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13th January 2021: Vice-Chancellor's January Update


Dear all

I would like to start by wishing you a Happy New Year. I hope that you had an enjoyable break and were able to enjoy time with your families and loved ones.

I am sure that, like me, you tuned in last night to hear the Prime Minister’s update on national restrictions being brought in to protect us from COVID-19. We are continuing to monitor closely the detailed guidance from the Government, and I would like to take this opportunity to let you know what this means for St Mary’s.

The Government has announced that all university teaching must take place online until at least mid-February. The only exception to this is a small number of subjects, which were specified in a recent letter from the Universities Minister Michelle Donelan. Students on these programmes will have received guidance from their academic teams on how they will be taught over the coming weeks. We are monitoring this closely and will communicate any changes to teaching methods when they are available.

Key services within the University remain open to support our students. For those whose study space at home is unsuitable, the Library is available for students to use. If you are able to study from home, the Library has extensive online resources that you are able to access remotely. If you do need to visit campus, you should book two free lateral flow COVID-19 tests prior to travelling to campus.

If you are currently located abroad, you may wish to consider where you are best able to engage with your studies. If you need to return to the UK, please follow the latest Government guidance and self-isolate for ten days unless you are arriving from a country on the exemption list.

Your health and wellbeing are our highest priorities. If you need help at any time, please take advantage of the systems in place to support you. Togetherall and Student Space are available 24/7, providing you with access to free and confidential mental health and wellbeing support and advice. Our Student Service team are also on hand to help support you through any difficulties you may be experiencing. Please also remember that you are able to continue exercising outdoors during the national lockdown. If you are looking for exercise inspiration, the Students’ Union have pulled together lots of useful resources on their website.

We recognise that this is an unsettling time for our student body, and we are reviewing our ‘No Detriment’ policy to ensure your academic outcomes are not unfairly impacted upon by the pandemic. Further developments will be communicated to students in due course.

Whilst we may reasonably hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight, with the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out across the country, we all remain responsible for keeping our communities safe. Please remember to follow social distancing guidance at all times: Hands – wash them often, Face – wear a face covering when indoors, Space – stay at least a metre apart from people outside of your household bubbles at all times.

I hope you remain safe and well at this difficult time.

With best wishes,

Anthony McClaran

Update from Anthony McClaran, Vice Chancellor, St Mary’s University 

Dear all,

I wanted to update you on the University plans following the latest announcement that London will move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 at midnight tonight and to provide some reassurance around what this means for us as a university.

As you may know, on Monday 12 October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced further measures to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, introducing a new three tier system which places different restrictions on areas of England as their COVID-19 rates increase or decrease.

The move of London and all its boroughs to Tier 2 means we will continue to follow the current guidance already in place across the University, with the inclusion of the following new restrictions, which will largely impact students living in university accommodation.

The new restrictions mean that people will not be able to socialise with anyone from outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting and will not be able to socialise in a group of more than six outside (while maintaining a safe social distance). In addition, students are advised that they must not travel back and forward between their term time and permanent home addresses.

The Prime Minister has provided clear guidance that schools and higher education will remain open, and so we will continue our blended approach to teaching and learning.

While there have been a handful of cases across the University, it is thanks to everyone’s efforts in following the safety measures we have in place that our Covid-positive figures remain relatively low. If you need to visit campus in the coming weeks and months, and haven’t already done so, please download the NHS Covid App in order to help test and trace efforts nationally - it also helps keep us safe locally.

To ensure we keep our community safe, I would like to remind everyone to remember Hands. Face. Space. and to ensure they follow the latest social distancing guidance. I hope you and your loved ones remain safe and well at this time.

Best wishes,

Anthony McClaran
Vice Chancellor

Update from Jo Blunden, Chief Operating Officer, St Mary’s University

Dear all,

I am writing today to reassure you about St Mary’s plans if a student should need to self-isolate in one of our Halls of Residence as a consequence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Following the widescale media reports of self-isolation taking place on campuses around the country, I want to be clear that St Mary’s places the physical and mental wellbeing of students and their student experience at the heart of all we do.

If a student needs to self-isolate either as a consequence of displaying symptoms, having tested positive, or having been exposed to someone who has tested positive they must inform the university via the online form, available to download on SIMMSpace or by calling our student services team, who are available Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm. Outside of these hours they can contact Security. 

Following receipt of the self-isolation form, a member of the Resident Life Team will then contact the student to discuss their individual needs and arrange for meals to be delivered, so that they safely self-isolate in their accommodation. The residential life team will also provide advice and support throughout the isolation period.

We have also developed our own in-house ‘Click & Deliver’ system that will be available for those students who need to self-isolate. This will give students access to basic essentials such as toiletries, snacks, and soft drinks.

The University has created a resident bubble system to enable students sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities to interact and socialising without needing to follow social distancing rules. We would like to remind students to follow these rules to ensure that where there are occurrences of Coronavirus, the impact is minimised, and we can continue campus operations.

Early in the summer, the University committed to taking a blended approach to teaching; teaching in person on campus where it is safe to do so and teaching online where we must. To ensure St Mary’s is safe for staff and students, we have implemented new one-way systems around the campus, assessed the COVID-secure capacity of each teaching space, increased the availability of handwashing and sanitising stations, and implemented face covering rules for internal communal areas.

As part of Staying Safe at St Mary’s and our commitment to maintaining a COVID-Secure campus we are encouraging all staff and students on campus to download the NHS COVID-19 app. The app has a number of tools to protect people, entirely anonymously, including contact tracing, local area alerts and QR venue check-in. It also features a symptom checker and test booking.

We have displayed QR codes in our catering outlets, Library and associated study spaces , the Chapel and Multi Faith prayer room and our Sports facilities, including Teddington Lock.

To ensure we keep our community safe, I would like to ask everyone to remember Hands. Face. Space. and to follow the latest guidance from the Government, such as the Rule of Six.

With best wishes,

Jo Blunden
Chief Operating Officer