A decision has been made by the University to support PEC form submissions for dependents of student parents, guardians and carers.
Students with caring responsibilities were not guaranteed to be considered for mediations if their forms detailed circumstances relating to their dependents that affected their studies. Previously, there was inconsistency in the way university schools would handle these instances; Sarah Craggs, the Welfare and Equality Officer, stated that “some would not accept PEC forms if the student themselves weren’t ill, even though their academic interests would be impacted.”
It was found that the Personal Extenuating Circumstances Policy had no mention of what to do in regards to dependents, or indeed a checklist of circumstances in which PEC forms would be allowed. Holly Waddell, the Student Parents, Guardians and Carers Officer, highlighted that these affected students were not being represented fairly.
"I am very proud to see changes being made to improve the experiences of students with caring responsibilities"
Holly Waddell, NUSU Student Parents, Guardians and Carers Officer
Backed by Craggs and Rowan South, the Education Officer, in a PEC working group that took place at the end of November, it was decided that this was unacceptable.
The policy is now being updated to ensure that PEC forms relating to issues with dependents will be considered on merit, with the same weight granted to them as with personal student circumstances. Students who submit reasonable evidence, for instance a note from a doctor or childcare, would meet the criteria for a successful PEC application. It’s a victory hard won for a subset of students often forgotten by wider university policy.
Craggs made it known that “there are always more improvements needed for parents and carers, but I think that the university is making great steps now to represent this demographic of students.” She noted that Holly Waddell was working tirelessly to ensure fairness and support for students with such responsibilities, including holding more childcare opportunities through sessions at the Hatton Gallery.
"While we have agreed to clarify the PEC guidance for next year as a way of helping students who are parents and/or carers balance their studies with their caring responsibilities, the precise wording still requires approval”
Newcastle University spokesperson
Waddell, NUSU's Student Parents, Guardians and Carers Officer, commented “I am very pleased to see that changes are being made to PEC procedures to make it easier for Parents and Carers to submit PEC forms and therefore have proper and adequate support. This is an issue I have been campaigning over my time in post and I am very proud to see changes being made to improve the experiences of students with caring responsibilities.”
South was also pleased, adding: “It’s great that Student Parents and Carers now have adequate considerations in the PEC Policy, it ensures they are not disadvantaged in their learning which is something we are delighted to have achieved”.
A Newcastle University spokesperson said: “We review the PEC guidelines regularly to ensure that they remain helpful for both students and staff. However, while we have agreed to clarify the PEC guidance for next year as a way of helping students who are parents and/or carers balance their studies with their caring responsibilities, the precise wording still requires approval.”