Presidents Blog 20/8/2021

Still, more governance, and I am having some Annual Leave before the new Academic year starts...


Presidents Blog

This week started with my smallest monster turning 9. He is cricket-obsessed so it seemed fitting for him to spend his whole birthday playing cricket. The team that he plays for had their Youth day and celebrated turning 175. The OU Students Association can’t boast being around for that long – yet! But next year we do celebrate our 50th birthday, something to be really excited about.

It has, however, been a strange week. When I first started being a rep, I heard about David Humble as his reputation went before him. He was one of those people who was passionate about what happened at the University and how that affected students; his involvement with the Association went back many years. I had seen comments he had made in forum posts and built up a picture in my mind of a fairly fearsome person that I have to admit I was worried about meeting. Turns out, he was really nice and really helpful in helping me to understand some of the things that had gone on before my time. I really appreciated that he shared his knowledge with me. Unfortunately, we heard this week that David has sadly passed away. This is a great loss to us as an Association and to all those who he knew. We have put a statement up on our website and in due course, there will be a further tribute to him on The Hoot. 

In addition to this, we, unfortunately, had to announce the resignation of our STEM rep, Katie MacFarlane this week. I know what a difficult decision this has been for her, so it was with sadness that I accepted her resignation. She has been a valued member of our team and we all wish her well in her future. 

Monday started, as most do, meeting with Ian (Deputy President) to discuss what was coming up and things that had gone on since we last met. We discussed some of the comments made on social media around the announcement of our governance review and how we were going to respond. I then met with Beth Metcalf (Director of Membership Services) and Beth Yearsley (from Nottingham University) to plan our Student Leadership ‘Away Day’ at the beginning of September. I am really energised about what we are going to be sharing with each other given the exciting year that we have coming up, especially as we have new members of the team now to get involved! Beth and Dan (Director of Engagement) and I then discussed governance reforms FAQ’s for the website. If you have any questions about what is happening with our governance reforms or FAQ’s please have a look at the website. Reiss Miller is going to be starting as the Project Manager at the end of the month for the 50th birthday celebrations and Conference. We met just to check in and make sure that we get plenty of meetings planned into the diary – mostly as “a just in case” because of how manic my diary becomes! We also discussed LinkedIn as I am just getting going with it and trying to work out what to do – I am not overly tech-savvy!! Next was the launch of a new and innovative way of working for the Association and all of the Student Support Teams in the University. Between the various members of those teams, they have created a collaboration space on Microsoft Teams site to help us all better understand and share information that will help us and the Student Support Teams support students. I am really happy to see this come about as I know it will help everyone involved improve outcomes for our students. Later on Monday, Beth Metcalf and I met with Dave Hall (University Secretary) to discuss some really sensitive issues that are affecting both our students and staff at the University. It is a tricky and complex issue, but it is good to know that we are all working to put the relevant support into place. I then caught up with Beth to discuss our next steps on this issue.

Tuesday began with a working group who are looking at unpicking some of the assessment changes that happened last year due to the pandemic. Most of this work is about good communication with staff and with students to make sure that everyone is aware of the changes that are going to be taking place. I then had the pleasure of being involved in the WELS teaching awards judging panel. I have done this for the past couple of years and I love it. It is always so inspiring to see how pedagogy can be adapted and be so innovative to inspire and encourage the students that engage with it. I then had a conversation with Dan about how to make a video using Instagram – I am learning so much techie stuff this week!! Gareth (faculty rep for FBL) then held a meeting with the other faculty reps to discuss the Associate Lecturer Contract Change board and how they will be involved as some of the work then goes out to the faculties. When we have a Student Leadership Team meeting every three months there is a lot of planning that goes into it. As our next one is in October, the planning starts now. I met with Gabby (Head of Executive Support and Staff Welfare for the Association) to start the discussions. We talked about the possible papers and standing items that would be presented and who we wanted to present a session to the team. Gabby will now meet with Rob (Chief Exec) to get his thoughts and start to plan it. Usually, we all meet together but due to annual leave that hasn’t been possible. I have been on a group that has been discussing some issues around compliance in an area from the Office for Students and the Northern Ireland Department of the Economy. I met with Samantha Sidney, who has been heading this group to review the key points and to check I had access to the staff policies I needed to review. This is to make sure they were consistent with the equivalent student policies. Susan Stewart is the Director of the OU in Scotland and, like other Nation directors, we meet from time to time to catch up; today was the day with Susan. We discussed progress on an Association rep for Scotland, the governance review, and how that will affect things, including how Scotland can get involved in our 50th celebrations. I always feel really motivated when I talk to any of the Nation directors and staff from the Nation offices, I love the partnership work that we have with them. Sue McCabe met with me to discuss the focus groups that we are organising for the governance review, I am looking forward to students getting engaged in this process and seeing what they say to us. As we have had a complaint come in this week I met with Ian and Beth, as per our procedures, to discuss the next steps.

Wednesday morning, I met with Ali Neary to continue the discussion that Beth and I had with Dave Hall. Allan Blake (Chair of our Board of Trustees) and I have regular meetings; today we caught up about various matters that pertain to the board and I shared with him the details of the meeting with Dave Hall. My final meeting of the day was with Sue McCabe just to wrap up final details around focus groups and to remind me of when I was leading the focus groups!! In between my meetings today I have been reviewing 3 different policies, an annual look at student’s engagement for the university, judging the teaching awards, student dignity and respect wind up document and making videos to help point students towards the survey, focus groups, and how else they can contribute to the governance review consultation – putting to use what I had learned about making videos on Instagram earlier in the week. I have also been engaging with comments on Twitter around our governance review. 

I am now going to take some Annual Leave until the beginning of September. I need to recharge before the new Academic starts and work ramps up. I am looking forward to starting on my next Masters’ module, Educational Leadership; exploring Strategy. I also need to spend some time with my monsters, whoever said that boys are noise with dirt on them couldn’t have hit the nail on the head any firmer!! 

I hope you all have a great rest of your summer; I will be back at the beginning of September with the next blog. See you then 😊


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Sarah P Jones

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