University Lecturers, like many others throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, have faced unprecedented workplace challenges over the past year. The disruption, caused by Covid-19, gave lecturers across the country the additional task of providing effective teaching whilst abiding by Government restrictions and prioritising the safety of students and those around them.
Late February 2020, Loughborough University were the first University in the UK to have a student test positive for Corona Virus, causing the self-isolation of multiple students and staff they had come into contact with. Days and weeks after, more cases were confirmed across the country prompting The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, to announce the closure of all Schools and Universities on the 20th March.
Due to the practicalities, subjects such as sport were affected hugely by these measures. When speaking to WINOL, Richard Cheetham MBE, a Senior Fellow for the Department of Sport, Exercise and Health at the University of Winchester said, “I think like everyone else we’ve struggled to find the essence of teaching in an online space, that’s the biggest challenge, people like to learn together and I think we’ve had to update ourselves with technology very quickly, same with the students”.
On the 25th March, The Corona Virus Act 2020 came into force. This gave Ministers the power to shut educational institutions and childcare premises.
With the closure of schools, came the adjustment from face-to-face learning to online learning and lectures. Speaking to WINOL, a Lecturer at The University of Winchester stated, “If you go back 12 months, I don’t think any of us had heard of [Microsoft] Teams let alone used it”. Nowadays, this is one of the main apps used to provide online learning.
By September last year, it was decided that Universities would return but with reduced face-to-face contact, continued online lectures and with numerous safety measures put in place.
Despite Boris Johnson putting the country into what has been coined as ‘lockdown 2’ on the last day of October, Schools and Universities were left unaffected by the updated measures.
With new daily cases of Covid-19 reaching over 60,000 during the first week of 2021, it was decided that education institutions would remain closed after the Christmas break. This was the case until March 8th when Schools and Colleges returned and practical higher education courses returned to campuses as part of the Government’s roadmap out of the current lockdown.
Reflecting on the past year a Lecturer from the Department of Education said, “Adaptations were made very quickly but, the significant challenge was the absence and isolation between the teacher and the students…particularly because the subject matter that I am teaching is about teachers in schools…for us, and I am sure this is what it is like for teachers as well, it’s that distance between [lecturers and students] and the lack of immediate interaction, that’s the thing that strikes me most of all.”
As the country moves through the stages of the roadmap out of lockdown, barring any changes to restrictions, The UK education system looks set to return to normality by the turn of the academic year.