Messages to LEaD

I thought it would be a good idea to use my newly revitalised blog to post messages for staff in LEaD. This will also make me responsible for posting regularly! So messages will appear here. I have to credit Melissa Highton for the inspiration for this (passed on by Julie Voce – thank you!).

Update: 16th November 2020

Oh dear, this has not been updated for a bit since I have been off, although the blog about wellbeing did provide an update from our team meeting.

Some updates from last week….

  • Busy week in terms of responding to government guidance which was published on universities. All teaching must end on campus by 9th December and students to be offered testing before that date so they can return home for Christmas. Fortunately neither of these issues have caused huge logistically challenges for City, although some teaching has had to be rescheduled and rearranged. Testing is being arranged across London. Questions still remain about return for next term and when that will be and what it will look like. This could impact on planning for term 2.
  • Had a positive meeting with the SU and other colleagues to find out about current issues and responding to feedback from students. The SU have done a great job engaging with students through their check-ins and following up with focus groups, really important work here.
  • Sadly we said goodbye to Jack Kilker, EDI lead in S&AS this week and so the on Student Attainment has handed over to colleagues. Focus will be on School level plans and engaging programme directors to implement ideas from the inclusive curriculum development toolkit
  • I chaired 3.5 hours of meetings on Teams back to back on Wednesday. Phew. Not something I would necessarily recommend! and has got me thinking about managing online meetings – perhaps subject of another blog post. All the meetings went well, we had our first newly configured LEaP Board, LEaD Board of Studies and City Learning and Teaching Committee. At CLTC James presented on the virtual classroom project which was well received. There was also an update on the Education and Student Strategy (see below) and our survey with Schools on development requirements for the next six months – more work needed here, we were asking if we wanted to restart the Forums etc.
  • Education and Student Strategy – at ESC the week before, 6 priority areas were agreed. These now need to go to Executive Board. They are student engagement, student voice, student attainment, employability, student support and learning and teaching futures. Many of our projects and work fit under these areas so more on these when they are agreed. Key is to focus on what we can do over the rest of this academic year as well as preparing staff and students for the “new” future in 21/22 through our learnings from this year.
  • The Leadership Forum was held this week where there were updates about the financial situation, education and the student experience this term, wellbeing and the staff survey, student union update and EDI work. If you would like more information on any of these items, do ask a member of SLT who were there.
  • Student Experience Task and Finish Group focused on student support and how schools were coping this term. It was generally positive although recognised that some students need more support and connecting different services is important. Also keeping campus open for students’ to use study spaces and so on is really important and will be over Christmas. Summary in the Teams chat as well as the notes from the Covid-Campus Management Group.

Any questions do let me know and see you at the Directorate meeting on Wednesday 18th.

Update: 15th October 2020

Good to see/hear everyone on Wednesday and I loved the autumn theme πŸ™‚ definitely the leaves brightened up what has been a bit of a glum week with all the unfolding news.

Autumnal forest taken on my (almost) daily dog walk

On that note, we talked about wellbeing (which was all the focus of the Health and Safety Committee Colin and I attended) and how to support each other over the next few weeks and months. Hester has been talking to OD and as an SLT we have been discussing the idea of a wellbeing week where we all take time out and then share, if we want to, what we have been doing. More on this to come and do suggest any ideas.

Feedback from Schools continues to be positive. It was helpful to hear the updates in the meeting and at the Task and Finish group there was also some good discussions. Interestingly students in some areas as feeling more engaged and connected through the online provision as they feel they have more access to staff. I had wondered if this might happen so that is good to hear. However, on the staff side, people are reporting feeling very tired and we have a long way to go to Christmas, so trying to support staff and students continues to be key.

We also discussed planning for term 2 at the Task and Finish group as well as module/programme evaluation, principles for learning and teaching for term 2 and engagement. Mimi contributed to the engagement update with news that LEaP will hopefully be live at the end of the month. So exciting! I will circulate the Task and Finish Group update when it comes out. Julie also contributed to work on digital inclusion and Pam on evaluation.

I’ve been discussing governance as part of LEaP and now LEaP will report into the MAfS board which makes sense. It also enables closer working with other MAfS projects including SEAM on student attendance and should enable us to create a stronger narrative about what we are doing with student engagement.

