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Health & Safety for Face to Face Teaching

Covid-19 Health & Safety guidance for musicians who teach

Whilst some of our members who teach are still unsure about returning to work yet, we are very aware that some members are wanting to return to face to face teaching as soon as they are able to.

Here we aim to cover as many scenarios as possible so that you are able to make your decision, confident that you have practically considered all the issues to minimise the risk to yourself and to your pupils when you do return.

This page covers the following advice:

Public Liability Insurance

In light of the change in government guidelines, we have had confirmation that Public Liability Insurance cover will be valid in England again for face to face teaching from 4 July if members follow the advice in the rest of this document.

We are still seeking assurances from the DCMS that music teaching is included in the latest activities allowed when working from home and in other people’s homes and will update members accordingly.

 

Deciding to return to the workplace

The decision about returning to the workplace, or to start teaching face to face from your own home or in other places when you are allowed to do so, is one that only you can take. Before doing so you must make sure that you take adequate steps to review any relevant guidance and come to a sensible decision based on your own enquiries after taking into account your own individual set of circumstances.

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 (links for the policies of each of the four nations of the UK are at the end of this document) and subject otherwise to the MU’s PLI policy terms and conditions.

At this time little is known definitely about the way coronavirus behaves and given the possible consequences of exposure are so severe, any advice given errs on the side of caution. If you have any specific concerns contact your Regional Office in the first instance.

Teaching in schools

Individual schools are making decisions as to whether to open up to pupils beyond key workers’ children and vulnerable pupils and in doing so they must produce plans and RAs which address all aspects of school life.

The NEU, along with Unison, GMB and Unite, has produced comprehensive checklists which schools should use to properly assess the risks and evaluate what measures are needed to be in place to reduce those risks to the absolute lowest level. This guidance can be found on the NEU’s website.

If you are employed to work in a school and have been asked to return to work then you can request to see a copy of their Risk Assessment (RA) to make sure it addresses specifically the circumstances in which you work.

If you feel that you are being pressured to return to work in a school and have concerns about the circumstances being unsafe then do raise this with the school or your line manager and ask if there are other options available such as teaching online.

The more likely scenario is that schools will not want Visiting Music Teachers returning in this first phase of re-opening, and again it is worth exploring how music education can continue for your pupils who are back at school.

We have information and advice on our website about instrumental and vocal online teaching as well as rehearsing ensembles and choirs virtually.

Risk Assessments for other educational establishments

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

You will also need to consider your own personal responsibility to your students, which is covered under the next section.

The RA should consider the following points:

  • Clear signage throughout the workplace to encourage at least two-metre social distancing. Areas should be marked using tape to clearly identify two-metre rules and an internal pedestrian one-way system for any aisles less than two-metres 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 2m 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.
  • Mortality rates are higher for BAME communities. RAs that specifically take into account the physical and mental health of BAME staff are an important part of ensuring a safe return to work

Teaching at home or in studios

At the minute, government guidelines do not allow you to enter anyone else’s home unless you are unable to provide any in-home services in an alternative way. We will inform members as soon as the situation changes but our advice in the meantime is to continue teaching online if at all possible.

If you own or rent business premises then you can consider going back to work there in line with other businesses and shops reopening.

Completing a personal Risk Assessment

If you are wanting to start teaching from your own home or premises as soon as you are allowed to, then you will need to complete a RA and devise your own policy to include consideration of the following issues.

Distancing

The two-metre minimum is the government’s present advice and the best way to protect both you and your students.

There is some research about distancing for different instruments, particularly wind and brass instruments and for singers, with advice ranging from three to 12 metres, therefore it is best to seek the maximum distance between you and the pupil that is practical when teaching.

Avoid any physical contact with the student throughout the time they are in your home. The longer the time of a session, the greater the potential risk to both parties.

Cleaning

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

Toilets and wash basins must be cleaned before and after sessions (when used) with hand cleansers, sanitisers or wipes available in the teaching area (wipes to go in foot pedal swing bin). Gloves will be advisable in some circumstances. Similarly, masks can be considered.

Teaching room

The nature of the teaching area/room has to be considered – think about how much space is available for yourself, students and their instruments. Look at the room layout to ensure that students are able to enter and exit the room safely.

Make sure there is adequate ventilation. If possible have windows open in the teaching room or explore the practicalities of teaching in the open air. If you have an air control system then ensure it is properly maintained, seek advice on filters etc.

Instruments

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.

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 the situation at their home; their journey to you (students should avoid public transport if possible and if using taxis use black cab types with screens between passenger and driver). You should check any changes to their situation at the start of each lesson.

If the student is under 18 then you should always check with their parents.

Teaching in other people’s homes

An agreement needs to reached between the parents/student and the teacher as to what needs to be in place before any visits to a student’s home can be considered.

As each individual situation will have its own particular set of circumstances then parents/students and teacher needs to address their concerns based on the advice already documented in the personal RA above.

Other things to consider

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

Look at changeover times between lessons to ensure you have time to clean and set up for the next student.

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.

Given Covid-19 could be with us a long time, you could consider if changes could be made in your teaching environment to minimise contact such as sensor or elbow control water taps, swing or auto opened doors and Perspex screens in the teaching area for example.

Links for further information

Medical and government advice can be found from: