymptomatic testing centre is still open (next to Athena Hall) and this can also be used for staff who are required to be on campus. From Monday 19 April the centre’s opening hours will change to 7 days a week from 7am-2pm. For more information, including how to book an appointment, please visit our website https://www.uos.ac.uk/testingprogramme.
For anyone who takes a lateral flow test and receives a positive result, they are required to have this result confirmed by taking a PCR test at a COVID-19 testing centre. To find your nearest centre please visit https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. In England, the requirement for a confirmatory PCR test was re-instated with effect from 30 March 2021. You also need to inform the University, information on how to do this can be found on this link https://www.uos.ac.uk/content/coronavirus-faqs.
Thank you for your continued help in keeping our campus Covid-secure.
Managing a COVID-19 outbreak on campus
All universities in the UK have been required to develop an outbreak plan in conjunction with their local Director of Public Health. The outbreak plans have also been required to be submitted to the Department of Education (DfE) where ministers will assess our plans and ‘sign them off’. There is recognition that these plans will be iterative over time as public health planning changes in response to the pandemic in the UK.
It is important to note that our outbreak plan formalises that which we have already put in place and confirmed for staff. For the avoidance of doubt any member of staff who suspects they or another colleague or a student has COVID-19 symptoms is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Outbreak Plan.
The plan includes the approach to NHS Test and Trace and an ‘action card’ for all staff to utilise in the event of a suspected case of COVID-19 in our community.
Regarding testing, the government has confirmed that it does not expect universities to undertake blanket asymptomatic testing of students as they return to campus. The approach to testing to be adopted is symptomatic.
It is important that all staff are confident they understand the key symptoms associated with COVID-19 (fever, new cough and loss of taste/smell) alongside the advice to remain at home if unwell and contact 111 if anyone believes that they have these symptoms. It is also important to remember that the government is asking students who are suspected of or identified as having COVID-19 not to travel home but to remain in their hall of residence or private house.
The outbreak plan will give further detail regarding a definition of an outbreak and the system of test and trace that will take place if a member of our community has a positive test outcome. The action card will confirm advice already available and be the aide memoir for all staff for advice and guidance alongside your Dean/Director.
Student halls of residence
You are all aware that we do not own our halls of residence and therefore have no direct control over the risk mitigations being put in place in these halls. However, we are working closely with the owners and managers of the halls to ensure we are confident in their risk-based approach to being COVID-19 secure.
Other spaces on campus under private control
There are some places on campus such as coffee and cafeteria outlets that are run by private operators. All staff are expected to follow the guidance and behaviours that these outlets have put in place to manage COVID-19.
If the fire alarm sounds, we need to evacuate quickly and safely as per our normal procedure. The priority is to evacuate the building. Once safely outside the building staff are expected to socially distance as per government guidelines.
Equipment for working from home
If you were issued specialist or ergonomic equipment for use in the office and would like to collect it for homeworking purposes then contact H&S (email@example.com). Each request will be assessed individually as there are risks associated with collecting the equipment, which must be considered and minimised where possible. If you feel you require specialist equipment solely for homeworking then contact H&S so a remote workstation assessment can be carried out.
We have partnered with Rainbird to develop a COVID vulnerability self-assessment tool. The tool can help you to consider vulnerability due to underlying factors, for instance self-assessment of pre-existing health conditions, as well as other co-factors such as age, Body Mass Index (BMI) or ethnicity.
On completion of the self-assessment you will receive a PDF report summarising your assessment responses. The self-assessment and report helps you to identify vulnerabilities, reassures you of the steps the University has taken, signposts to government and other helpful advice and informs you of next steps you can take, should you want to discuss this further. For example, we are aware some staff may be feeling anxious attending the University to undertake essential work on-campus and may want a further discussion with their line manager about the safety measures in place and any further reasonable adjustments which may need to be considered.
The self-assessment has also been designed in such a way to support those discussions and you can choose to share the PDF report with your line manager.
Links to privacy notices can be found within the self-assessment tool and no medical information is requested or stored by the University.
The self-assessment and resources are also on MySuffolk - Support During COVID.
Self-Isolation After Travel Overseas
You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting. You can find more information here.
The government will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and take further action as needed. You can find the latest information and advice on COVID-19 and the latest guidance for educational settings at www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
The Government is advising that from 1 April 2021, those people who are extremely clinically vulnerable can stop shielding. This means that if you fall into this group you can come to work on campus if required to do so by your manager but in line with general advice you should continue working from home where you can.
Additionally we recognise that a small number of staff may be unable to attend because they are:
1. self-isolating or living with someone who is and/or has had symptoms or a positive test result themselves
2. a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19).
We continue to take account of the current advice on shielding and recommend that if you have concerns related to your health and shielding that you discuss this in the first instance with your line manager.
Please note, this guidance is different from the Government’s advice on setting up personal support bubbles.
