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Teaching Music during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Guidance for musicians who teach

The advice on the following pages covers:

This guidance was last updated on 1 December.

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 to all relevant guidance are highlighted below.

The MU’s advice is for general guidance only. The MU can accept no liability for the consequences of decisions taken on the basis of our advice, 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).

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

Please contact your regional MU office if your education work has been affected and your particular circumstances have not been addressed by the announcements so far.

Teaching in England (updated 1 December)

Our advice for members who teach relates to the Government guidance on Local restriction tiers: what you need to know, working safely in the performing arts during Covid-19, guidance for full opening: schools, working safely in out of school settings during Covid-19, and Further education (FE) operational guidance.

England is subject to local restriction tiers from 2 December. Schools remain open, and music teaching can continue in schools subject to each school’s approval and appropriate Risk Assessments being in place (see below).

From 2 December onwards

The Department for Health and Social Care has published guidance on what will be permitted under all three tiers of coronavirus restrictions from 2 December. This states that “exemptions from gatherings limits in all tiers” include:

  • For work or providing voluntary or charitable services, including in other people’s homes
  • Childcare, education or training – meaning education and training provided as part of a formal curriculum
  • Supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after-school childcare), groups and activities for under 18s, and children’s playgroups

We therefore advise members that:

  • Music teaching in their homes, students’ homes and studios are permitted where this supports formal education (e.g. a curriculum of work that includes graded exams or equivalent, preparation for other formal qualifications, or a sustained programme of learning)
  • Music schools and centres will be permitted to reopen for face-to-face teaching, including supervised activities for under 18s.

Adult education and training

We have seen nothing to suggest that adults are excluded from the exemption for education and training.

The Department for Education's Further Education (FE) operational guidance states that independent training providers and adult community learning providers should "continue delivery so that students of all ages can benefit from their education and training in full," as long as they follow the system of Covid-19 controls and work with local authorities to contain local outbreaks.

The same guidance specifies that, "students and staff can engage in singing and playing wind and brass instruments in line with this guidance and guidance on working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) in the performing arts but routine two-metre social distancing should be maintained."

Teaching in private homes

Any teaching in private homes is subject to all relevant Government guidance, including on working in homes and out-of-school provision. Appropriate risk assessments should also be in place.

Schools

Visiting music teachers can teach in and move between schools as long as Government guidance and school policies are followed.

If you teach in a school, request to see a copy of its Risk Assessment to make sure that this addresses the circumstances in which you work. If you teach in a school through a music education hub, music service or other organisation, this organisation should advise you on any applicable Risk Assessment.

Other settings

You can teach in out-of-school settings such as private music schools and music centres where this supports a formal curriculum (defined above).

If someone else is responsible for the space, that person should provide a Risk Assessment. If you are responsible for the space, you are responsible for providing the Risk Assessment.

Ensembles and groups

Choirs, bands and orchestras are permitted in schools and other settings 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 Government’s performing arts guidance to minimise risk.

Teaching in Scotland (updated 27 November)

On 2 November, Scotland entered a five-level plan of measures for dealing with Covid-19 across the country. The measures range from Levels 0 to 4 and are designed to apply to specific local authority areas, or nationwide as appropriate. Schools are to remain open at all levels, with increasingly enhanced mitigations and measures in place in line with the increasing risk.

Peripatetic teaching is allowed when there is no alternative

The Scottish Government’s guidance for schools states (point 94):

"Movement between schools (e.g. of temporary/supply/peripatetic staff etc) should be kept to a minimum.

“Those providing essential services key to the delivery of children’s care or educational plans, for example visiting teachers, psychologists, nurses, social workers, youth workers and those providing therapeutic support, should be able to visit schools; however, appropriate mitigations to prevent transmission of the virus in and between settings should be undertaken. Mitigations should be determined via a risk assessment carried out by the school in co-operation with the service provider."

We interpret this to mean that peripatetic music teaching is allowed in schools where there is no alternative, but that alternatives (e.g. teaching online) are preferred.

Wind, brass and singing lessons are currently not permitted in schools

Guidance on PE, music and drama in schools states:

"Young people should not engage in drama, singing, or playing wind and brass instruments with other people, given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission."

This means that wind, brass and singing are not currently permitted in schools, although we are pushing the Scottish government to move to a more workable position on this based on increasing scientific evidence regarding the actual risks of these activities.

