Child Protection and Safety: What Private Music Teachers Need to Know

Image Credit: Smart Piano
Graham Strahle
| March 24, 2019

With growing societal concerns surrounding child safety and protection, it is important to reinforce how paramount it is for private music teachers to be aware of, and adopt good practices, when it comes to teaching children. Unfortunately, it is becoming all too common that cases of child abuse and sex offending are being reported, some of which involve music teachers. Knowing one’s responsibilities as a teacher, and being aware of what constitutes professional practice in the teaching environment, must of course take the highest priority.

So whether the teacher comes into a school to take lessons, or teaches from home, there are things to continually to bear in mind. It is as much about taking all reasonable steps to safeguard one’s own professional reputation.

Schools, preschools and children’s centres will have procedures in place that require staff and volunteers to undergo appropriate training in child protection. Other organisations, including independent music schools and academies, are required under the law to provide child safe environments. As a teacher in these places one obviously needs to be aware of all such requirements as apply.

For teachers who conduct their teaching privately, whether at home or perhaps at a school in an arrangement struck up with the staff and principal, the situation is different. Police checks will probably be all that is required, but most likely no mandatory notification training or training in child safety. Sports coaches and in-school tutors face a similar situation.

For teachers who teach from home or a private studio, it is different again. To be listed as a teacher on a professional music teachers’ register, or to gain membership of a music teachers’ professional body, may only require submitting one’s qualifications, CV and perhaps references, although attendance at professional development and in-service workshops is sometimes encouraged. It is important to be aware, however, that the same responsibilities of duty of care towards children exist in these contexts.

Adopting responsible, safe practices is again paramount. Visibility, for example, is important. Teaching in rooms or areas of a building that permit easy visibility from parents or other teachers and students makes abundant sense. In home-based teaching, the teacher may or may not wish parents to sit in on the class. Not all teachers like this – see here why one piano teacher, Elissa Milne, in Melbourne, thinks it is a good idea. In any case, it also makes sense to discuss this ahead with the parents, and consider their point of view.

Practices to adopt include a no-touch policy. Even if this involves simply helping to correct a child’s hand position on a violin, piano or other instruments, other equally effective ways can be found to do this.

Avoiding excessively familiar conversation and excessive flattering with the student is important, as are dispensing special favours, sharing on digital forums and social networking sites, and leaving students unsupervised. Teachers in the public education system are required to follow guidelines such as these, so it is perfectly reasonable to adopt them in private teaching.

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