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Charter for Visiting Music Teachers

This charter, a collaboration between the MU and the National Education Union, describes how schools and visiting music teachers (VMTs) can work together effectively.

Last updated: 28 February 2024

Music education is of vital importance to the Musicians’ Union (MU) and the National Education Union (NEU). Both unions believe that children should be able to access a broad and balanced curriculum that includes music, and that the benefits of music education are profound and lifelong.

School music education is typically delivered through a combination of classroom and instrumental teaching. Where schools have a strong commitment to music, a significant number of children will have instrumental lessons, and this is where VMTs play a vital role in the delivery of a school’s music education programme. In addition, some VMTs will also deliver classroom music teaching.

Working as a VMT is not easy. VMTs sometimes report that they feel like outsiders in the school community, lacking support and visibility in the school environment. Working across multiple schools can also present challenges, and pay and contracts can be variable.

This charter from the MU and the NEU sets out to resolve some of these issues by providing a simple guide to what VMTs require from schools to do their jobs effectively. It is updated from an earlier version published in 2018.

Who are VMTs and what do they do?

VMTs, also known as peripatetic music teachers, undertake a wide range of roles in schools including:

  • One-to-one instrumental/vocal lessons
  • Whole-class instrumental/vocal/ensemble teaching
  • Curriculum/classroom music teaching
  • After-school music clubs and groups

What support should be provided from schools?

To support VMTs, schools should provide:

  • A strong commitment to music, of which it is understood that VMTs are a vital part
  • A welcoming environment in which to work
  • Opening times and building access details
  • Emergency evacuation and fire drill details
  • School map
  • Timetable
  • Term dates
  • Dates of exams, reading/revision weeks, sports days and other key events
  • Information about any forthcoming inspections or observations
  • Key staff information and contacts, including the designated safeguarding lead
  • Policies and procedures
  • Pupils’ special needs or safeguarding needs if relevant
  • Expectations for lessons, e.g. upcoming concerts or exams to prepare for

What should school staff provide?

School staff should:

  • Be clear on the employment status of their VMTs. Are they engaged directly by the school, and on what basis? Are they engaged by a music hub or music service, on what basis? Are they self-employed, in a contractual agreement with their pupils’ parents? Schools should know the implications of these differences, e.g. regarding how information is communicated and how work is managed.
  • Have a policy on DBS checks depending on the above. Where there is a third-party engager involved, such as a music hub, it is the third party’s responsibility to have carried out the checks on VMTs’ suitability to work with children. Schools should not request or take copies of VMTs’ DBS certificates or ID documents; only a DBS number is required for the school to verify identity and suitability to teach.
  • Take all reasonable steps to support VMTs’ work, e.g. by ensuring that classroom teachers do not prevent pupils leaving class for music lessons unnecessarily, and by supporting pupils to attend lessons promptly and independently, where possible.
  • Approach timetabling constructively, considering breaks for the VMT and the time needed for a lesson and prior set-up.
  • Provide a reasonable and well-equipped teaching space.
  • Make all reasonable efforts to mitigate VMTs’ isolation at work by welcoming them into the school community, e.g. by inviting them to use the staffroom and ensuring they are introduced to colleagues.

MU members can start an online DBS application by filling out the online form.

Guidance for VMTs employed by schools

VMTs employed by schools may work part or full time, providing a combination of classroom, instrumental and vocal lessons. The school should treat them like any other employed teacher and:

  • Invite them to relevant training and meetings, paying them overtime when these fall outside contractually agreed working patterns.
  • Provide them with complete information about all children to be taught, e.g. any relevant special needs, safeguarding or behavioural issues.
  • Encourage as much information sharing as possible to support joined-up working between music and other subjects.
  • Pay for resources (except what is paid for by parents) and usage licenses.
  • Provide access to benefits enjoyed by other permanent staff, e.g. staff discounts for lunch and parking spaces.

Guidance for VMTs engaged by a music hub or other third party

VMTs engaged by a music hub or other third party usually have a contractual relationship with that organisation and not with the school or pupils’ parents. The school should therefore communicate primarily with the engager, which should then pass any necessary information on to VMTs. The engager will be responsible for any issues or problems regarding VMT's work.

Guidance for self-employed VMTs

Self-employed VMTs will usually have a contractual relationship with their pupils’ parents, and in some cases directly with the school. If genuinely self-employed, they will have the right to negotiate their rates, use deputies to cover absences, change their teaching days and time, and devise their own teaching curriculum. Although self-employed VMTs do not have access to the same rights and benefits as employees, they are legally protected from workplace discrimination and covered by health and safety and (in some cases) whistleblowing legislation. Self-employed VMTs normally cover the cost of the resources they use, except for what parents provide.

VMTs’ points of contact are different depending on who they are engaged by. Those engaged by pupils’ parents should have parents’ contact details and will invoice them directly. VMTs engaged by a school or MEH should not be in direct contact with pupils’ parents unless a special arrangement is in place. Schools should therefore check before asking VMTs to contact parents. Direct phone, text or email contact between VMTs and pupils is not advised for safeguarding reasons.

Performance management should not be applied to self-employed VMTs. If engaged by pupils’ parents, VMTs are primarily answerable to them, although schools should still expect VMTs to behave appropriately and professionally and follow any relevant policies and procedures.

Self-employed VMTs’ work should be limited to instrumental and vocal teaching and coaching. If schools want VMTs to undertake classroom teaching, this should be on an employed basis, whether employed directly by the school or by a music hub or other third party.

In partnership with NEU

National Education Union logoThe Charter for Visiting Music Teachers was produced by Musicians' Union in collaboration with the National Education Union.

Members of both unions benefit from reduced membership rates.

Joint membership

Member benefits for teaching musicians