COVID Vaccines bring us closer

A blog written by DR ARTHUR hOSIE – Course Director for Biological Science

The COVID pandemic has brought many challenges for all throughout this past year, not least isolation. Aside from the impact on people’s health and the devastating loss of loved ones, the impact of separation from family and friends, in order to contain the spread of the SARS-COV-2 (the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19), has been hard to endure. But in the UK, there is a hope that perhaps we are beginning to bring COVID-19 under control and once again we may be fully reunited with those who remain. This is due, at least in part, to the success of the COVID-19 vaccine development and delivery – a victory based on years of collaborative scientific research and delivery through the NHS. The COVID vaccines are bringing us closer.

The speed of the COVID vaccine development was due to building on past research. By January 7th, 2020 the virus that became known as SARS-COV-2 was isolated and only 5 days later the genome of this virus was published enabling vaccine developers around the world to begin work on the COVID vaccines. Using information gleaned from past research on related viruses, they designed the vaccine components most likely to provide a protective response and incorporated these into previously established delivery platforms. The swift progress through the clinical trials was enabled by the rapid recruitment of volunteers in sufficient numbers to ensure the required number of participants, and the prevalence of COVID enabled the impact of the vaccines to be evaluated. The data was rapidly but thoroughly scrutinised by the regulators to ensure the efficacy and safety of the vaccines was established. Therefore, we can have confidence in these vaccines, which have already saved many lives. Although extremely rare side-effects are now suspected with some of these vaccines, the benefits of these vaccines are beyond doubt. The COVID vaccination programme in the UK has happened at pace and a very significant proportion of the population is now protected. However, a very significant proportion of our society is still vulnerable also. Therefore, for a time we need to continue other public health measures, including social distancing, wearing of masks indoors & in crowded places, hand hygiene, and regular testing and isolating when positive. There is growing evidence that the vaccines not only prevent severe COVID, but also decrease transmission. Therefore, in the coming months we will reach a threshold required to achieve herd immunity, then we can ease restrictions more. However, there are too many unknown variables to be certain when this may be achieved. We also need to be aware that risks remain – not least the threat of variants that may escape the protection the vaccines provide. Therefore, we need to be wary of global travel and the risk of introducing such variants into the UK. Until the international prevalence of the SARS-COV-2 is greatly reduced, this threat will remain. The solution is to ensure an adequate supply and delivery of the COVID vaccines worldwide – something that needs greater attention, and indeed action, from governments.

This week (April 24th to 30th) is World Immunisation Week, an annual event in which we focus on the benefits of vaccination. Together with improved hygiene and antimicrobial chemotherapy, vaccinations have transformed human and animal health, saving countless lives, and decreasing suffering throughout the world. Although this is true, it is sadly also true that health inequalities remain. We must seek to ensure these benefits of vaccines are available to all and that none are left behind due to mistrust in vaccines, due to lack of access to affordable vaccines or due to vaccines not being available for dominant infections in their location. We need people willing to step up to the challenge, to lead and innovate to ensure pandemic preparedness, but also to overcome the avoidable infections that remain commonplace in some communities. We need biological and biomedical scientists to lead further research, appropriately funded in collaboration with the public and private sectors; we need appropriately supported healthcare workers to deliver the vaccination programmes; and we need the leaders of tomorrow to be ready to make the difficult public health choices for the benefit of our global community. The theme of this year’s world immunisation week is “vaccines bring us closer”: let us put vaccines fully to work to make this so. Not just regarding COVID, but improving the health of everyone, everywhere throughout life.

Staffs Hosts SEFDEY Conference

A blog written by Dominique Powell – Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies and Education; and Francesca Brown-Cornwall – Lecturer (TEF) in Education.

On Saturday 20th March, Dominique Powell and Fran Brown-Cornwall hosted the SEFDEY (Sector-Endorsed Foundation Degrees in Early Years professional association) Conference via SU Teams live events. The conference brought together tutors, students and professionals alike for a day of CPD, guest speakers and student awards.

