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Music Teaching during Covid-19

Guidance for musicians who teach, following updated Government guidance.

Last updated: 10 June 2021

The advice on this page covers:

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.

General guidance on vaccines and testing for Covid-19 can be found here.

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

Schools

Schools and colleges in England are open. Government guidance states that music should continue as part of the curriculum. 

Face coverings are no longer recommended for pupils in classrooms or communal areas in all schools. Face coverings are also no longer recommended for staff in classrooms. The Government recommends that face coverings should be worn by teachers, staff and visitors in situations outside of classrooms where social distancing is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas).

Members who would like to continue wearing face coverings should discuss this with their employer. Self-employed teachers should be able to stipulate their own policy on face coverings.

Government guidance for schools states that peripatetic teachers can move between settings and teach pupils individually or in groups. The same guidance offers extensive recommendations on how instrumental and vocal teaching should be managed, including by:

  • Maintaining social distancing, especially where teachers are moving between pupil ‘bubbles’, and taking extra care where pupils are mixing in different groups
  • Avoiding singing, wind and brass playing in larger groups unless there is sufficient space and ventilation (HSE guidance on this can be found on the Government’s website) or the activity can take place outdoors
  • Positioning pupils back-to-back or side-to-side to minimise aerosol transmission from wind/brass instruments and singing
  • Avoiding sharing instruments and equipment where possible and ensuring that cleaning and good hygiene are practised where sharing cannot be avoided

Performances in schools can take place in front of live audiences, subject to Covid-secure measures being in place. See the Government’s guidance on performing arts for more advice.

If you teach in a school or college, request a copy of the setting’s or your employer’s risk assessment, and discuss any concerns with your employer. If you are self-employed you should create your own risk assessment, which you may need to use alongside the setting’s risk assessment.

Private teaching

The Government's guidance for out-of-school settings (covering music tuition) states that face-to-face activities can be offered to all children. Teachers should ensure that their studios and activities are risked-assessed and Covid-secure, and they should follow the Government’s guidance on working in other people’s homes where necessary.

Face coverings are no longer recommended in teaching situations, for both teachers and pupils. The Government recommends that face coverings should be worn by teachers, staff and visitors in other situations where social distancing is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas).

Self-employed teachers should be able to stipulate their own policy on face coverings. Private teachers who wish to continue using face coverings should discuss this with parents and pupils.

The requirement to limit groups of children to no more than 15 has been removed. This applies both indoors and outdoors. However, Covid-secure measures are still required.

The Government's guidance for FE colleges (covering independent training providers) states that students of all ages can participate in face-to-face learning. We understand this to include adult learners in private tuition where activities are appropriately risk-assessed and Covid-secure.

Because of the increased risk of Covid to older adults, we advise members to take extra care when working with adult learners, and to refer to the Government’s performing arts guidance for additional safety measures. 

From 17 May, performances can take place in front of live audiences, subject to Covid-secure measures being in place. See the Government’s guidance on performing arts for more advice.

Teaching in Scotland

Schools

Schools in Scotland are open to all pupils.

The Scottish Government publishes advice on reducing risk in schools, and there are several other supporting documents that are periodically updated, including guidance on face masks and distancing, guidance on PE, music and drama, and Education Scotland’s music guidelines. The following advice combines information taken from these various documents.

Peripatetic teachers are permitted to move between schools as long as appropriate mitigations are in place. “Low risk” instruments (e.g. strings, percussion and keyboards) are permitted indoors in groups at all levels.

At Covid protection level 1 (most islands) and level 2 (most of mainland Scotland), singing, wind and brass are now permitted indoors, but with restrictions. At level 1, group wind, brass and singing activities can take place at primary level, but at secondary level indoor activity must be limited to one-to-one lessons. At level 2, all indoor wind, brass and singing activity must be limited to one-to-one lessons, both at primary and secondary level.

At level 3 (Glasgow City and Moray local council areas) wind and brass are not recommended at all. Singing is permitted indoors or outdoors up to Primary 3 only.

Exceptions to the above can be made where students are preparing for assessments. Education Scotland advises that where possible, aerosol-generating activities should be conducted outdoors or in large, ventilated spaces that enable physical distancing, particularly in secondary schools. Teaching remains subject to risk assessment and appropriate mitigations at all levels.

Information on which area is at which Covid protection level was correct on 20 May. Check the Scottish Government website for the latest information on levels.

If you teach in a school, request a copy of the setting’s or your employer’s risk assessment, and discuss any concerns with your employer. If you are self-employed you should create your own risk assessment, which you may need to use alongside the setting’s risk assessment.

Private teaching

In accordance with the Scottish Government’s guidance on organised activities for children, private tuition can take place in homes, with relevant mitigations, in levels 0-3. All of Scotland is in levels 1, 2 or 3 as of mid-May.

Levels may change if infection numbers increase, which could affect what is permitted. For the latest information, please see the Scottish Government’s website.

Teachers should ensure that their studios and activities are risked-assessed and Covid-secure. All instruments, including woodwind, brass and singing, are permitted with appropriate measures in place. Teachers should keep records to support contact tracing.

Refer to Government’s COVID-19 guidance on small and micro businesses for further advice that is applicable to teaching from homes or any other setting.

Teaching in Wales

Schools

Schools in Wales are open to all pupils.

Instrumental lessons and group sessions can take place in schools, subject to following the relevant guidance on the Welsh Government’s website in their pages on performing arts and education.

If you teach in a school, request a copy of the setting’s or your employer’s risk assessment, and discuss any concerns with your employer. If you are self-employed you should create your own risk assessment, which you may need to use alongside the setting’s risk assessment. In either case, the school (or college, nursery, or university) may be able offer you lateral flow tests.

Private teaching

Music lessons are now permitted to take place in:

  • A workplace or business space that is permitted to be open (e.g. a studio or private building), subject to following the relevant guidance (see below), as well as completing a risk assessment and putting in place any necessary mitigations.
  • People’s homes, as long as it is managed in a safe way (through following the relevant guidance, completing a risk assessment, and putting in place any necessary mitigations) and nobody in either household involved has symptoms of Covid-19.
  • The Welsh Government schools guidance says that ‘Under the current measures, face-to-face tutoring is allowed to take place in your own home or someone else’s home, with mitigations. We would expect a risk assessment to be undertaken and measures to protect to be in place such as face coverings, ventilation and social distancing.’

Organised musical activities (such as rehearsals) are now permitted to take place outdoors (for up to 30 people of any age) and indoors (for up to 15 people aged 11 and over) as part of ‘organised activities’. This includes leisure-time music, and is subject to following the relevant guidance, carrying out a risk assessment and putting any necessary mitigations in place. However, it’s unclear if live performances with an audience are permitted. We will add updated information on this as soon as possible.

Relevant Welsh Government information and guidance includes:

Teaching in Northern Ireland

Schools

Schools in Northern Ireland are open to all pupils.

Following advice from the Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland's EA Music Service has confirmed that woodwind and brass tuition can recommence in schools, along with strings, percussion and keyboard. Tutors who teach singing can resume face-to-face tuition only to support pupils who are taking a practical music assessment for GCSE, AS and A level qualifications.

If you teach in a school, request a copy of the setting’s or your employer’s risk assessment, and discuss any concerns with your employer. If you are self-employed you should create your own risk assessment, which you may need to use alongside the setting’s risk assessment.

Private teaching

The current guidance states that education is a permitted reason for meeting indoors. We interpret this to mean that in-person music lessons and private tutoring are permitted, as has been the case for some time in Northern Ireland. Members should ensure that private teaching takes place with appropriate Covid-secure measures and risk assessments in place.

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