We are also thinking about what we can achieve in relation to the Education and Student Strategy this year with some key areas around attainment, staff expectations, student engagement and voice, online learning in the future and student support. More will come to Education and Student Committee in November so I will keep you updated.

In completely unrelated other news, I find myself toying with the idea of doing NanoWriMo in November. Seems completely bonkers and if anyone is interested in being a buddy do let me know! I think I will need the accountability.

Once again, thank you for your commitment, good humour and all round great work supporting our staff and students. Look forward to seeing you in appropriate hats next week and just don’t mention any pandicorns or equivalent.

Update: 9th October 2020

I missed the Wednesday meeting sadly as Assessment Board finished half way through and after staring at Teams for two hours, with no camera I was a bit brain dead. I came in as you were all leaving – will try harder next week. And we’ll set a bit more of an agenda so people know what is coming.

This week saw the first Task and Finish Group on the educational experience for term 1. The idea of this is to ensure issues are raised and responded to rapidly. There were some good updates from Schools and the SU on what is going on and it was a positive meeting. Next week we’ll be discussing timetabling and plans for term 2 as well as programme and module evaluation, which Pam has been working on with Yewande from Student and Academic Services.

Senate also met this week on Wednesday where there was some discussion on the approach to NSS.

Big praise this week to everyone involved in the Assessment Board on Wednesday. We said goodbye to our two externals and welcomed two new ones. Big thank you to Colin and Muhibun for all the work preparing the data, to everyone on the Academic Team for handling the transition to online so well and to Pam as Programme Director for keeping it all together (as ever). Also to Mimi and Ethan for all the work on LEaP which is hugely exciting and progressing rapidly. This project has been catapulted in the limelight due to the move to online and they are doing great work responding to all the changes. Thank you all.

I’ve also been working to progress work on race equality with Jack Kilker from Student and Academic Services on the Student Attainment Project and Angelo Weekes from the SU on the RECSAT Learning and Teaching Subgroup – more on the plans for this soon.

Have lovely weekends and look forward to seeing you on Wednesday for the autumnal themed Directorate meeting. Keep dry and warm!

Update: 2nd October 2020

My first Lego Castle

Its October! How did that happen? And the end of the first week of teaching for a lot of the university, although also the end of the first month of teaching for other parts.

Updates this week around proposals for a new Task and Finish Group that went to Education and Student Committee to support evaluation of term 1 and ensuring we can react quickly to situations that arise, which seems to be very important at the moment!

Updates from Schools around teaching so far, both online and on-campus. Some challenges and some positive stories. Appreciate that now so much online teaching is “live” that this is creating more support from LEaD so thank you to all of you have been working quickly to help staff as they face new situations.

Also quick recap from discussion at Executive Board about positive messages concerning staff engagement and student experience, particularly around the amount of staff engaging with professional development and thinking about longer term changes to teaching practice.

After our Directorate meeting I took part in a very positive meeting with the Network for Racial Justice as part of the ExCo response to the demands made in July. This meeting was on student attainment and support and we had a great discussion with some very positive actions to make faster progress on closing the degree awarding gap. I am personally really pleased that we are able to gain more attention for this work and move this forward more quickly. This also follows on from the RECSAT meeting on Monday where a presentation was given on the work being done at the Business School and I have made contact with this in terms of curriculum development and staff training.

Some “welcomes” this week too (I know I am a bit behind here!) – Welcome to Emma, who I know has been here for a month and I had the pleasure of meeting this week, welcome back to Muhibun from maternity leave who it was also lovely to see again this week. Many congratulations too to Taqveem, Ethan, Sarny, Elisabetta, Ellie, Agnieszka and Richard E. who have all recently moved to new, permanent or longer roles with LEaD. Looking forward to working with you all over the next year.

I loved our Castle-themed meeting. Next week is food. I will be spending the weekend building food from Lego, I look forward to seeing all your food pictures next week. It was lovely to see and hear so many of you. Have good weekends!

Update: 25th September 2020

I was plagued by a dodgy internet connection and a weirdly behaving Teams in our Directorate meeting which did not really help impart any wisdom (if I had any!) or updates to you.

Jane did a brilliant job in leading a discussion around the Temporary Lecture Capture and Recording policy which has gone live, so thank you.

The guidance to academic staff who are teaching on campus has also finally been approved and gone around to all academic staff.

