COVID-19 Operational Guidance for  21/22 Spring Term

The purpose of this document is to provide:

  1. Guidance for Courtauld staff tasked with preparing for and responding to a suspected or confirmed outbreak of COVID-19 at Vernon Square, Somerset      House or Duchy House.
  2. Reassurance to stakeholders (i.e. our landlords, neighbouring universities, the Directors of Public Health at Islington Council and Westminster City Council and the wider community) that a robust and managed process is in place to respond to and manage effectively an outbreak affecting The Courtauld’s premises

In responding to a COVID-19 outbreak, the main priorities for The Courtauld will be:

  • Protecting staff, students, volunteers, visitors and contractors working, studying at its campuses, visiting the Gallery and associated retail and café outlets and living in Courtauld managed accommodation in accordance with The Courtauld’s duty of care.
  • Providing support to staff, students and volunteers who become ill or are required to isolate, particularly those from overseas or elsewhere in the UK who do not have access to immediate family or other support.
  • Implementing and actively encouraging infection control and other measures in accordance with UK Government guidelines, acting upon advice and direction from public bodies such as the National Health Service (NHS); Public Health England (PHE); the Local Authority i.e., Westminster City Council (WCC) and/or Islington Council’s respective Public Health Teams and the London Coronavirus Response Cell (LCRC).
  • Maintaining teaching, research and administrative operations for as long as possible so far as is compatible with the priorities above, including keeping its Gallery, retail and café operations open and safe for visitors.
  • Establishing and maintaining The Courtauld as a trusted source of accurate and timely information and advice to staff, students, volunteers, visitors and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Maintaining a continuous review of the progress of the virus and its effect upon staff, students, volunteers, visitors and Courtauld operations.
  • Co-operating with the NHS Test and Trace.

More than for any other incident or emergency, the response to a COVID-19 infection at any of The Courtauld’s premises must be dynamic, dependant as it is upon a wide range of unknowns and variables.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • The number of persons infected.
  • The role of infected persons – staff, students, volunteers, visitors and external contractors.
  • Advice and direction received from NHS and PHE.
  • The effects of response measures upon teaching, research and administrative operations.
  • The reaction of staff, students, volunteers, visitors and their families to a confirmed outbreak at one of The Courtauld premises.
  • The reaction of National and Local Government and the local community.

In addition, this plan is based in large measure on regulations and guidance issued by the UK Government; the NHS and PHE which may themselves be amended or updated at short notice.  In consequence, this document and the advice it contains must also be viewed as dynamic and liable to change at short notice.

The Courtauld has reviewed its staff and student COVID-19 guidance, including the wearing of face coverings. Our updated face coverings policy can be found here, and our updated Staff Guidance can be found here and Student Responsibilities Agreement, here.  We have encouraged our staff and students to read these documents, even if they are not regularly on campus.

We have conveyed to our staff that Individual Workplace Risk Assessments (IWRAs) continue to be necessary as part of our adherence to maintaining good health and safety practices.  Thus, we have required and continue to recommend all our staff to review and update their IWRA prior to returning to working on campus following period of home working and to keep these under regular review should personal circumstances change.

For new staff joining The Courtauld, they are required to complete an Employee Health and Safety Induction, which consists of a briefing checklist and a Self-Assessment for an Individual Workplace Risk Assessment.

We will also be continuing to consult appropriately with our Trade Union colleagues as part of our Health and Safety obligations.

All of our staff, students, volunteers, visitors and contractors attending our campuses are continuing to be encouraged to:

  • Respect appropriate physical distancing, where practical.
  • Where practical, when in the presence of others indoors, ensure that at least one window in the room is open for fresh air and ventilation. The exception here is our gallery spaces, which are controlled environments with CO2 levels in extraction ductwork being constantly monitored.
  • Follow good hand-hygiene rules, with sanitiser and regular hand washing.
  • Not to come to our premises if they have COVID-19 symptoms, if they have tested positive or have been told to isolate or quarantine.
  • Follow a regular programme of Lateral Flow testing – either twice a week, 3-4 days apart if attending regularly, or 24 hours before coming for a one-off visit.
  • Download the NHS COVID-19 app and scan our designated premises COVID QR code when arriving at any Courtauld building.

At the present time (January 2022), we have mandated, unless exempt, for all our staff, students, volunteers, visitors and contractors to wear a face covering in all areas of The Courtauld’s premises.  Whilst it is not currently mandatory for face coverings to be worn in teaching rooms in accordance with current UK Government guidance, The Courtauld strongly recommends to its students that they be worn.

