COVID-19: Private teaching

15 October 2020

Face-to-face private teaching can now resume in England, Scotland and Wales, subject to following the relevant government guidance about risk assessments, social distancing and other measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Check our Twitter and Facebook pages for updates.

However, much of the country is subject to further restrictions as part of localised measures. Our local lockdowns page offers links to more information about these measures.

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.

Be aware some areas of the UK will have localised restrictions. Make sure you check the details on the government and local council pages.

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.


Updated: 15 October 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.
  • Contact tracing and app

    As part of continuing efforts to manage COVID-19 through contact tracing, new legal regulations in England require many businesses to maintain records of their customers. In addition, these businesses are required to have a QR code for display so people with the NHS Test and Trace app can scan it if they wish. The process is simple (it takes no more than a couple of minutes).

    Not all types of device can use the QR code, so you must make sure you are keeping good records of pupils, lessons, and timetables, including registers for ensembles and choirs, in another format, should you be contacted as part of the track and trace process. Your usual administration of lessons should provide the requisite information about students and the times and dates of their attendance for lessons.

    Northern Ireland

    Updated 1 October 2020

    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.


    Updated 15 October 2020

    The latest guidance from the Scottish government relating to the performing arts and organised activities for children means that indoor private face-to-face teaching can resume, but only where physical distancing, adequate ventilation and other mitigations can be applied. Singing in face-to-face teaching is not recommended under this guidance.

    The publication of this agreed guidance means that organised indoor activities for children and young people not overseen by a regulator can resume.

  • The updated guidance for organised activities for children (23 September) states the following in the section ‘Other important things to consider’ under the heading ‘Drama and music’:

    ‘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 updated guidance for organised activities for children (23 September) states the following in the section ‘Other important things to consider’ under the heading ‘Drama and music’:

    ‘Adopting a precautionary approach, the Advisory sub-group’s advice is that music and drama activities should take place only in situations where they comply with the low risk criteria in group settings.

    Individual lessons where 2 metre physical distancing can be applied, should only be considered where the environment is well ventilated and equipment is not shared and other mitigating risk approaches can be safely put in place, such as singer not facing the teacher. More creative solutions are recommended at this time including virtual lessons, rehearsals and performances, using digital forms of communication, carry even less risk and are the recommended position at this time.

    Choirs, orchestras and group drama performances should not recommence at this point.’

    This introduction to this guidance also states that :

    ‘Where the activity you deliver is related to a private business, such as a private tutor, then the regulations for businesses must be read in conjunction with this guidance.’

    The small and micro business guidance sets out four steps to follow:

    1. Assess the risks to yourself, your employees, your suppliers and your customers.
    2. Consult with your employees before you reopen.
    3. Put in place infection and control measures.
    4. After re-opening, keep checking and reviewing.

    Please see below for links to our risk assessment guidance.
  • Contact tracing and app

    The Protect Scotland app uses proximity based technology rather than using QR codes for people to check into businesses. However, you must keep good records of your pupils and attendance at music groups you run to help facilitate test and protect in Scotland. The performing art guidance states ‘You should keep a record of name, date, time and a mobile number or email address for all staff, customers and contractors for a period of 21 days to support customers and staff being contact traced in the event someone linked to the event contracts COVID-19.’ Full guidelines on managing this data is on the Scottish government website.


    Updated 15 October 2020

    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. This appears to suggest that face-to-face private tuition can be undertaken from homes and other venues, subject to following guidance around health & safety measures and undertaking risk assessments.

    The advice says that 'Singing and playing wind and brass instruments, especially in groups, is considered a higher risk activity.' If you are working in these areas, make sure you read the suggested steps and mitigations in full.

    You can view information about local lockdowns here: COVID-19 local lockdowns

    Contact tracing and app

    The use of the NHS app in Wales is not compulsory, but is encouraged. Some types of businesses are compelled by law to keep customers details for 21 days. Although music tuition is not one of the stated ‘close contact’ businesses, it is advisable to make sure you maintain good records of your pupils and registers of music ensemble attendees. Your usual administration for these purposes should suffice. You can read more about the requirements for contact tracing in Wales in the Welsh Government website and also get a QR code poster.

    Further information

    Risk assessments

    There is considerable emphasis on assessing and controlling risks in guidance of all four nations. It is therefore essential that you undertake a risk assessment if you are resuming face-to-face private teaching. Please see our guidance about health and safety for private music teachers and preparing a risk assessment. ISM members can download a sample risk assessment from this advice page to help get started. The ISM Trust also has a webinar accessible to all on how to undertake a risk assessment.

    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.