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Returning home for Christmas 2020

Students outside accommodation building

Following the government announcement of plans to allow students to return home for the Christmas break, BCU is opening two Covid-19 testing sites on campus to travel home safely. Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about testing and the travel window, along with links to find out more information can be found below.

As ever, the safety of our community is our top priority. We will provide more updates as the Government issues further guidance.

Testing on campus for students

What tests are the University providing for students?

Birmingham City University is opening two asymptomatic Covid-19 testing sites on campus. The sites will offer lateral flow device (LFD) tests to eligible students, which can give results within an hour.

Can anyone take a test?

All students currently staying in a term-time address that is different to their home address will be eligible to book a test. This decision will allow the University to prioritise students travelling across the UK during the travel window, which will help to minimise the risk of transmission.

Tests sites will only be open to students who aren’t showing any Covid-19 symptoms. If you are showing symptoms, book a NHS test as soon as possible at your nearest test site. NHS test sites are open seven days a week.

Why should I take a test?

As the LFD test can detect levels of the virus on people who aren’t experiencing symptoms, the results could help prevent the possibility of you passing the virus to others without knowing. By taking the test, you will help to minimise transmission to your friends and family when travelling home for the Christmas break.

Do I have to take a test?

No, the tests are not compulsory. But if you choose not to take a test, you should follow government advice before returning to the family home as you may risk passing the virus to anyone you come in contact with, including your family and friends.

What does the test involve?

Once you enter the test site, you will be given a sealed sterile swab. You will be asked to enter a testing area to use the swab to collect your own sample from your nose and throat.

After you’ve used the swab, place it back into the extraction tube for it to be tested by a staff member to determine the result.

Staff members will be available on site, equipped with the appropriate personal protective equipment, to guide you through the process.

How accurate is the test?

LFD tests are very accurate; however, on a large scale there is the possibility of receiving a positive result even if you do not have coronavirus (false positive result).

All students who test negative with the LFD test must book a slot for a second test three days after the first test for improved accuracy.

When can I take a test?

Testing sites will open on Monday 30 November for two weeks. Opening hours will be 8.30am to 5.30pm.

When booking a slot, you will be able to choose a preferred date and time to fit around your timetable. If you have a negative result, second tests should be booked around three days after your first test.

How do I book a test?

Eligible students will be contacted with information about how to book a slot. You must book a test before arriving at the site.

Please keep an eye on your BCU email if you are a student living in a term-time address that is different to your home address.

Where are the test sites?

There will be two test sites:

  • C087, Curzon Building, City Centre Campus
  • SCT120 (sports hall), Seacole Building, City South Campus

Do not attend either site without a booking confirmation.

What should I bring?

When you come to the test site, you must bring your booking confirmation and your mobile phone as you will need to register with the NHS to get your results.

If you do not have a mobile phone, please print your booking confirmation and tell staff when you arrive that you do not have a phone.

How and when will I get my results?

Results will be sent to you by SMS and/or email depending on the information you provided when registering with the NHS system on arrival at the centre.

You can expect to receive the results very quickly – usually within an hour.

Will the University know my result?

No. You receive your result directly – the University will not be told whether you have a positive or a negative test. Therefore, to ensure we can trace any close contacts, if you test positive, it is important for you to let us know using the Notify system.

What happens if I test positive?

If you test positive, you should self-isolate immediately for 14 days and book a confirmatory test through the NHS Test and Trace programme. You can book a test online here.

You will also need to notify the University of your results the Notify system.

What happens if I test negative?

If you test negative with your first test, you should book a second test to confirm the result. You can use the same booking process to take a second test.

If you test negative with your second test, you should arrange to travel home within 24 hours to reduce the risk of contracting the virus before travelling.

What happens if my flat mate tests positive?

If a close contact tests positive from an LFD test on campus, you will be instructed to self-isolate. However, in this circumstance only, you may travel to your family home to complete this period of isolation – but you must travel safely, by private car where possible, and wear a face covering and maintain social distancing.

What support is available if I test positive?

If you are required to self-isolate, the University will provide a package of support for you including:

  • Guidance documents - Dedicated guidance documents to help you understand the NHS, navigate health services, access BCU services and support and stay well during your isolation period.
  • Wellbeing check-ins - Regular wellbeing check-ins by phone, e-mail or text message, according to your preferred method and frequency (daily, twice weekly or weekly).
  • Wellbeing services - Access to mental health, wellbeing or disability services following assessment of need.
  • Supermarket vouchers - Free, non-means tested supermarket vouchers to purchase food and essential supplies from online shops.
  • Financial advice - You will have access to financial advice from specialist advisers including access to additional means-tested financial support.
  • Academic support - You will have access to support from academic teams with online digital materials and pastoral support from personal tutors who may advise you on resetting coursework hand-in dates.
  • Students’ Union advice - You will have access to Students’ Union free and impartial advice, including academic advice and support with accommodation issues.
  • Online social activities - You will have access to Students’ Union social activities online to keep you entertained and connected during your self-isolation.

Travelling home

When can I travel home if I live away from the family home?

The current national lockdown is due to end on Wednesday 2 December. The Government has announced that any students who need to travel from a term-time address (university or privately rented accommodation) to their family home will be able to travel between Thursday 3 December and Wednesday 9 December when the lockdown restrictions are lifted. The Government has asked universities to make sure all in-person teaching is finished by Wednesday 9 December to allow students to make their way home if they need to do so.

If I don’t go home in the ‘travel window’ but wish to go home later, what guidelines must I follow?