Our Face Covering Policy contains a number of exceptions, including for teaching and working in offices. Our updated Face Coverings Policy can be found here. For those who have a non visible disability which would affect the wearing of a face covering, we encourage and are supportive of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower which, when worn, will let us know that you may need some additional support.  We have spare sunflower lanyards available at our receptions and Ticketing desk in the Gallery

The Courtauld also recommends all our staff and students to take up their full course of COVID-19 vaccinations, including boosters where applicable, and to e-mail if they have symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19 or been asked to self-isolate.

In addition, The Courtauld continues to commit to:

  • Regularly reviewing our COVID-19 Organisational Risk Assessment.
  • Delivering enhanced touchpoint cleaning and disinfecting regimes, and thus, maintaining additional cleaning hours to support this activity where appropriate and proportionate.
  • Making available hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in high usage areas and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where appropriate and necessary.
  • Maintaining Perspex screens where considered appropriate at our receptions, membership and ticketing desks.
  • Monitoring and adjusting the fresh air in-take to mechanical ventilation systems and monitoring CO2 levels in teaching spaces, studios, library spaces, gallery rooms and other spaces as necessary, to maintain appropriate levels of natural ventilation. Where CO2 readings exceed 800ppm, and thus trigger the CO2 monitor’s alarm, rooms will be vacated until CO2 readings within the room are equivalent to those taken when it was unoccupied.
  • Reviewing and resourcing as required air purifier units for teaching spaces to support enhanced ventilation arrangements for these spaces.

Oversight of The Courtauld’s day-to-day response to managing COVID continues to be designated to the Head of Estates and Facilities (HoEF). The HoEF reports to The Courtauld’s Director who has overall responsibility and strategic oversight of The Courtauld’s response to and management of COVID via the support of The Courtauld’s Senior Management Team (SMT).

In the event of 5 linked cases (2 in Duchy House) being identified, the HoEF would reconvene appropriate members of The Courtauld’s SILVER Team to review and discuss which measures need to be implemented to safeguard against further spread of COVID with our community including what welfare support to put in place for those affected.  Recommendations on actions and support to be provided would then by implemented following approval from The Courtauld’s GOLD Team (Chaired by The Courtauld’s Director).  These respective groups have cross organisational representation that covers both teaching and learning, professional services, gallery, accommodation and wellbeing support.

The HoEF will continue to liaise with University of London intercollegiate members Islington Council and Westminster City Council Public Health teams, and the Department for Health and Social Care Higher Education Team and any other relevant stakeholder throughout the Spring Term to ensure The Courtauld is sharing and adhering to safe practices and guidelines that facilitate maintaining COVID-secure premises.  Furthermore, in the event of an identified outbreak of cases at our Vernon Square campus, the HoEF will notify and liaise with Islington Council’s Public Health Team and if the outbreak is at Somerset House or Duchy House, contact will be directly with Westminster City Council’s Public Health Team.

The HoEF is tasked with keeping our COVID tracker, which is used to note reported positive cases within our community and those staff and or students who may be isolating, updated and to provide a weekly summary of case numbers to the GOLD Team. If through this reporting tool, we identify 5 linked cases (2 in Duchy House), we will take one or more of the actions outlined overleaf to help prevent the spread of COVID within our community.  The actions we decide to take will be proportionate and may differ depending on how cases are linked (i.e., linked to one premise and not others given that our three premises (Vernon Square, Somerset House and Duchy House) are separately located in two different London boroughs and thus, not interconnected).

We commit to keeping these data secure and will share only appropriate data such as numbers testing positive, self-isolating and living in our accommodation (Duchy House) with the DfE through the OfS data reporting tool and with local Public Health Team as and when this is requested.

We will review and implement mitigating measures including, but not limited to, the following:

