This week’s announcement of a gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Scotland marks another encouraging step on our journey out of lockdown. The downwards trend in positive cases and hospital admissions, combined with the excellent progress of the vaccination programme, give grounds for cautious optimism for the coming months.
We can expect to see more details from the First Minister about the re-opening of the economy next week, and as always, we will keep you up to date with how the route map will affect the University’s activities. In the meantime, the news that more people will be able to socialise outdoors – and resume outdoor non-contact sports activities – is very welcome. You can read the full details about the easing of outdoor restrictions on the Scottish Government website.
For some colleagues, next week will see a return to school for children and young people in primary four and up. While this is very positive news for young people and their families, we are aware that it will be a phased return for many, which in itself will place different pressures on parents and carers. It is with that in mind that I have agreed with my Executive Team to extend our Rest and Recuperation Fridays until Friday 16 April when pupils are expected to return to school on a full-time basis after the Easter Break. This is consistent with the approach we took at the time of the first phase of the lockdown. From this date onwards, we plan to revert to Meeting-Free Fridays in recognition of the incredibly positive feedback this initiative has received.
Please remember that if you are unable to take Fridays, you can take a different day with the agreement of your line manager, or spread the hours throughout the week.
As we come out of the lockdown there will also be opportunities for many of us to work more flexibly than we have in the past through new agile ways of working. Further details of what agile working is, what working arrangements may be available, and how to make agile working successful for both staff and the University can be found in our agile working toolkit.
There was further positive news this week in relation to regular Covid testing for the small numbers of university staff and students who are on campus. Alongside other institutions across the sector, we have been engaging with the Scottish Government on this issue for some weeks now, and I am pleased to say that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP, has made an in-principle decision to allow universities to use their existing lateral flow testing facilities for this purpose. We are now looking at the detail of how this will work in practice to best support our staff and students, and I will update you as soon as further details are available.
I would also like to remind you that students who are struggling financially can access the COVID-19 Hardship Fund. Additional funding has recently been made available by SAAS and our students can apply for assistance with essential UK living costs by completing an application form for the COVID-19 Hardship Fund on our website. Please share this information with any students who you think can benefit from the financial support.
In other news, the Executive Team and I are reaching the end of our staff Engagement Sessions, and we are delighted to have seen so many of you in attendance. Thank you to all of you for your participation, feedback, your questions and your positive and constructive dialogue. We are looking forward to joining the Faculty of Science for the final session on Wednesday 17 March – please remember you can submit questions in advance by replying to this email.
You will remember that this month is our Wellbeing Month, entitled ‘Hello March!’ If you haven’t already, please do take a moment to read about the wide range of events and activities available to support your own health and wellbeing in Tuesday’s Inside Strathclyde.
There is also a fantastic range of events available throughout the month for International Women’s Day, which we celebrated on Monday of this week. This year’s theme explores women’s development, progression and leadership at Strathclyde. You can find full details of this important programme on our website and I’d strongly encourage colleagues to get involved.
Finally, you may remember that to celebrate Scottish Apprenticeship Week, we shared the stories of some of our outstanding Strathclyde apprentices in Inside Strathclyde. I am delighted to tell you that Samir Khan-Young, a Graduate Apprentice with Thales, has been named both Apprentice of the Year and Graduate Apprentice of the Year at Scotland’s Apprenticeship Awards. Samir’s win marks the third year in a row Strathclyders have taken the honour, underlining the high calibre of our people and our commitment to their development. I know you will join me in congratulating Samir on this terrific achievement; we wish him all the very best for the future.
As always, thank you for your on-going efforts and contributions, have a great weekend when it comes, and please make the most of your Rest and Recuperation day.