Staff who teach are now starting to receive emails from Heads of School about the recovery of lost learning, so here are some reminders and some advice about what to do when you receive an email asking you to report how you will recover lost learning due to strike action.
This post is the text of an email sent to branch members 5 December 2022 by branch president Chloe Wallace. The post has been dated to the time of the email but was added to the website 16 December.
Receiving such an email is not something you should worry about. All Heads of School will have been instructed to gather this data – you should not interpret it as an act of hostility from your Head of School or something unique to your School. It happens every time we take strike action.
The reason why the data is gathered is because the Office for Students requires Universities to identify and recover any lost learning caused by strike action, and may impose fines if they do not. The OfS has become more demanding in terms of what they require, and this provides significant leverage for our negotiators. If, through this exercise, senior management can see how much learning has been lost and calculate how much will be lost if we are forced to escalate action after Christmas, that will put pressure on them to make an offer which is acceptable to us. It does not seem to me to be in our interests to delay the provision of this information, given that it is unlikely that any other method exists of senior management seeing immediately the disruption to teaching that has happened and given the urgency of the negotiations that are starting. In law, whether or not you are required to provide this information depends on whether doing so is a reasonable management instruction – that will depend on the circumstances, and in particular an instruction to respond in a very short period of time may not be reasonable for everyone. It is also unlikely to be reasonable to ask hourly paid staff to make any plans around the modules they teach on. In most cases, however it will be wise to respond to the email to make clear what teaching was lost.
However, you must not agree to do anything to recover lost learning which runs contrary to the Action Short of a Strike which we have been called to take. This is an essential part of our action and our leverage – easily as important, if not more so, that actually taking strike action.
You must not reschedule cancelled classes and you must not upload or otherwise provide any materials to replace lost content. In addition, it seems wise to say that you should not volunteer to do anything that is additional work – you are currently working to contract and refusing to do voluntary work. If your Head of School, for example, asks you to offer additional office hours or drop in hours, you should ask them to put in writing that they are instructing you to do so, and ask them to specify what tasks you should drop in order to make time for it. There is nothing to stop you reordering your syllabus, for example if the material that you would have taught during the strike is essential for students to understand what follows, but in that case you need to ensure that something is removed from the syllabus in its place, otherwise it is a form of rescheduling. If you are hourly paid you should not agree to take on additional paid hours to recover lost learning and should instead claim from the Fighting Fund for your lost pay.
Everyone’s teaching is different and it is impossible to provide a one size fits all response to the question. In most cases, however, it will not be possible to recover lost learning whilst undertaking ASOS, and in that case you should simply say that the learning lost will not be recovered. Do not feel that you have to take time thinking of creative solutions – just say no. If your HoS subsequently instructs you to do something additional that is not covered by ASOS (eg additional office hours), you should ask them to put it in writing and to specify what duties will be removed in order to allow you to do it.
UCU advice on declaring that you are taking part in ASOS is as follows (from the FAQ):
If you are asked about whether you are participating in ASOS you should respond only in terms of what action you have taken/are currently taking, but not answer about future intentions regarding ASOS. This will mean that university senior management will need to keep checking for confirmation as to whether you have participated in ASOS and what forms of ASOS you have participated in and when.
If you are asked directly whether you participated in ASOS in the past, or are participating in it now (whatever the timeframe, be it last week, yesterday, or today) you should respond truthfully, but you should not declare your intentions regarding future action.
My interpretation of this is that you do not need to justify your refusal to recover lost learning by stating that you are taking ASOS – the University, and thus Heads of School, already know that staff are likely to refuse to recover lost learning because they have been notified that UCU are taking ASOS and the forms which it will take. You are protected by the ballot from any disciplinary action for refusing to recover lost learning, and the University has not declared an intention to deduct pay for any form of ASOS. If you are directly asked whether you are taking ASOS, you should respond truthfully. If you are put under additional pressure from your Head of School or anyone else, speak to your local rep, or to me if you do not have a local rep.
President, Leeds University UCU
This page was last updated on 16 December 2022