I hope all’s well and that at least some of you will get some time to take a bit of leave during the half term week (even if it is only a day…….).
Just a quick update for you on a few things – in terms of STP and Term 2/3 and beyond, there continues to be lots that’s uncertain, but I thought it perhaps helpful to try to reflect current thinking to at least give some structures to your forward planning.
Sessional Teaching Budgets
We had a brief discussion recently at ARC Executive and recognised that the plans for Term 3 might mean that some additional sessional teaching spend would be required (in addition to potential availability of unspent funds from this term). So we are aware of and understand that you may need a bit more flexibility as T3 plans take shape.
More generally, in anticipation of the planning round and as we look forward to more blended delivery (and the return of study leave), you will need to look at STP budget lines. We will need to continue to manage costs carefully but we must be sensitive to workload pressures on colleagues. So, as things stand, I think we’d ask for sessional teaching spend to be sensible and appropriate and we’d also recognise that the cuts we asked for last year were for one year only; for the coming year, I would hope we will be able to work to budgets that reflect your Department’s needs.
Term 2 and Term 3 and beyond
Not much to say that I haven’t said already. Government guidance is still expected early next week and there remains the expectation of some easing for restrictions as of the week of 8 March, with current rumours pointing to further staggered returns in April and May. (And of course we might expected further leaks ahead of next week). Once the guidance is released then we can confirm what will happen next and we’ll be able to get messages out to staff and students. And at that point we can be a bit more specific about Term 3 as well, although I know plans here are advancing well.
Term 1 of next year – well I don’t think the thinking has changed hugely – and so, planning for Term 1 next year to be similar to Term 1 of this year would still be the best way to go. Indeed, I think it’s probably fair to say that we might reasonably assume that next year will see the continuation of social distancing and a reliance on large group teaching online and small group delivery face to face – so a similar model across the year. It’s possible that this might be a bit conservative (or maybe that’s me being optimistic!) but if we plan on this basis, we know we can relax if the opportunity arises and if conditions deteriorate we have our tiers system to work through.
I think we should still see this positively – we have seen a lot of favourable feedback on the blended teaching model and the ability to access lecture materials asynchronously (and on multiple occasions) has been valued by many students. And while the online lecture has been well received, we also know that students continue to really value the in-person interactions that go with small group teaching. So I think blended models do offer some really good opportunities for the longer term. We know that the development of online lecture resources is a time consuming exercise and it wouldn’t be sustainable to do everything again from scratch every year. So it is going to be important to be open to re-using such materials where that’s possible, or making only minor adaptations where necessary. And of course there will continue to be support available from LDCU and from academic technology to support additional thinking about how to develop blended models.
And I think its also going to be important to think about what materials development and then reusability might mean in terms of workload management. I can’t offer any guidelines on how to do this just yet (but we do need to think about how we support you in this). But I suspect it’s the need to recognise that when material for repeated and asynchronous delivery is developed, there is significant preparation time and more so than would be the case with the traditional lecture. But this initial investment might be expected to make things easier in subsequent years where there is the opportunity for reuse. I don’t think there are any easy answers here in the short term, but there have been some real workload challenges and I think its probably as much as anything about trying to acknowledge the different workload profiles that blended learning might generate.
Probation – further extension available
You’ll recall that we gave an automatic 6 month extension to R&T probationary staff in the early stages of lockdown last year. Since then, we have had further significant periods of lockdown and given the initial 3-4 months of lockdown, the period in November and the current period of lockdown, we’ve decided that we should offer a further extension of 6 months to probationary staff on R&T contracts (ie the 5 year probation). Those who are ready to complete can still complete and will not be disadvantaged, but those who have had their work disrupted due to lockdowns and the prevailing working environment are able to request the extension.
To proceed, can HoDs/Administrators please let the Academic Processes team in HR (firstname.lastname@example.org) know which members of staff in their Department would like the extension added to their probation periods. They will then confirm to you the new probation end date and the new review date by the Probation Review Group, which you should then pass on to each probationer. Formal letters will not be sent in this regard, and the extension does not preclude an application for early completion of probation at the original timeline, should this be your recommendation.
The Warwick Story
I hesitate to ask because I know how busy everyone is, but actually this might be a welcome change and a something a bit different for colleagues. (And take up from the academic community has been low – perhaps understandably, but the academic voice is really important here!). So, could you pass the following message onto colleagues?...
"Over the last 18 months, through engagement with hundreds of the Warwick community, we’ve written a new Warwick Story, setting out our purpose, belief and ambitions for the future. This future story connects Warwick’s founding principles and its current strategy with the challenges of today and beyond, drawing together themes and ideas from across all aspects of our work. Before a planned launch this summer we want to share what we have developed with a number of students and staff and draw on their experiences of living and working at Warwick and help bring the new Warwick Story to life.
The week of the 22 February will be Warwick Story Week when we want as many staff and students as possible to spend a little time considering and sharing their own Warwick story with a colleague or friend at Warwick.
We appreciate that we’re all living and working in particularly difficult circumstances and, in “normal” times, we would have come together over coffee to share our ideas. Although we can’t do that right now we can meet each other for a virtual coffee and the first 250 people to sign up to participate in Warwick Story Week will be sent a Warwick mug and pack of coffee.
Details and sign-up link here in case helpful: Help bring Warwick’s New Story to life"
In addition, its perhaps worth being aware that Penny Roberts and David Leadley have put together an excellent group of c.15 academics who will go through all three stages of activation over the next month – but in a much more in-depth way.
I think that’s all for this week (unless something unexpected comes up). I’m expecting that with announcements planned for next week, things will be a bit more lively!
Take care and if there is anything that you need/that I can help with, do let me know!
Professor Christine Ennew OBE