We also discussed the Government announcement on working at home and the University’s position. As our current arrangements and plans remain unchanged, we have updated the FAQs re returning to campus and these can be found on the Teams site. Do talk to your line manager or Dept Head if you have any concerns or questions.

Lastly, we are going to move the Directorate meeting to lunchtimes so that those with caring commitments in the afternoons are still able to attend.

Have good weeks and thank you again.

Update: 21st September 2020

I meant to post this last week but the week escaped me. It feels like being “in the eye of the storm” is how one colleague very accurately described it. Actually now I think it might have tipped over into the storm again.

Today marks the start of welcome week so good luck to those staff involved. It will (obviously!) be very different and I am sure that we will all do our best to make students feel welcome and staff feel calm.

Hester, Sandra and I were on campus last week and it looks significantly more ready than it did before. There are lots of posters and signage around. The teaching rooms have cleaning stations and markings on the seats about where to sit. Guidance to staff on the usage of the rooms is imminent. We also did the risk assessment for our office. I will post up some photos. The Return to Campus Group has kept meeting and I will post up the notes into the Teams area.

Senate happened last week too and there was a lot of questions about academic staff preparedness and confidence. The feedback from the readiness meetings with Schools has been extremely positive in the support from LEaD, particularly from SMSCE and the Business School. At City Learning and Teaching Committee this week we’ll be asking staff what support they need this term, as well as examples of what is working well and what is working less well (particularly request from Senate). If you have any examples please do share too as I will be compiling these into a report.

Pam attended ADE forum where there was a lot of discussion about the extenuating circumstances and extensions policy which will be revised.

There was also a lot of consternation last week about academic timetables and auto-generation of events. Special thank you and praise for Olivia who did SO much work on patiently explaining the issues and coming up with guidance and solutions.

You will have seen in CityWire on Friday information about our accessibility statements – thank you to Julie and the team for work on this, more information on this this week in relation to captioning.

An update for those of you who might wish to make a donation in remembrance of Jenny. Her favourite charity was The Donkey Sanctuary and you can make a donation at that link.

Finally, once again a massive thank you for everything you have done over the summer in preparation for this moment – we have (nearly) reached the start of term. Particularly praise this week goes to the Academic Skills Team who have done amazing work on the moodle module for supporting students. At a meeting last week with David and members of the SU and Student and Academic Services, Pam and I agreed that student support was a very high risk area and I am confident that this module will go a long way to supporting our students through these challenging times, and enabling them to make the best of their university experience.

I’ll be at the team meeting on Wednesday – hurrah – so looking forward to catching up with you all then.

Update: 11th September 2020

A bit of a break after holiday and lots of “excitement” in this house as my children return to school. The return arrangements are so complicated that I have had to create a spreadsheet! And the change means new routines or at least new, temporary routines due to phased starts and so on.

I hope everyone had a restful August and managed to get a break. A few things to flag this week…

  • Hester has put up the Return to Campus FAQs and links to information on the staff hub, obviously as things change and evolve we will keep this “live”
  • I’ve also circulated the notes from the Return to Campus group too so do take a moment to read these.
  • At Education and Student Committee this week the student code of contact was approved.
  • The risk assessments for learning and teaching activity have been done and communications to staff drafted which will be out next week.
  • You’ll have also seen in the President’s message some changes to the management structure which sadly means that ExCo no longer exists.
  • We’re also sending out some communications to Schools on the module checking and design service.
  • LEaD praise – Julie sent a lovely note to the team about 6 months of remote working and how we have all stepped up to the many challenges we have faced. I’d like to echo Julie’s words and also say that I had a chat with the President this week where he recognised all the great work LEaD is doing to support staff and students. So thank you.
  • Lastly, in very sad news, you will have seen in CityWire that Jenny Aster from Student Counselling, Mental Health and Accessibility died at the end of August. Many of you will have worked closely with Jenny and appreciated her wisdom and kindness. There is a book of remembrance to share memories and condolences. She will be very much missed at City.

I hope you all have restful weekends and thank you, as ever, for the brilliant work you are doing and the endurance you have all shown over the past few months.

Update: 26th August 2020

No fancy dress this week sadly. Praise goes to Jane and Olivia for all the work on the IP policy and lecture capture which is nearly approved. Thank you! Also a big thank you last week to Ali for the work on socially distanced teaching and Ethan for feeding back on the learning and teaching focus group.

