Easing the lockdown: Private teaching

We are currently updating this advice following announcements from all four nations on new COVID-19 restrictions on 22 September. We will be looking at new measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and how they affect teaching music. Check our Twitter and Facebook pages for announcements of new updates.

Below we have provided guidance on the easing of lockdown restrictions in relation to face-to-face private music teaching in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

This guidance does not amount to a recommendation or instruction by the ISM to resume face-to-face teaching. These are matters for members to decide, and there may be many individual factors which need to be considered before a decision is made. We have tried to secure greater clarity from the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments on these issues, and our guidance is framed by the responses we have received about how to apply government guidance.

You must undertake a risk assessment before you recommence face-to-face teaching. If you are returning to teaching in a school, you should ask the school what steps it has taken to assess the risks and to see its risk assessment.

Page updated 22 September 2020


The Prime Minister has announced new restrictions to operate in England from Thursday 24 September. These include new rules on mandatory face coverings in certain contexts, a reduction in permitted wedding guests to 15, and a general requirement to work at home where possible.

Members have asked us how this affects private teachers in England who have resumed face-to-face teaching.

The ISM’s understanding at this stage is that you may carry on teaching face-to-face PROVIDED THAT:

  • You have undertaken a COVID-19 risk assessment and made your work space COVID-19 secure
  • You have communicated your risk assessment to your pupils and their parents/guardians so both you and they know what to do when coming for a music lesson
  • You ask your pupils to avoid using public transport when coming for a lesson;
  • You practice social distancing rigorously while teaching
  • You are not working in an area with additional local restrictions.

    This is the situation at 22 September. We will update this guidance if the UK Government announces any further changes.

    Be aware, from 31 July, some areas of England will have localised restrictions.

    If you do wish to teach face-to face make sure that you have undertaken a risk assessment and taken all steps to make your place of work COVID-secure, with all necessary steps to minimise the risk of infection, including those who may be considered clinically extremely vulnerable (please read the government’s guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19).

    Please see our health and safety and risk assessment guidance for more information.

    Northern Ireland

    The Northern Ireland Executive has not yet provided clear guidance on whether private teachers can resume face-to-face teaching. We continue to seek clarification, and will update members as soon as we know more.

    In the meantime, we recommend that members in Northern Ireland should continue teaching online where possible until further notice.


    Scotland remains in Phase 3 of its roadmap. The government has updated some guidance relating to the arts, and also introduced news restriction on social gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19.

    The guidance still leaves questions about the status of private teaching and whether it can resume fully. We summarise the relevant guidance below:

    • Performing arts advice published by the Scottish government on 21 August states that:

      ‘Indoor activities for children and young people which are not overseen by a regulator should not start again until agreed guidance is in place. For now, activities for children and young people under the age of 18 should continue online or outdoors in line with existing guidance.
    • The guidance for organised activities for children (updated 1 September) remains provisional and subject to final Health Protection Scotland Review. The guidance states inter alia that:

      Until further evidence is known it is advised that all singing activities are avoided. The evidence is being developed and this guidance will be updated when it is available.
    • Phase 3 guidance for staying safe and protecting others published on 14 September states that:

      Various indoor activities and services for children and young people under 18, such as Brownies, or baby and toddler groups, from providers that are unregulated, may resume when guidance relevant to the specific activity is published.

    • Guidance on what you can and cannot do published by the Scottish Government on 14 September states that:

      Everyone who can work from home should continue to do so…Non-essential workplaces should remain closed until the relevant Phase in the Route Map.

      Essential workplaces are those providing essential services that must stay open during the crisis to function.'

    The cumulative effect of all this is that private music teaching in Scotland should still only take place online or outdoors. If you are teaching outdoors you should perform a full risk assessment.

    We are expecting further guidance on music teaching to be published soon. If this advice does not offer further clarity for private teaching specifically, we will aim to seek answers from the Scottish government.

    The Scottish government has introduced new restrictions on social gatherings.

    The Scottish government states that ‘the number of people who can gather together, indoors or outdoors, will be set in law at maximum of six from two households from Monday (14 September).

    Children under 12 from within the two households will not be counted in the new limit of six people. The restrictions do not apply where there is other sector specific guidance in force, for example for gyms, for childcare or for organised sports, and there will be some other limited exceptions for larger households, education, and places of worship. It does apply to hospitality.'

    We have asked whether this will intersect with the position on private teaching and we will update our guidance as soon as we can.


      On 15 September, the Welsh government published Rehearsing, performing and taking part in the performing arts: guidance for a phased return. At section 3.22, the guidance contains a dedicated section on teaching music.

      However, they describe the information as ‘a framework for decision‑making rather than a set of rules to follow.’ It is made clear that this guidance only applies to ‘activities permitted by government regulations’ and that ‘resuming activity can only be possible within the context of the COVID‑19 regulations that apply at the time.’ It is intended that this guidance will be kept updated as the situation develops, so this is likely to change.

      Current guidelines do not specifically mention face-to-face private music teaching as a stated allowed activity. As such, we are seeking further guidance from the Welsh Government on music activities allowed and we recommend that members in Wales should continue teaching online where possible.

      Individual legal advice

      If you are an ISM member, you can seek advice from our legal team on your personal situation by contacting [email protected].


      ISM members' Public Liability Insurance (PLI), renewable from 1 August 2020, has no special clauses in relation to COVID-19 and cover will operate normally.

      We are advised by our broker that in order to reject a claim for cover from a member, the insurer would have to prove that a member deliberately failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent spread of the disease to other people. The best way to show that you have taken all reasonable steps, in the view of our broker, is to follow the government guidance on safe working, which will include undertaking a thorough risk assessment. Please see our health and safety information for guidance.

      Online teaching

      We have produced the following guidance on online teaching:


      ISM members can use the ISM template contract for private music tuition.

      If the pupil is ill, check the terms of the contract around missed lessons. If you are using the ISM contract you are entitled to charge for the lesson if less than 48 hours notice is given to you, but there is provision in the contract for you to exercise discretion in exceptional circumstances. These are not defined, which leaves you open to judge the most appropriate course of action.

      The same 48 hours notice (and discretionary option) applies if pupils wish to cancel online lessons for any reason. Teachers using the ISM template contract who wish to cancel lessons will need to offer an alternative date or refund the lesson.

      Next steps

      We will update members as new information emerges. In the meantime, please see our health and safety and risk assessment guidance.