In this article we will look at some of the practical considerations to build-in to your online tuition practice around safeguarding and child protection. If you are approaching teaching online for the first time, this can seem like a daunting task so let us first establish what is already built-in to your practice in the physical world:

  • Have you undertaken child protection training – either through a local authority, the NSPCC / Educare or another recognised provider?
  • Do you have an enhanced DBS certificate with barred list, registered on the update service?
  • Do you have a policy on safeguarding and child protection in place for your private teaching practice OR are you aware and do you follow the policy of your local authority, music service, or private music school?
  • Are you a member of a professional association / trade union such as the ISM or The Musician’s Union?
  • Do you know what to do if you have concerns that a young person is being abused / at risk of being abused?
  • Are the principles of safeguarding, protecting yourself and the student built into your professional in-person practice? For example, do you work in an “open door” environment where parents and colleagues are encouraged to enter a teaching space at any time?
  • Do you keep a firm barrier between your professional and personal life when you are working with a student and communicating with their family?
  • Have you written or adopted, and subsequently adhered to a policy on GDPR? Do you store and process information about your students in a safe and secure manner?

If you can answer yes to most or all of these questions then working online is not a question of starting again, it is a matter of converting your in-person practice to the online environment.

If the above questions present some gaps in your current practice, some further research and adaptations may be required to ensure both the safety and well-being of your students and yourself.

What follows is a practical checklist of the most salient points for safeguarding and child protection.

Parental Involvement – From the impact on learning outcomes, to simply being there to turn systems off and on again, parental involvement gives your lesson a solid and safe foundation. Many online terms and conditions insist that parents are present at least at the beginning and ending of a lesson and are also in the student’s home throughout the online session.

Account Security and communication – Consider the platform you will use for the online lesson, it’s personal data and account requirements and how you will keep safe both your own personal information and that of your student.

Preparing your Environment – A plain white background, or a tasteful music specific background work very well. The goal here is that the background to your online persona is a) not distracting and b) reveals nothing about your personal life, This applies sonically as well as visually, and also applies just as much to the students background.

Preparing Your Device – If you do not have a dedicated device for professional work, consider what steps you need to take to switch your computer, phone or tablet from personal to professional mode. Do not disturb mode and the shutting down of all applications and programs not pertinent to the lesson is a great starting point, particularly if you’ll be sharing a screen during the lesson.

These points equally apply to the student side. You have the right to work in a safe environment. An environment which you consider to be free of risk of harm or allegation. Many teachers make use of a simple checklist before they commence teaching.

  • Is my environment free of personal details / ambient noise / unnecessary distractions? Is my student’s environment the same?
  • Am I appropriately dressed for professional work? Is my student appropriately dressed?
  • Is my device setup and ready for professional work and in do not disturb mode? Have I asked my student to do the same?
  • Has the parent of the student fulfilled their obligations in terms of present during the opening of the lesson?

If the answer to all of these points is yes, we have a safe environment in which to begin teaching. If question marks remain, you are acting professionally if steps are taken to remedy any shortcomings before the lesson can begin.

The Recording of Lessons – Policies and approaches to the recording of online music lessons vary within the sector, and it is useful to consider the pros and cons within your teaching context. . On the positive side, having a clear record of what took place within a lesson should an allegation or a cause for concern arise. On the negative side, the questions about where this data (and a typical teaching week can generate a lot of data) will be stored, who has access to it, how long will it be stored and has the appropriate consent from all parties been granted before capture? The links below offer further advice on the question of recording online music lessons.

By considering the questions in this article, we hope you have a clearer understanding on the principles of safeguarding online and I hope that by converting your own established safeguarding principles for the physical world into the digital one, you are able to keep both your students and yourself, safe online.