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Teaching Music during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Guidance for musicians who teach, following updated Government guidance, Autumn 2020

The advice on the following pages covers:

Access to Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will depend on your employment status. Find out more on the Government’s website.

Please contact your regional office or email teachers@theMU.org if your education work has been affected and your particular circumstances have not been addressed by the announcements so far.

The latest government guidance on Covid-19 must always inform your decisions as to what activity is allowed and appropriate. Guidance is produced by the UK Government (for England) and by the devolved governments for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Links for all relevant guidance are highlighted throughout the information below. The advice regarding Risk Assessments under England is also relevant to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when face-to-face teaching is allowed. Be aware that there may be issues related to local lockdowns which you may have to consider.

Returning to face-to-face teaching in England

Our advice for members who teach relates to the Government guidance on working safely in the performing arts during Covid-19, guidance for full opening: schools, and working safely in out of school settings during Covid-19. Below we aim to cover as many scenarios as possible in order that you are able to make a decision about returning to face-to-face teaching, confident that you have practically considered all the issues in order that you minimise the risk to yourself and to your students.

The MU’s advice is for general guidance only and does not represent any instruction or encouragement to return to or begin work. The MU can accept no liability for the consequences of your decision, including any illness or other adverse impact.

Your MU Public Liability Insurance is valid provided you, and any venue in which you are working, are following the current government guidelines and subject otherwise to the MU’s PLI policy terms and conditions.

Neither the Government’s ‘rule of six’ social distancing guidance (September 2020) nor the local COVID alert levels (three-tier system, October 2020) should affect education work as long as all other relevant guidance is followed.

Teaching at home or in studios

If you are a private tutor and normally offer provision in your own home or another home this is now allowed under the updated guidance and your Public Liability Insurance is valid for this work.

It has been confirmed by the government that the teaching of singing, woodwind and brass instruments, including one-to-one tuition, can take place as long as the relevant guidance is followed.

If you are based in premises which have been closed for several weeks you should confirm that all health and safety compliance checks have been renewed.

You should carry out a revised Risk Assessment in line with HSE guidance, identifying protective measures. The aim of your Risk Assessment is to protect yourself, anyone else living in your household if you teach from home, and your students from harm and in particular to eliminate or minimise risks of Covid-19 transmission.

Your Risk Assessment needs to:

1. Identify what activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
2. Consider who might be at risk
3. Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
4. Act to remove the activity or situation or if that is not possible control or minimise the risk

See an example of a part-completed Risk Assessment for teaching work.

See a further example of a Risk Assessment template for teaching work.

Members are advised to draw up their own Risk Assessment based on any template that is most relevant to their work and setting.

The following areas need to be included in your Risk Assessment:

Social distancing

The current default remains two metres. Aim to maximise the distance between yourself and your students in the teaching room. Consider the route into the room for yourself and your students and make access as safe as possible.

Aim to keep any groups as small as possible, taking into account the space available.

The teaching space

Aim to have adequate ventilation in place, using natural ventilation whenever possible. Position students side-to-side or back-to-back (rather than face-to-face) if possible, and consider the use of barriers or screens.

Avoid any physical contact with the student throughout the time they are in your home.

Gloves may be advisable in some circumstances and masks can be considered if practical.


It is absolutely vital to ensure the highest cleanliness standards. Surfaces must be fully cleaned before and after sessions along with door handles, switches, plugs, any instruments used etc.

Toilets and wash basins must be cleaned before and after sessions (when used) with hand cleanser and sanitisers or wipes available in the teaching area (wipes to be disposed of in a foot pedal swing bin). It is advisable to carry hand sanitiser or wipes with you.


Usually the student will use only their own instrument. Do not share instruments, mouthpieces, reeds etc.

Where large instruments are used by the student in the lesson, such as pianos/keyboards/double bass etc, then strict cleanliness regimes are necessary.


Consider the issues surrounding students who are in vulnerable groups, including those with underlying health conditions and those over 70.

Check with students about their health and their situation at home and how they travelled to their lesson. Students should avoid public transport if possible.

Encourage students to pay for lessons using bank transfers to avoid cash transactions.

If the student is under 18 then always check details with the parents/guardian.

If you are teaching in other peoples’ homes then an agreement needs to be reached as to what is acceptable for both parties considering all the issues listed. A Risk Assessment will still need to be completed.

Managing arrival and departure times

Aim to schedule lessons so that there is time to clean the teaching room between students, as well as minimizing the risk of contact of students and any accompanying persons. Establish how students will enter and exit the premises.

