Letter to all students: Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience – 23 February 2021
As I am sure you will have seen Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night set out his roadmap for how England will move out of the current national lockdown. As part of this he highlighted the crucial need to enable education to return to some form of normality from 8 March onwards.
We will be considering the details of the government's roadmap and the latest Department for Education guidance to confirm exactly what it means for the rest of our academic year, but we wanted to give you as full an update as we can now.
Taking the government's announcement and advice from local Public Health England (PHE) and Bristol City Council into account, we intend to take the following approach:
- The current national lockdown restrictions remain in place until Monday 8 March.
- We will continue with online teaching for all students (apart from those programmes where some blended teaching is already taking place) until the Spring vacation (29 March) in line with government restrictions and local PHE advice.
- We are considering the possibility of a limited return to in-person activity/teaching from 8 March for any additional subjects/disciplines that specifically require in-person teaching in line with the latest Department for Education guidance (ie. programmes for students who are studying practical or practice-based subjects and require specialist equipment and facilities), and as and when local PHE recommendations allow. Schools have already been contacted to establish which particular programmes or cohorts this may include, and we aim to confirm this to those students affected this Friday 26 February.
- It is expected that blended learning will not restart for the majority of programmes until after the spring vacation (19 April). This is subject to further government and local PHE guidance and restrictions and will likely see a staggered return for programmes.
- We will confirm in detail, as soon as we can, our commitment to re-open student facilities such as sports facilities, catering, study spaces and additional library spaces at the earliest opportunity permitted by government and local public health advice. It may be that this will be at the start of the summer term given the timetable set out in the government's roadmap. In doing so, we will continue to ensure that all such facilities remain COVID-secure and that all safety guidelines are followed.
Our approach needs to be considered alongside ongoing efforts to keep infection rates down in Bristol, and we continue working alongside colleagues from Public Health England and Bristol City Council to tackle the spread of the highly infectious new 'Kent' strain of Covid recently discovered in the city.
We will be working on the detail of these plans as quickly as possible. You will receive more specific updates from your school in the coming weeks.
As we continue to try and bring the spread of the virus under control, please can I ask you to remember the key 'hands-face-space' safety messages, which are as important now as they have always been:
- stay at home, and only go out for exercise or to get food or medical supplies
- wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds or more
- wear your face mask in shops and on campus
- maintain the 2 metres distance from others outside your living circle or household.
The rules apply to all of us. It makes absolutely no difference if you’ve had already COVID-19 or think you might have: the virus can still be transmitted to others.
If you are struggling financially at the moment, please remember the Student Funding Office can help, including the COVID impact fund to support you through the pandemic. It's quick and easy to apply, and we may be able to help with additional expenses, loss of earnings or costs related to online learning.
In these continuing challenging times please do try to look after your mental health and wellbeing and look out for friends. If you need help you can always talk to a member of staff with our Wellbeing Access service.
Professor Sarah Purdy
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Student Experience