Presidents Blog 13/8/2021

School Holiday peace and lots of governance stuff again!

Hi all,

Last week ended in a chaotic manner. We are getting ready to have a garden office built to replace our garage and up until last Friday we still had a garage with a K reg Mazda in it – this had been in there for 10 years and was dead!! I had arranged for that to be picked up Friday afternoon and my friend popped round for a cuppa on Friday morning to help me put the garage on a selling site. By 3.30 Friday afternoon, my car was being taken away and my garage had been bought and was starting to be dismantled – it did take all that evening and most of the rest of the next day but by the end of Saturday it was gone! We now have a rough start date for the office at the beginning of September!! 

So this week has been a bit of a funny one. For the first two days the monsters were everywhere and raiding my cupboards like food was going out of fashion, the latter half of the week it has been bliss!! They have been playing cricket from 10-5 each day!! I have been able to focus and get on with what I need to and also know that when I put food in the cupboard it will stay there, at least until 5!! I’m currently writing this waiting patiently to hear how my niece did in her GCSEs. I have everything crossed. I was also supposed to get my hair done but due to Covid that has been postponed, again! 

It has been a week of governance again this week amongst lots of other things.

Monday I met with Ian, deputy president, to discuss the week ahead and what we were both up to. I then went to a meeting to discuss the OU’s response to an Office for Students and Northern Ireland Department for the Economy’s question around policies and procedures around sexual harassment (I wish there was an acronym for this!!) I then met with Kate Dungate, head of Digi-comms, and we had a discussion around plans for our new website and also about what, as a team, Digi-comms were most proud of this year. Each quarter the Association has a meeting with the team from the Government and External Affairs in the OU. We discuss any upcoming legislation that might be affecting students and where we can have input and we also share some of what we have been up to. This time we discussed our 50th next year, minimum entry requirements, lifelong loan entitlements, and the skills bill, and also monitoring of the upcoming freedom of speech bill, which should reach the bill committee in September. I then had a regular catch-up with Fanni, VP Engagement, as she is going on leave at the end of this week and needed to catch me up on a few bits. Monday evening saw our monthly student leadership huddle. There was much to discuss from the launch of the new Individual representation service that you can find out more about here, to the upcoming implementation plan for our governance review. 

Tuesday started with a round-up of all the work that has been going on over the last year with student dignity and respect. It was great to see what lessons we have learned and what work was going to go on. If you want to find out more about Student Dignity and Respect, there is a really helpful video and links here. I then met with Beth, Director of membership services, to discuss an email that had come in. It took quite a long time to get a response worked out as it was quite a tricky one to balance. I met with Jo Dyer, from the University Secretary’s office, to discuss having students on various bits of the AL contract discussions. It is great to have student reps in lots of different places in the OU even if it is mostly to share information. Sarah Mander is on the education, childhood, youth, and sport student voice group and we meet every so often to discuss this and other things, we also discussed briefly some of the things we could be doing in student voice week. Did you know that student voice week is in November?? I then held some conversations with other reps before having another conversation with Beth to nail down the final version of the response. This then got sent before I logged off for the day.

Wednesday I had catch-ups with Matt, VP Admin, around governance things, Gareth, Faculty of Business and law rep, around the AL contract meetings, Fanni, VP Engagement, around Student Voice week, and I also had a great meeting with the Community team as well. In between, I have been reviewing governance communications, surveys, and documents around behavioural governance. I also met with Graham Rimmer to discuss amongst other things what I am studying in October.

Thursday has been a day of reading as well. I started off with reviewing a paper that is going to Education Committee, reading documents around Disclosure checks, and also looking at more behavioural governance. The disclosure checks working group was my first meeting followed by a meeting with Liz Marr, Pro-vice Chancellor of Students, and others to talk about Academic Conduct and essay mills. There has been a huge increase in Academic misconduct across the higher education sector and some of that is down to the rise of essay mills. Some of this is down to students not understanding the reason why good academic practice is important. Some of it is also just not knowing how and where to reference. All my own Work is an Open Learn tool to help with understanding the why and how of referencing. It also has links to other very useful tools. The OU Library has some great resources that students can access. I then met with Sue and Allan from the staff team and varying discussions were held around student voice week and the governance review. 

I hope that you have all had a great week and I have everything crossed that the weather will improve for the weekend as the monsters have another full day of cricket on Sunday and my youngest monster will turn 9!! Enjoy your weekend everyone and I will see you next week 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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