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UK Government guidance on end-of-term arrangements

The UK Government has announced a series of measures to enable students to return home from university at the end of the current term in a COVID-secure manner.

As part of these plans, a student ‘travel window’ will commence on 3 December 2020 and all face-to-face on-campus timetabled teaching and learning will be completed by 9 December 2020, ensuring those who intend to travel to their family homes can do so during this period.

We have emailed all students directly to inform them of our end-of-term arrangements. Below, we have included a list of questions and answers to help our University community to prepare for the winter break.

When will face-to-face teaching end?

All face-to-face on-campus timetabled teaching and learning will be completed by 9 December 2020, in line with the UK Government’s latest guidance. The time and date of your final scheduled in-person session will vary depending on your course. This information will be communicated to you directly at a local level.

Why has the student travel window been implemented?

The UK Government has selected Wednesday 9 December 2020 as the cut-off date for in-person timetabled learning and teaching on campus, to ensure the last date students are required on campus allows enough time for them to complete self-isolation before Christmas, should they develop symptoms that day or be identified by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

How will travel arrangements be coordinated on campus?

If you are living in University-managed accommodation, our ResLife team will adopt an individual timeslot-based approach for those of you planning to have parents, families or friends collect you using private transportation.

How do I book a timeslot?

When booking a timeslot, please select a time and date after your final on-campus session to ensure you can continue to engage in your remaining in-person learning. The time and date of your final on-campus session will be communicated to you at a local level by your course team. To book a departure timeslot, please contact reslife@staffs.ac.uk.

What is the latest travel advice?

We advise that if you are travelling home, you use private transport wherever possible and only use public transport if you have no other option. If you are travelling by private vehicle, please try to avoid car sharing with anyone outside your household or support bubble.

Our University is liaising with local public transport providers to facilitate smooth departure during the travel window. If you are planning to use public transport, you can help control coronavirus by wearing a face covering unless exempt; keeping your distance from people from other households when you travel, wherever possible; washing or sanitising your hands regularly; avoiding the busiest routes, as well as busy times like rush hour; and downloading the NHS COVID-19 App before you travel and using it wherever appropriate.

We recommend any students intending to travel during this period to read the UK Government’s ‘Safer travel guidance for passengers’ in full and book ahead wherever possible.

When is the best time to travel?

If you are planning to return to your family home over the end-of-term break, we strongly recommend that you depart during the 3 to 9 December 2020 ‘travel window’, as advised by the latest government guidance. When deciding when to travel, please select a time and date after your final on-campus session to ensure you can continue to engage in your remaining in-person learning.

If you are currently self-isolating or are identified as needing to self-isolate, you must adhere to all self-isolation requirements before travelling home.

Can I travel to my family home before the student travel window commences?

You should not travel from your term-time address to your family home – or more generally – during this period, as doing so would be in breach of the current national lockdown requirements.

Can I travel to my family home after the student travel window has closed?

Whilst we strongly advise that you travel during the student travel window if it is safe to do so, you are permitted to travel after the student travel window has closed, if you so wish. However, please bear in mind that if you are required to self-isolate, this may disrupt your future travel plans. Regardless of when you choose to travel, if you are self-isolating at the time or are identified as needing to self-isolate, you must adhere to all self-isolation requirements before travelling home.

Will our University’s operations change in the lead-up to the student travel window?

Blended teaching and learning will continue throughout this period, helping us to ensure we maintain the quality of your student experience in a COVID-secure manner. Our academic staff are working to ensure that all scheduled on-campus elements of delivery are maximised and that, where appropriate, key content from these sessions is tailored to aid forthcoming assessments.

How can students prepare ahead of the travel window?

Whilst we anticipate that national restrictions will be lifted from 3 December 2020, we ask that you continue to limit your social interactions throughout the current term. By maintaining social distancing and limiting your contact with others ahead of your departure, you will not only help to protect your loved ones and communities when you return, but also reduce your risk of infection and self-isolation and, therefore, the possibility that your end-of-term travel plans will be disrupted.

Will Staffordshire University be participating in lateral flow device (LFD) testing?

No. Due to the low risk profile of our University and the need for resources to be targeted to high-priority institutions, we will not be offering voluntary lateral flow device (LFD) testing. However, we will be able to support you if you wish to arrange an asymptomatic test prior to your end-of-term departure – including if you need to do so for international travel purposes. For further guidance, please contact covid-19@staffs.ac.uk.

Will teaching and learning continue during the student travel window?

Yes. Remaining timetabled on-campus sessions scheduled during this period will proceed as timetabled but must be completed by 9 December 2020. Virtual delivery will continue as planned, in line with our blended approach to teaching and learning, until the end of term.

Will teaching and learning continue after the student travel window has closed?

Yes. Teaching and learning during this period will take place as timetabled using virtual delivery only, in line with the latest official guidance. Our facilities will remain available for those students remaining on campus or commuting to campus, including technical and specialist facilities, library and catering outlets. Please see the ‘Access to on-campus facilities and equipment’ section below for more details.

Does the above information apply to students on placements?