A lot of work going on at the moment to get the on-campus teaching ready and work on site around the campus environment. The new Return to Campus group met yesterday so work will be progressing there in terms of more information to staff. School readiness meetings continue in September. SHS start teaching on 1st so big push there this week. Also progression on web accessibility and captioning with communications going out soon.

Main item of discussion for the team meeting was around LEaD staff working in the Autumn term and reiteration of our current position that we will continue to work at home, unless individuals have specific needs to return to the office. Please do send any questions or thoughts to Hester and we will collate to form a staff FAQ and/or feed into HR.

I’m on annual leave next week so see you in September. Thank you for all the work you have done over the summer months. I know it is has been relentless and I wanted to feedback that I have had personal emails from Paul and David thanking everyone for being so critical to preparing successfully for September.

Update: 19th August 2020

In which I have made a career limiting video of myself in fancy dress πŸ˜‰ which gives an update on….

  • Student focus groups
  • Socially distanced teaching planning
  • Readiness with Schools
  • OD focus groups for staff on L&T in the autumn
  • Working for LEaD in the next few months and our FAQs

Update: 14th August 2020

Last week I was on leave so no update, although it feels like a dim and distant memory now.

Thank you to Jane this week for making everyone laugh in a very hot Directorate meeting through wearing fancy dress. Much appreciated. And next week I expect to see more people wearing tropical themed outfits.

Couple of quick updates this week…

  1. Appraisals – we have agreed as an SLT that running full appraisals this year would be challenging. However, we are very keen that everyone has an opportunity to reflect on their progress and experiences over the last few months. Therefore, we will be running light touch conversations with staff, a bit like an interim appraisal, where you can discuss your achievements over the last few months, consider what you need for September and into the autumn, and check in with general wellbeing and workload. Obviously if you would like a full appraisal then do discuss this with your line manager.
  2. LEaD Kitchen Table – just a reminder that the kitchen table is open every lunchtime from 12 to 2pm. Do drop in and say hi.
  3. Socially distance teaching – if you have any guidance, guidelines or links about socially distanced teaching please post them on the Teams site as we are collecting them to support our own guidance.

Update: 31st July 2020 (a bit late but with reason!)

As those of you will know that were around at the Directorate meeting on Wednesday, Hester, myself and Sandra were on campus. I wanted to post this update once I had written my reflections. So now I have finally had time to do that. It was a really interesting experience to go in and has informed a lot of my thinking as well as kicked off some work this week across the University on the teaching spaces which some of you may be involved in.

Julie introduced the idea of a “praise shout out” for members of the team this week which I really liked. She would like to thank ETT for their work, I would like to thank Hester and Sandra for coming in on Wednesday and Olivia who helped with the live stream and James who fed into the prep work. I’d also like to thank everyone who contributed to Develop@City and the Learning and Teaching Exchange last Friday.

I’d also like to announce that Academic Learning Success have decided to change their name to the Academic Skills Team to reflect more accurately the work they do with students and staff to build the skills and confidence students need to study successfully. Comms will be going out on this next week.

Next week at the Directorate meeting we have the new SU sabbatical officers coming. Do try and come along to meet them as they are very enthusiastic and passionate about working to improve the student experience. Meeting them as an SLT I felt really inspired about working with them and their values and objectives are clear.

I am on leave next week so will be leaving you in the capable hands of Pam and Julie. Have a wonderful week and see you on 12th August.

Update: 24th July 2020 (a couple of days late!)

So this is now week 17, maybe it is time to stop counting. The fact that I am posting this late demonstrates what a crazily busy week it has been.

We’ve launched the new LEaD offer form to request specialist support for programme and module design and checking for September. We’ll be liaising closely with schools on this and keeping a track of how much demand comes through this route. Thanks to everyone who fed back on this and are working through the support.

Various projects are progressing around web accessibility and learning analytics with new posts being advertised this week. Thank you to Julie and Mimi for progressing this.

In terms of September preparation (I’m not sure any of us need a reminder of the number of weeks before September), the main issues are timetabling. The essential and desirable activities have been run and the situation is still being worked through but it looks positive for being able to fit everything in. Now we need to consider what the broader picture of student life looks like as well as specific health and safety measures. Hester and I are going onto campus on Wednesday to start working through some of this. Thanks to everyone from LEaD, especially Hester, James and Olivia, who have fed into this work and this will carry on over the summer.