Teaching in schools

All children and young people should now have returned to school in England. Visiting music teachers can teach in and move between schools as long as government guidance is followed. If you teach in a school, request to see a copy of the school’s Risk Assessment to make sure it addresses specifically the circumstances in which you work.

If you are not satisfied with a school’s Risk Assessment, or there is another reason why you cannot teach in school, raise this with the school or your line manager and ask if there are other options such as online teaching.

Read our information about instrumental and vocal online teaching as well rehearsing ensembles and choirs virtually.

Teaching in other educational establishments

If you are teaching in a space that someone else is responsible for then there needs to be a Covid-19 Risk Assessment in place along with an action plan to deal with all identifiable hazards.

The Risk Assessment should consider the following points:

  • Clear signage throughout the workplace to encourage at least one metre's social distancing. Areas should be marked using tape to clearly identify one-metre rules and an internal pedestrian one-way system for any aisles less than one metre with agreed flow.
  • Full cleaning of all touch points at least once a day and more regularly where required. Daily cleaning of all other areas. Full facilities for personal cleaning with instructions (incl. visual aids) on use and waste disposal facilities.
  • Provision of handwashing facilities and sanitisers particularly at entrances and exits.
  • Provision of adequate facilities (e.g. toilets, changing areas, rest areas).
  • Refreshment and rest areas chair numbers are limited to maintain one-metre control at all times.
  • Any air extraction or air conditioning in use has been individually risk assessed.
  • Where limited catering facilities are provided, food to be wrapped and only disposable cutlery and cups provided.
  • Rooms labelled to identify maximum number of people to respect social distancing requirements. Minimise the number of meeting rooms/spaces available where possible.
  • Provision of an isolation area where those showing symptoms or feeling unwell can wait until they are able to leave.
  • Staggered start and finish times to reduce contact at work and whilst travelling to and from work.
  • Controlled and limited access for people visiting or delivering to your place of work.
  • Management of deliveries to minimise contact with other people whilst loading and unloading. Access given for visitors/deliverers to handwashing facilities.

Additional considerations

Aim to minimise the joint handling of sheet music and possibly explore using personal phones/tablets etc.

The Government advises use of masks, face coverings and gloves in different situations (e.g. when using public transport). Gloves can protect against contact with surfaces in a work area; if masks are worn they need to be changed regularly and if not disposable, fully cleaned between use periods.

Ensembles and groups

In educational settings, choirs, bands and orchestras are permitted as long as government guidance is followed. Ensembles should play and/or sing outdoors if possible, or indoors with ventilation as described in the HSE air conditioning and ventilation guidance.

Pupils should be socially distanced and positioned back-to-back or side-to-side if possible, directing the air from wind and brass instruments away from other pupils.

Singing and wind/brass playing should not take place in large groups unless significant space and natural airflow is available for all present, including audiences. Performances should follow the DCMS performance arts guidance to minimise risk.

Teaching in Scotland

All schools have now returned in Scotland. The latest guidance can be found on the Scottish Government’s website. Key information for VMTs can be found in item 65 – movement between schools and 129 – scientific and medical advice.

Face-to-face teaching for private tutors is permitted, but the Scottish government remains more cautious than England about singing, wind and brass.

Singing is not currently permitted in face-to-face teaching, so we advise that singing teaching remains online for now. Wind and brass teaching is not allowed in schools, although it is unclear whether it is allowed in other face-to-face settings.

Because of this lack of clarity, we advise members to continue teaching these disciplines online for now. The MU is seeking further clarity from the Scottish Government.

Members wanting to return to face-to-face teaching are covered by their PLI as long as they follow any local rules and follow all the advice and guidance available.

Teaching in Wales

Visiting music teachers in Wales can move between schools ensuring as much as possible that they minimise contact and maintain as much distance as possible from other staff. Further information can be found in the Welsh Government’s operational guidance for schools.

Performing arts guidance issued on 15 September, in combination with guidance on working in other peoples' homes, suggests that face-to-face private teaching can resume in studios and homes in Wales. Members should ensure that they are following all relevant guidance if they resume face-to-face teaching.

Teaching in Northern Ireland

Schools in Northern Ireland are returning with phased re-openings.

Details can be found on the Northern Irish Government’s website.

No definitive guidance has been given about face-to-face teaching for private teachers in Northern Ireland and we recommend the continuation of teaching online if circumstances allow. The MU continues to seek further clarity.