Whilst at work you must maintain social distancing in full and any other guidance set out by the Government and the University for your own safety. The concept of working in small teams is to minimise the number of people you might constantly work with and also protect the organisation and teams by reducing the number of people who will have to self-isolate if any person in that team exhibits symptoms of COVID-19.
There are key principles for how you can form a small work team safely. These are critical to keeping you and your colleagues, friends, and family safe:
- Any proposed small work team must be determined by each manager and the approach submitted for authorisation/sign off by the Dean/Director.
- Each small work team must be exclusive – you or managers should not change who is in your team once it is set up. New team members can join an existing team but should not swap between teams.
- if you or someone in your small work team is showing coronavirus symptoms, or otherwise self-isolating, everyone in your small work team should stay home. If you or a member of your small work team is contacted as part of the test and trace programme, the individual contacted should stay at home. If the individual becomes symptomatic, everyone in the small work team should then isolate.
The general principle remains that those that can work from home, should continue to work from home as much as possible, as agreed with their manager.
How to form a small work team
Your manager will split each team into smaller groups. How this is achieved will be different for each school and directorate, but considerations might include;
- ensuring a broad range of skills and experience are available on campus
- eliminating single points of failure if all people in one job or skill set suddenly falls ill or must self-isolate
- ensuring adequate supervision and management availability
Once in smaller groups, each manager should assign each small work team a day(s) when they can work on campus. Only those in the small work team should work on campus on those allocated days, except in an extreme emergency. Other small work teams should continue to work at home. It may be appropriate to simply rotate days amongst the teams or set specific days depending on the work tasks that need a physical presence on campus.
It might also be appropriate (with the agreement of the manager and employee unless already contractual) to rota attendance in different ways, for example having an early or late “shift” to avoid having larger numbers of employees on campus all at the same time.
Travelling to work/campus
Employees should continue to work from home as much as possible.
If you are required by your manager to attend campus, you should make every effort to attend the workplace during your working hours when reasonably required to do so. When travelling to campus, employees should follow all government advice in place at the time of the journey. Where possible, unless it is the only means of travel, employees should avoid public transport and we would encourage employees to use methods of travel that avoid contact with others such as walking, cycling and private motor vehicle. Please bear in mind that some operators are only allowing travel that has been pre-booked and/or paid for in a contactless way, so please check the latest advice before travelling.
Should you have reasonable concerns about travelling to work or are struggling to balance caring responsibilities with your work, then please discuss these with your line manager so that the University can try to support you by perhaps allowing you to work from home for a further period rather than travelling to campus or adjusting your working hours so that you can travel at a less busy time to avoid crowds.
Travelling on Business
All travel both nationally and internationally for business reasons should be avoided until further notice. Employees should continue to use video conference software to connect and to participate in events where possible.
In the event that travel is unavoidable, you should immediately discuss this with your Dean/Director who, taking into account the Government and University advice will be required to authorise your trip. It will be essential that the advice can be complied with during the trip, including any insurance requirements. In particular, public transport should be avoided, and you should ensure that whatever travel method is used, sufficient steps are in place to maintain sufficient distance from others and facilities for hand washing or sanitising hands are available.
Supporting the community during COVID-19
Foodbanks, community groups and those helping the elderly are likely to be the most in need and if you are looking for a way to help, then donating items or money to those groups could make a huge difference. Follow social media and websites for those local to you to see if they are looking for any support.
- Find your local COVID Mutual Aid group (for volunteering or for support for yourself and family)
- Ensure the NHS continue to be able to provide life-saving treatments and go to www.blood.co.uk to find out where you can donate blood.
- Get in touch with your local town or parish council to see what volunteering opportunities are available.
- With non-essential shops closed on the high streets, including charity shops, you can continue to provide support by shopping online with charities
- Become a RedCross Community Reserve Volunteer to help your community get back on track in the event of a major local emergency (such as the current pandemic.)
- The Cinnamon Trust, are urgently seeking volunteers to support elderly and terminally ill people in the community and their pets, for example walking dogs or collecting pet food if they are unable to leave their house.
- Suffolk’s Home but not alone initiative aims to connect volunteers to people who need help
Here are a couple of opportunities which could be a great way to boost your own mental wellbeing whilst self-isolating or social distancing.
- Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vison people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.
- Tag wild animal sightings with ZSL and help support conservation
There are many more out there.
Safeguarding – keeping safe.
It is key that before undertaking any of these activities you follow the advice provided by the University, as per our regular updates, and the UK government guidelines, observing the government restrictions on leaving the house and social distancing. Tips on Safe Volunteering during Covid-19 pandemic is available via this link.
- The University offers a free counselling helpline for staff and their families which is available by telephoning 0333 234 2189 and select Option 1 - Legal advice line or other advisory services.
- Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has set up a 24/7 helpline offering immediate support for mental health difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic. The helpline is available on 0808 1963494.