We’re also working with OD and Student and Academic Services on staff and student focus groups for preparing everyone for the return, what anxieties there are and how we can prepare and support students and staff.

Earlier in the week I participated in the Executive Team Town Hall meeting on tackling racism. It was a challenging and saddening meeting about the experiences of staff and students of colour at City. There is a lot of work to do, as many of us know. I can share more information via Teams but we will be engaging with City’s Network for Racial Justice (previously named the BAME staff network) around issues raised and how we can all work to change the culture at City. We’ve already started some of these discussions in LEaD and can do more.

I also sat on Academic Promotions Committee on Tuesday and it was noticeable how many more staff are engaging with HEA Fellowship and what a difference this makes. The NSS results also came out last week and although disappointing, they demonstrate a real need for us to support educational development practice in some areas. Discussions with some Schools have already started on how we can do this.

And lastly, this week was Develop@City. As I write this the Learning and Teaching Exchange is taking place. I hope you were able to attend some of the sessions and I know there was a great LEaD presence, thank you to Dom and Jane for Chairing and for the great advice on recording video on Teams. Jane and I ran some Marketplace sessions on play, I saw Sally and David and other ALS staff running Marketplace sessions too. I attended the session yesterday on Coping with Caring Responsibilities which was great. Slightly ironically I ended up giving my intro to the Learning and Teaching Exchange with my youngest child, Antonia, on my lap, thereby highlighting quite nicely the point I was trying to make in my intro about not aiming for perfection but aiming for authentic practice!

Update: 15th July 2020

We’re into week 16 (I think but is anyone still counting?!) of home working (I was going to say lockdown but we’re not really in that anymore either) and well done to everyone for getting this far!

More guidance is coming out on social distancing and health and safety, both from the government with the announcement about face masks in shops and also from the University. This has placed a new lens on the use of the campus and what the learning and teaching experience will look like in the Autumn. Learning Environment Committee will be working with us and City Learning and Teaching Committee on guidance for socially distanced teaching including an initial on-campus visit, with staff online too.

Related to this is that we will be producing a checklist to support School Taskforces thinking about the balance between online and on-campus activities in the case of there not being enough on-campus space available. This paper went to Education and Student Committee today.

In other news, I received some fabulous feedback from the Business School about the support from LEaD and others they had received in moving teaching online for term 3. Was lovely to hear such positive comments and another acknowledgement of the importance of the work you are all doing. These kind of comments of are great for including in our portfolio of evidence for demonstrating our impact which we discussed at the Directorate meeting. So do collect them where you have them πŸ™‚

Watch out for a variety of LEaD events at Develop@City next week.

Update: 8th July 2020

A short video in which I give an update in true award ceremony “I am sorry I couldn’t be with you” style from underneath my children’s bed on some exciting news about increased resourcing for LEaD to support the delivery of education and the student experience for the academic year 2020/21, including our new service model, start to think about what the return to campus might look like and our hopes and fears about it, and trailer next week’s Directorate meeting on thinking about our impact.

Update: 1st July 2020

Hello LEaD!

Bee house in the garden

This weekend we “celebrated” 100 days in lockdown. Congratulations everyone for making it this far.

In the Directorate meeting there were some lovely garden photos shared, thank you for cheering me up on a rainy afternoon. We also welcomed our micro placement students Emma and Sabina – its great to have you working with us over this critical period, thank you.

Education and Student Committee was held later in the day and there is still concern about timetabling. Hopefully information will be complete this week so we can have a provisional timetable out later this month. Student communications were approved and our update on Educational Technology will be scheduled at the next meeting when we have all information from Schools. We’ll know more about student numbers in August and will also follow up about the communications to replicate any face to face sessions with online learning.

Develop@City will be the week of 20th July and there will be a number of LEaD events including ETT workshops, ALS drop-ins and a playful learning session.

Hester and Colin have also created a new channel for LEaD socials where you can sign up for short taster learning sessions and regular lunch slots if you want to drop in and have a chat. Do check this out on the teams channel.

Katie also linked to her live band performance and Jane shared her wonderful courgette!

If you have anything you would like to discuss or ask next week do post a comment or let me know.

Thank you for all the work you are doing to support the Schools getting to September successfully. It is very much appreciated across the University.