We advise private teachers to work online in most circumstances

The Scottish Government updated its guidance on organised activities for children on 24 November, including the following statement:

“Private tuition would be able to take place in a person’s own home where household mixing is generally allowed (Level 0). In Island areas this is also permitted at Level 1. In these circumstances, the general social gathering rules apply e.g. no more than six people from two households (at Level 1). The provider would be included as one of the households in the gathering. This can include one-to-one tuition for non-wind instruments, or woodwind or brass instruments where extra precautions are taken to lower the risk e.g. large room, well ventilated.”

Based on this, we advise private teachers to work online unless they fall under the exemptions mentioned.

If face-to-face lessons take place in homes or private venues, teachers should ensure that risk assessments and Covid-secure measures are in place, and that they have read the Scottish government’s general advice for workplaces, its small and micro business guidance, its guidance for the performing arts sector and is guidance on organised activities for children.

Teaching in Wales (Updated 27 November)

Based on Welsh Government guidance, our conversations with the Welsh Government and the fact that schools will fully reopen from Monday 9 November, we advise that music teaching in schools, and private teaching in teachers’ and pupils’ homes, can take place in Wales from Monday 9 November, subject to school policies/closures, the Welsh Government’s guidance on performing arts activity, and its advice on schools and settings for the autumn term. Teaching in schools is subject to appropriate Risk Assessments being in place (see below).

We recommend that members review the Welsh Government FAQs and performing arts guidance, as well as other guidance where relevant (such as working in people’s homes).

Teaching in Northern Ireland (updated 26 November)

New restrictions will come into force in Northern Ireland from 27 November until 11 December.

Teaching in schools and other education settings

Schools and other education settings remain open, and visiting music teachers can work in these settings subject to each setting’s approval and Risk Assessments being in place, in line with the EA Music Service’s Music Unlocked guidance.

However, the guidance on the new restrictions states that “Only essential face-to-face learning should take place when it is a necessary and unavoidable part of the course.” As a result, some visiting music teachers may find that they are asked to move their teaching online.

Music lessons and private tutoring

Northern Ireland’s Government guidance states that “Music lessons and private tutoring are permitted, as long as social distancing is maintained and there is no close contact”.

However, because of the newer guidance which states that “Only essential face-to-face learning should take place when it is a necessary and unavoidable part of the course,” we advise members to teach online and only teach in person where this can be justified as necessary and unavoidable.

No specific guidance on teaching in homes or studios is given, although the guidance on the new restrictions states that 'the services of trades or professions' allow people to mix within households.

Risk Assessments

The following information applies to all parts of the UK.

Schools, colleges and other settings

If you teach in a school, college or other setting, you should be provided with a Risk Assessment. This should assess risk in relation to the following points and define an appropriate course of action for each:

  • Clear signage throughout the workplace to encourage at least one metre’s social distancing. Areas could be marked using tape to identify one-metre rules, with an internal pedestrian one-way system for any aisles less than one metre, with agreed flow.
  • Cleaning of all touch points at least once a day (more regularly where required) and daily cleaning of all other areas. Full facilities for personal cleaning with instructions (including visual aids) 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-area chair numbers limited to maintain one-metre control at all times.
  • An individual risk assessment for any air extraction or air conditioning.
  • Where limited catering facilities are provided, food to be wrapped and disposable cutlery and cups provided.
  • Rooms labelled to identify the 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 while travelling to and from work.
  • Controlled and limited access for people visiting or delivering to the place of work.
  • Management of deliveries to minimise contact with other people while loading and unloading. Access for visitors/deliverers to handwashing facilities.

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

Private teaching

Where private teaching is permitted face to face, you should complete a Risk Assessment to protect yourself, anyone else living in the household (if applicable) and your students from harm, and in particular to eliminate or minimise risks of Covid-19 transmission. You should complete your Risk Assessment in line with HSE guidance, identifying protective measures.

A Risk Assessment is still needed in other peoples’ homes, and an agreement needs to be reached as to what is acceptable for both parties considering all the issues listed below.

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 risky 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.

Your Risk Assessment should cover the following points:

  • 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 where 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.

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

  • Cleaning

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.

  • Instruments

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

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

  • Students

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 (if you are not teaching in their home). Both you and your 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, always make arrangements with the parents/guardian.

  • Managing arrival and departure times

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

  • Additional considerations

Aim to minimise the joint handling of sheet music and 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 they are not disposable, fully cleaned between use periods.