University staff angry that educational advice from Covid was ‘ignored’ | Education

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Academic staff are moving towards confrontation with their leaders after the revelation that government science advisers called for the education to go online at the start of the academic year last month.Members of the University and College Union of the University of Sheffield are the latest to call an emergency meeting after filing a formal grievance, joining branches of the universities of Birmingham, Leeds and Warwick in conflict with their leaders over management of coronavirus epidemics.

Other campus staff represented by Unison are said to be angry at dealing with threats and abuse from frustrated students imprisoned in solitary confinement.

An estimated 110 UK universities have reported cases of the Covid-19 outbreak, with around 15,000 students and staff infected so far, since the start of the quarter just four weeks ago on some campuses.

The University of Nottingham alone reported 1,500 active cases among students at the end of last week, out of its 35,000 enrolled students, as well as 20 staff members. The previous week, only 400 cases had been reported.


But concern about staff and students who continue to receive face-to-face instruction as infection rates rise has turned to anger after the release of documents from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. (Sage), showing that three weeks ago, he informed that all universities should return to online education.

Sage’s package of measures to contain Covid-19 included a recommendation: “All university and college education should be online unless face-to-face education is absolutely essential,” until the prevalence of the virus decreases.

Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary, said: “Ministers received clear recommendations on how to stem the spread of the virus before the start of the term in the vast majority of universities. They could then have taken swift and decisive action and ordered universities to move their education online to prevent tens of thousands of students from moving across the country.

“The chaos we are currently seeing on campus and in dormitories is a direct result of ministers’ decision to ignore this advice and choose to endanger the health of academic staff, students and local communities.”

Grady said all universities should now switch to online education when possible, as well as allow students to be released from their accommodation and return home to study remotely if they wish.

Unison, who represents many of the campus support staff such as cleaners and security guards, said its members “regularly risk their own safety to break up rowdy student groups angry at the lockdown restrictions.” .

The union said some restaurant workers are working 16-hour shifts to produce and deliver three meals a day to thousands of lone students in their rooms, while housekeepers work overtime cleaning in deep common areas such as kitchens and hallways.

Ruth Levin, Head of National Education at Unison, said: “If the testing system worked properly, healthy students would not be locked up and staff would not face violence, abuse and violence. to a considerable increase in the workload. , with little additional support from university directors.

“The staff have worked hard to keep the universities going and, given the pressures they are under, they are doing an outstanding job.”

The latest statistics from the Department of Education have also shown an increase in the number of public schools in England partially closed due to the Covid-19 outbreaks.

More than one in five state high schools said they were partially closed last week, meaning classes or age groups were sent home or were in segregation. Previously, 82% were classified as “fully open,” but last week the proportion fell to 79%.

Overall, 91% of schools and other educational institutions said they were fully open, with 8% of the rest saying they were only partially open for reasons related to the coronavirus.

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