If you are a healthcare student on a placement, you are considered an essential worker and should therefore remain in your placement until the end of term. You can then travel home for the holidays, following public health guidance and the latest instructions concerning self-isolation, if appropriate. We believe that other placements will also continue, but if you are unsure please seek advice and guidance from your course leader.

Does the above information apply to Postgraduate Research students?

If you are a Postgraduate Research student, you are permitted to continue to study either on or off campus as best fits the needs of your learning and research. This should be discussed with your tutor.

I am an international student. Can I travel home at the end of term after lockdown restrictions have ended?

According to the latest advice from the Office for Students (OfS), if you are an international student and are planning to return home for the end-of-term break at the end of the period of national restrictions after 2 December 2020, you should adhere to Public Health England (PHE) advice whilst in England to ensure you are travelling safely. You should not travel if you have COVID-19 symptoms or are part of a household group which is self-isolating. 

If you do travel overseas, you should also consider whether you need to self-isolate when you return, and are advised to check any restrictions in the country you are travelling to, and whether you will also need to undertake a period of self-isolation in that country.

You should also consider whether you can access course materials overseas should you choose to travel home – for example, you should confirm arrangements for online learning with your course leader before you travel. You should be aware that travel advice may change while you are overseas, and you are advised to regularly check all relevant gov.uk guidance pages for updates.

Students travelling to the EU must consult relevant guidance regarding the UK and EU transition.

I will be travelling from Staffordshire University to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Can I still go home for the end-of-term break?

Yes. Governments across the UK are working to ensure that no matter where you live or study, you are treated fairly and can travel home as safely as possible to keep all our communities safe. There is a shared commitment to ensure that all students will be able to return home at the end of term, including where they will be moving between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Each of the four nations will publish their own guidance, linked to their wider national guidance, and will set out clearly what this means for students moving between the four nations and what guidance you’ll need to follow at each stage to keep yourself and your family safe.

What will happen at the end of term?

All remaining virtual teaching and learning activities will be completed by the end of term on 18 December 2020, at which point our technical facilities will close for the Christmas period. The library will remain open during this period.

What should I do if I develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 during the end-of-term break?

Our current reporting procedure will remain in place throughout this period. If you or someone in your household develops COVID-19 symptoms, or if you test positive for COVID-19, please follow our existing reporting processes.

What are the University’s plans for the start of the second term?

The UK Government has not yet issued guidance concerning students returning to campus in the new year. We will share all relevant information with you via email and the MyStaffsUni app once we have been made aware of national plans for your return to campus. International students will be covered by the UK’s international travel regulations, including the requirement for self-isolation depending on their country of origin.

Where can I find further information about to on-campus facilities and equipment?

The information below outlines the accessibility of on-campus facilities and equipment in the lead-up to, and during, the end-of-term break:

Library Services

Our library services will remain open throughout this period. Seasonal opening hours will be confirmed in due course and made available via libguides.staffs.ac.uk/library.

Library and Academic Skills Tutors will continue to offer both online and in-person appointments until 18 December 2020. To book an appointment, visit https://libguides.staffs.ac.uk/appointments.

Technical facilities

Technical and digital equipment will remain available for long-term loans where appropriate. A limited supply of laptops will also be available from Digital Services for students who do not have access to such equipment. It may also be possible to arrange specialist equipment loans depending on your specific requirements.

For further information about access to laptops, PCs and loan devices, please visit the following page on the MyStaffsUni app.

Catering outlets

Catering outlets will remain open until the end of term. Squeezebox will continue to offer a takeaway service and the Students’ Union shop on Leek Road will remain open, including weekends, but with reduced operating hours from 19 December 2020 until the new year. Social distancing requirements will remain in place throughout.

Nursery

Our University’s Nursery will continue to operate as usual until the end of term, at which point it will close in line with usual seasonal operations.

Will I still be able to access Student Support and Wellbeing Services?

Yes. Student Support team will continue to operate from the Student Hub, which will remain open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and from 10am to 1pm at weekends until 18 December.

From 19 December 2020 until the start of the second term, support and wellbeing services will be available for emergencies only. If you require mental health support during this period, please contact our Security team, who will pass on your details. The Student Support team will then contact you directly to discuss your emergency requirements.

Alternatively, you can contact the Union Information Point, which will operate on a virtual basis from 10am to 4pm during the end-of-term break and refer you to the Student Support team as necessary.

Will I be able to access accommodation-related support?

Our ResLife team will be available from 10am to 1pm daily during the end-of-term break, with the exception of Christmas and Boxing Day when the service will be closed.

What happens if I require financial assistance?

Our Student Support Fund is now open to applications from all students who are experiencing hardship due to the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19, including international, distance learning, and postgraduate students.

If you decide to apply to the Student Support Fund, please please complete your application before 1 December 2020 to ensure that – if your application is successful – support can be put in place before the end of term.

For further information and to apply, visit Staffordshire University’s Student Support Fund. If you require guidance or support in applying, please contact our team at support@staffs.ac.uk.

Will activities be available to students who intend to remain on campus during this period?

Yes. A programme of support and engagement activities for students staying on campus during the end-of-term break has been developed by the University and Students’ Union. Please visit the Students’ Union’s ‘What’s On’ webpage for further details.