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Important update for all students

Important update for all students

by David Hewlett -
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To all Queen's students

We have enjoyed the online Foundation Leaver's event on Saturday and continue to hold in our prayers all those who are leaving Queen's this year and who are entering new ministries and new opportunities. 

We continue to pay careful attention to public health advice, to government guidance on relaxing lockdown restrictions, and to the advice of our partner universities.  We have been consulting with student reps over the last week and are grateful for their input.  We continue to take a cautious approach both to moving out of lockdown and to our plans for the autumn. 

For the time being our campus remains closed to non-residents as there is no necessity to gather and most staff are continuing to work remotely.  However, we want to begin to make changes to our library service. 
1.  We will pilot a limited postal/collection service of books to students doing independent research modules or BA/MA dissertations (but not to doctoral researchers) over July and August.  We want to trial this service to this group of about 40 students to see how it works and what its costs are so that we can learn from this for future operations.  Students who are doing these modules will be emailed to explain this service in more detail. 
2.  We are inviting anyone who has books on loan to return these to Queen's, either by delivering them to the book box in the foyer of the admin building, or by posting them.  We appreciate that neither is an option for some, so we understand if you cannot yet return books.  If delivering them in person, you do not need to inform anyone that you are coming on site, but you do need to follow the instructions in the lobby for using hand gels and disinfectants. We also ask you not to go anywhere else on campus without requesting permission.

As we look ahead to the autumn much remains uncertain, but we note that most educational institutions remain cautious about what will be possible with many Universities planning for a whole year of online delivery.  The statement below, about which we have been consulting with student reps and Governors, gives what we think is a realistic picture of what we are expecting and for which we are planning.  For those returning to programmes in September, we are expecting that for at least the first half of term all teaching and learning will be in digital mode, as this makes it available to all students equally. We will be drawing on the feedback from students and student reps as to the best ways of delivering this, learning from what have done over the summer term. We hope that after half term some face to face learning might be possible, but equally we think it is possible, and perhaps likely, that there will be second and subsequent surges in virus so we have to prepare for longer term constraints. Therefore, we think only limited and small-scale face to face gatherings will be possible, but where it is safe to do and where they accessible for the relevant students, we will make use of those opportunities, particularly when they can enable formational learning. We will be constantly reviewing our plans, and making changes as and when appropriate.

We will be in further communication as soon as we can with different cohorts about timetables and expectations so that you can also plan and prepare.  We have listened carefully to feedback from students about how we can best enable digital learning and formation to be accessible, as rich as possible in both teaching and assessment, and able to provide you with the resources you need to do the best work you can.  Tutors will be working hard over the summer to make this possible.

Statement of Intent for 2020-21
In the rapidly changing circumstances we are in, and with many things unknown about the continuing effects of the pandemic, our first priority is the safety and security of all staff and students.  We are following recent QAA guidance as well as public health advice.  We are, therefore, planning with confidence for the following:
• That we will gather and meet on site only when it is safe to do so. We will be agile in responding to changing assessments of risk and of public health advice and take advantage of any opportunities for face to face small groups or for one to one meetings, but we will not assume or depend on this. 
• That our site will continue to be a safe and positive environment for those for whom it is their home, whether as a permanent resident in a study bedroom or in a Handsworth flat. We will build on the experience of the last three months in which much has been learned about creating and sustaining a different kind of residential community in which physical distancing does not lead to social distancing.
• That we will build on our recognised good practice in online learning and teaching to provide all of our face to face classes in virtual form for as much and as long as is necessary. This will be essential to enable those who need to be shielded, or those who should not or cannot travel, to study. Not only do we have a lot of experience of online learning but the methods we use to maximise engagement, discussion and shared learning create a positive environment for learning and formation, and are much richer than simply streaming lectures.  By providing virtual learning for all we ensure that cohorts continue to learn together and with an equal provision.
• That we will take the current challenges as an opportunity to learn how to be church in new ways. We will, therefore, shape in new ways how to use placements and link churches and other ministerial practices to explore and reflect on the new skills and knowledge and belonging that are now required for ministers and leaders in our churches. 

These plans are not ours alone to make as our sponsoring churches and validating universities will also be continuing to give advice.  But we are confident that we can respond faithfully and creatively to what is happening, keeping us as safe as possible while learning in new ways to be formed for ministry and service.