If you choose not to get tested before 9 December, then you are advised to restrict contact with others either before or after returning home to minimise risk of transmission.

Can I move from my term-time address to my family home before 3 December?

The current national lockdown restrictions, introduced by the government to reduce transmission of COVID-19, restrict non-essential travel.

This means that you should not leave your term-time accommodation during this period, except for specific purposes, for example, to travel to University for face-to-face teaching.

This can be especially tough for students but avoiding moving between households can help to protect you and your family by reducing the risk of transmission if you decide to go home in December.

Will I have to self-isolate when I get home in December?

You will only be required to take further measures at home (such as self-isolation) if you are informed by NHS Test and Trace that you need to self-isolate or a member of your term-time household has symptoms. 

You will need to follow any local guidance, keep social contact to a minimum, and take personal responsibility for your actions, to keep yourself and your family as safe as possible.  

I’ve already booked my tickets outside of the travel window – what should I do?

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that students who had already booked train tickets to travel home for Christmas before the announcement of the student travel window can rebook their tickets to travel between 3 to 9 December without paying additional fees. Students who bought an Advance ticket before 11 November for a date of travel after 9 December can change their tickets to travel during the window without paying a change of journey fee of up to £10.

Flexible tickets such as Off Peak or Anytime can already be rebooked to another date without payment of an admin fee.

Does this guidance apply to international students?

International students planning to stay with relatives in the UK will face the same travel window as home students.

The travel window does not mean students MUST go home. Students can stay at university and follow local guidance. The travel window is mainly aimed at students who were already planning to spend Christmas with family in different parts of the UK.

When will in-person teaching end?

The University's last week of in-person (or face-to-face) teaching was already the week beginning Monday 7 December. This will now finish by Wednesday 9 December. Students should continue to check their timetables for details of all in-person teaching.

Online classes will continue as planned until the end of term and students should therefore continue to attend these from either their term-time accommodation or the place where they plan to spend Christmas.

Any face-to-face classes which were due to take place after Wednesday 9 December will either be moved online or moved to next semester. Students will not miss any scheduled teaching. It is likely that assessments during this period have already been moved online and further IT support will be provided to students, if needed.

What are the arrangements for teaching in January?

Our current approach to teaching and learning will continue in January, and you should therefore return to Birmingham unless advised otherwise.

Any changes to teaching arrangements in January will be communicated to students via email.

I already live at my family home and commute to university. Will the changes affect me?

Government guidance requires that in-person teaching ends by Wednesday 9 December for all students.

The University will remain open for students to access quiet study spaces including library and social learning spaces and IT equipment as normal. Exact opening times will be confirmed soon.

What is the guidance for students on placements?

Students who are currently on placement and considered an essential worker should remain in their placement unless told otherwise by course staff.

If have questions about this, contact your tutor. Once your placement finishes, you can then travel home for the holidays, following the public health guidance and as per government guidance on self-isolation should this be necessary. Many students on placements will already have access to priority testing.

Students on a non-clinical placement due to end after Wednesday 9 December will be updated as soon as the University knows more about how this affects their placement.

Can I stay in my university accommodation over the break?

Students can stay in university-run accommodation. If a student lives in accommodation provided by a private lettings company or landlord, they will need to check the terms of their lease with them.

If students wish to stay in either university-run accommodation or privately rented accommodation (not their family home) rather than travel to their family home, they should make the University aware of this by filling in this form on iCity.

We are asking students to do this so that we can ensure that we provide support to all of our students over the Christmas period.

International travel

Can I travel home internationally for the Christmas break?

International students are able to return to their home country, subject to any restrictions in place at your destination.

You should check any restrictions in the country you are travelling to, and whether you will need to undertake a period of self-isolation in that country.

You should be aware that travel advice may change while you are away and you may need to self-isolate on return to the UK.

Can I get at a test at the University prior to travelling internationally?

Yes, students currently staying in a term-time address that is different to their home address will be eligible to book a test. This includes international students planning to return home during the break.

I need proof of a negative test in order to travel home internationally – can the University supply this?

Some countries now require evidence that you have not tested positive for Covid-19 before you can board a plane to travel there.

Prior to planning your travel, we recommend contacting your national embassy for advice and information on travelling home. You will also need to contact your airline to find out what is required from passengers in terms of certification when entering your home country.

The University is offering lateral flow device (LFD) tests, and you will receive your results soon afterwards – usually within an hour. The University is not informed of your result and can therefore not provide evidence of a negative test.

The tests conducted by the University on campus may not meet the requirements necessary for international travel – you will need to check this with your airline or embassy.

How does Brexit affect me returning home?

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss student who intends to leave the UK for the Christmas break and return after 31 December 2020, we recommend you apply to EU Settlement Scheme, if you have not already done so. We would also recommend taking evidence of your pre-settled/settled status, and other proof of residence such as a tenancy agreement, with you when you travel.

Will I need a test when I return to the UK?

We recommend continuing to check the travel advice for the UK and the country that you’re travelling to. You may need to self-isolate on your return to the UK. If so, we will continue to support your learning remotely.

Can I stay in my university accommodation over the break?

Students can stay in university-run accommodation. If a student lives in accommodation provided by a private lettings company or landlord, they will need to check the terms of their lease with them.

If students wish to stay in either university-run accommodation or privately rented accommodation (not their family home) rather than travel to their family home, they should make the University aware of this by filling in this form on iCity.

We are asking students to do this so that we can ensure that we provide support to all of our students over the Christmas period.