  • We will, as far as we are able, identify close contacts and we will advise them that they have been in the presence of someone who has tested positive. Whilst we will advise contacts that they are not required to self-isolate we will advise them to take daily Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) for seven days and, if one of the LFTs is positive, that they must self-isolate immediately and that they should report their result on gov.k.
  • We will from 11 January 2022, remind staff and students who test positive with a lateral flow test that they do not need to order a follow-up PCR test if they do not have symptoms, but anyone who has symptoms will need to take a PCR test regardless.
  • We will continue remind staff and students who test positive with a lateral flow device (LFD) test that they should report their result on and must self-isolate immediately.
  • We will remind those reporting symptoms and or a positive LFT or PCR test result that they must isolate immediately and their period of self-isolation may only end after 7 days, following 2 negative Lateral Flow tests taken 24 hours apart. The first test not being taken before the sixth day.
  • If we are in a period where we are not mandating the wearing of face coverings, we will, for a period of at least two weeks’ mandate everyone entering our premises unless medically exempt, to wear a face covering.
  • With a specific communication, we will reinforce the need for/request Lateral Flow testing before coming onto campus and the reporting of these test results via gov.k.
  • We will consider temporarily suspending in-person lectures and move those on-line for a two-week period, but we will retain in-person seminars on the basis that those seminar numbers are small, that attendees can sufficiently physically distance themselves within seminar rooms, and that these rooms, which all have windows that open, are well ventilated. Note: The exception here is Week 1 (w/c 10 January 2022, when all lecturers and seminars, will be on-line.)
  • We will consider the reinstatement of one-way routes in, around and out of our Vernon Square premises and the temporary introduction of a one-way circuit through our galleries to limit interactions between staff, students, volunteers, visitors and contractors arriving, departing and moving around our premises.
  • We will consider a number of options for our libraries such as: temporarily suspending visitors; for a defined period reducing the number of study spaces in our libraries managing this by re-introducing bookable study slots. We will support students by enhancing our scan-on-demand and/or click-and-collect services.
  • We will consider our messaging to students about discouraging mixing with other groups and will advise students and staff to avoid contact with anyone particularly at risk from COVID.
  • We will consider which staff are essential to be working on campus and thus, for a defined period, may request some staff to revert to working from home. In the case of those departments providing front-facing services to our students, we may re-establish team bubbles, where only certain staff come to campus on certain days. Where we need to adopt these arrangements, we will revert to reviewing and refreshing departmental guidelines applicable to returning to and working on campus.
  • We will continue to strongly encourage good respiratory hygiene and hand hygiene.
  • We may if deemed necessary reinstate temperature checks for ad-hoc visitors and contractors.
  • We will consider, if necessary, for a defined period reducing the number of volunteers permitted to be on site working on our digitalisation project at Somerset House and, for those we do permit, we will ensure that their working spaces are appropriately physically distanced.
  • We will consider if necessary, reducing visitor numbers to our Gallery at Somerset House for a defined period by reducing the available number of tickets for sale across all days or during certain peak time slots, to help increase physical distancing between our visitors.
  • We will temporarily suspend school groups visiting our Learning Centre and the Gallery at Somerset House as part of outreach Learning Programme and revert to a fully online programme.
  • We will temporarily revert any Research Forum events to on-line for a defined period, to limit the number of persons coming onto our Vernon Square campus.
  • We will review any planned Events scheduled to be held in our Gallery spaces at Somerset House with a view to either temporarily suspending the event and rescheduling to a later date or reducing the number of attendees if practical.
  • We will consider reducing the capacity of our Art Café and adopt table service only to limit the movement of visitors in and around this space and/or move to a take away service only.
  • If we find that case numbers continue to rise after Week 2 (w/e 21 January 2022) and that these are linked to our Vernon Square campus, we will contact the Islington Council Public Health Team and for Somerset House and Duchy House we will contact the Westminster City Council Public Health Team, with a view to seeking their help and support with arranging for PCR testing of students and staff to be carried out at these premises, subject to the advice of the respective Public Health Teams
  • We will, if the cases are linked specifically to residents living in Duchy House, (the trigger point being 2 cases not 5), consider implementing a range of measures:
  • temporarily (for at least two-weeks) restricting the movement of all residents between floors;
  • immediately informing the Westminster City Council Public Health Team;
  • providing, Lateral Flow testing kits, hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes to each residents’ room;
  • ensuring that those having to isolate are provided with a sufficient supply of bottled water to keep themselves hydrated; assistance with food arrangements which will include payment of £15 for each day of self-isolation (currently capped at £105); a supply of clean bed-linen; daily check call from the Accommodation Manager or Wellbeing Manager.
  • If an outbreak with Duchy House makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult, or contrary to any law or official guidance to continue to clean Duchy House, The Courtauld may suspend the cleaning service for as long as considered reasonably necessary. Should this situation occur, The Courtauld will provide sufficient cleaning materials for residents to undertake the cleaning normally performed by others, until such time as the service can be resumed.

The guidance set out in this document will remain in effect until at least 19 April 2022, or until further guidance is received from the UK Government, which requires these measures to be reviewed and updated.

The guidance outlined covers the following Courtauld premises which comprise two campuses and one hall of residence (the latter accommodating up to 64 students).

Vernon Square – Penton Rise – London – WC1X 9EW

Somerset House – Strand – London WC2R 0RN

2-4 Lancaster Place – London – WC2R 1HG (residential)

It does not extend to covering students living in University of London Intercollegiate Halls of Residence, third party operated purpose-built student accommodation, shared private rented accommodation in communities or within other private accommodation with their families.