The theme of the conference was ‘Being Unique in the Early Years’ with three esteemed keynotes:

Sandra El Gemayel – Keynote Address

The childhood and play of young child refugees: Case studies from the Northern Suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon.

Penny Borkett

Partnerships with parents and families of Children with SEND.

Aaron Bradbury

Gender and Masculinity in the Early Years.

Our very own Fran Brown-Cornwall presented an outline of her PhD project: ‘Higher Order Thinking and the Smile and Laughter Response in Two-Year Old Children’; inviting participants for the next stage of her research. You can also take part in Fran’s research here.

Finally, a huge thanks to Matt Coombe-Boxall for this support from the TEL team ensuring that this was a highly successful event with 112 attendees signing up.

Education Staff team up with The Makaton Charity to provide SEN tutor support

In early 2020 some of our Staff and Students from Education and Early Childhood Studies engaged with Makaton Tutor Amanda Glennon to deliver Makaton on Campus. As a result of the beneficial impact of this training Amanda Tayler, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies wanted to offer Makaton training to students in 2021. However with a UK lockdown in place creativity was needed and thus the sessions were hosted online. In February 2021, Amanda Glennon and a team of Makaton tutors delivered an intensive month of Level 1 Makaton training. 


The feedback from our students in regard to these sessions has been overwhelmingly positive with commendations made to the smooth delivery of the sessions, the teaching approaches used and the knowledge of the tutoring team. 

This training forms a key cornerstone of how we build the future of education here at Staffordshire University – regardless of which area of Education our students choose to pursue. 

If you want to read more from the perspective of Amanda Tayler and the Makaton Tutors, read more: Here 

Royal Society of Biology commends Bio Science Courses

It is one thing to think the course you offer is excellent.  It is entirely another to know this for a fact.

The courses we design and deliver have always had our students and their future at the heart.  We work with employers and industry experts to ensure that what we deliver is relevant, of high quality, and will give our students the edge when they graduate.  We believe in our courses, we believe in their quality and we believe that they will provide the biological scientists of the future (that could be you!) with the professional training that they need to become highly successful scientists.  But it is not enough to believe it – we want to prove it.

Previously, we have put ourselves through the rigorous process of degree accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) – and we have been successful.  A real measure of the quality of the programmes that we offer.  But this is not a badge you get once and can keep forever, oh no, this badge is earned, and you must continue to earn the right to display it proudly.

It was a cold morning in November when we were prepared to showcase our programmes to an expert panel from the RSB.  Ready demonstrate why our Awards deserve to keep the accolade ‘accredited by the RSB’.  Luckily, due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, no one had to actually face the cold!  We all sat in our own living rooms or at kitchen tables ready to discuss and explain what we do for our students.  Some of our current undergraduate students also met with the panel – the accreditation team want to make sure what we say is backed up by student experience.  The event took the whole day, our programme was scrutinised and we were questioned about all that we do.  As the day drew to a close, we felt that things had gone well, but we didn’t know until the final report came in….

Now we celebrate – the RSB has re-accredited all of our courses!  And not only did we get reaccredited but we were also commended for some of the specific points of our programme; 

  • The incorporation of global issues within teaching which ensures students have a global awareness of their field of study.
  • The implementation of cross level working and interaction (through Global Challenges) which enables students to have a real experience of team working which is highly desired by employers.
  • The active involvement, alongside the academics, of a highly skilled and experienced technical team in the teaching of undergraduate students.
  • That all students have the opportunity to undertake a lab-based research project as their capstone experience.
  • That all students undertake a compulsory work placement gaining valuable employability skills that will support their future careers.
  • That all students participate in the GradEx exhibition giving an opportunity to highlight their capstone experience to potential employers.


We are proud, we are happy, and we know our courses are excellent – and they are all accredited by the Royal Society of Biology.