As we approach the school half-term break, many of you will be looking forward to spending time with your family, within the new guidelines set out yesterday by the First Minister.
Today, I led the Executive Team in a discussion regarding the new guidelines and a letter I received last night from the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Mr Richard Lochhead, which updated the sector on the detail and implications for universities.
The letter confirmed that we are not going back into lockdown and colleges and universities will remain open with blended learning in place. This is in keeping with Phase 3 of the National Routemap and the approach the University has consistently taken to planning for the start of the academic year, which I shared with you earlier in the summer.
The FM's announcement also introduced more stringent restrictions in the Central Belt from this Friday until 25 October, which will impact on our staff and students. Taking into consideration a range of factors – most importantly the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff – the Executive Team concluded that it was appropriate to adjust our plans for the transition to blended learning, by rephasing the commencement of the transition phase for two weeks.
The approach we took to planning for the start of the academic year with 2-3 weeks wholly on line, followed by a 3-5 week period of transition to full blended learning mode, was designed to give us the flexibility to adjust to whatever circumstance emerged during the national phased recovery from lockdown.
While we are continuing with our plans for the transition to blended learning, we are now using that flexibility in the interest of our university community.
With regard to our ongoing recovery of our campus facilities, following consideration of the building assurances, we have this week approved the reopening of The Barony and StrathUnion, another two significant milestones in our return and resume journey.
As you are aware, students have been asked to go the extra mile to help break the chain of transmission and I am pleased to say the vast majority of our students have been following the guidance, helping to keep themselves, each other and the wider University community safe and well.
I have been keeping in very regular contact with the students, as well as our student representatives, to thank them, and to support them as they continue to make efforts on behalf of all of us. I am also delighted to see that everyone is abiding by the Strathclyde Covid-19 Community Commitment, to support each other with care and commitment, and to uphold the Strathclyde Values.
Earlier this week, I was delighted to host our annual Values Medals Award Ceremony. Usually held in the Barony or TIC, this is always a highlight of the Strathclyde year and the recent ceremony was no different. Even though it was hosted on Zoom, there was a palpable energy and great enjoyment throughout the event as I presented awards to 18 individuals and eight teams in the presence of almost 200 attendees.
Dame Sue Bruce, our Convener of Court, attended the ceremony as we reflected on the contributions that colleagues from across the University had made in the past year. Given the challenging situation we have all faced in 2020, there were a number of awards which recognised the special efforts required to support the University community’s shift to off-campus working, due to the pandemic.
As well as the individual and team winners, there was a Principal’s Special Recognition Award given to Estates staff who maintained and carried out essential work on campus during lockdown.
Full details on all the recipients will be in Inside Strathclyde next week.
All nine of the Principal Engagement Sessions for autumn 2020 have now been completed and I am delighted to say that almost 1,400 colleagues attended across all of the events. These were a constructive opportunity to update colleagues on our latest developments in relation to Covid-19, but also to show how we are continuing to deliver on Vision 2025 and seek out opportunities where they might be found.
The Q&A sessions were also positive and I was pleased to respond to colleagues’ questions myself with further input from the Executive Team members who joined me on the calls.
It is important that communications continue throughout the year in Faculties, Departments, Schools and Professional Services and this week the Leadership Group discussed the importance of regular communications to people managers and their teams.
Next week will see the roll out of our Agile Working Toolkit for Staff and Managers. This resource will help colleagues and teams plan how best to continue many of the positive aspects of remote working which we have seen since March.
Agile working will see the introduction of informal arrangements where a member of staff can have greater flexibility around their normal hours, time or location of their work. The toolkit will explain how this can be done within agreed parameters which suit them, their fellow team members and the needs of their department or school. We will shortly roll out a programme of training and support for managers to help them support this positive development.
For those of you who are taking leave next week to coincide with the school half-term, please have a relaxing and enjoyable time, and thank you to all for your continuing contributions and commitment to Strathclyde.