Returning to work: Face-to-face private music teaching

With COVID-19 restrictions starting to be lifted in all four nations, we look at how private music teachers can prepare to resume face-to-face teaching safely and confidently.

The current situation

Our country-specific advice pages continue to be updated regularly, but here is the latest snapshot for private teaching in all four nations, as of Saturday 10 April. Check the pages for the most up-to-date information:

  • On Monday 12 April, restrictions in England will be lifted to allow face-to-face teaching for all children and adults in private settings.
  • In Northern Ireland, private face-to-face music lessons are permitted to continue as long as social distancing is maintained and there is no close contact.
  • In Scotland, the majority of the country remains at level 4, where no private teaching can take place.
  • In Wales, we are currently seeking urgent clarification as to whether private teaching can resume from Monday 12 April.

Answering your questions

ISM Head of Legal & Compliance, John Robinson, responds to some of the frequently asked questions from ISM members and across social media:

Can I teach in my private home/studio or in other peoples’ homes from 12 April in England?

Yes – you can teach children (with no restriction on justification) from 12 April. You can also teach adults taking lessons for professional training or studying for accredited exams. As always, teaching indoors is subject to your undertaking a risk assessment and implementing any of the recommended mitigations and COVID-safe working practices.

Do I need to set up track and trace (or continue using it)?

It is not compulsory, but you can set it up if you want. Find out how.

How regularly should I be testing?

The Government announced that they are making rapid testing kits available to everyone. Find out more.

Can I teach amateur adults from 12 April in England (those not working towards exams)?

We have recently updated our advice to demonstrate that this should be possible. Check our England-specific advice page for further information.

Staying safe and secure

It is important that you have an up-to-date and comprehensive risk assessment in place when resuming face-to-face teaching. Our free advice on how to write a risk assessment is a good place to start, and includes a webinar from risk expert James Owen Lewis. ISM members can also take advantage of our sample risk assessment.

When you’re setting up your teaching space for face-to-face lessons, you will need to consider how to ensure it is kept clean and COVID-secure. The ISM offers free guidance on instrument hygiene and guidance on keeping your space clean for private music teachers. ISM members can also access to an exclusive 30% discount on PPE (personal protective equipment) from ethical stationery company Ethstat, including masks, hand sanitiser, cleaning supplies, gloves, wipes and visors.

Safety measures you should consider include:

  • Social distancing
  • Ventilation
  • Hand washing or sanitising
  • Face coverings (where possible)
  • Screens (where possible)
  • Minimising possible contact between different households so staggering starting times of lessons
  • Minimising and cleaning physical points of contact e.g. door handles, instruments
  • Lateral flow testing - once they are readily available to all members of the public
  • Reminding students not to attend if they have symptoms or have been in contact with anyone with symptoms

Looking after your mental health

The COVID-19 lockdown has been very tough on music professionals, and the easing of restrictions may provoke feelings of anxiety. If you have concerns about the return to face-to-face teaching, or any other topic that is causing you stress, the ISM offers its members access to a free, 24-hour personal support and advice helpline staffed by professionally qualified counsellors. If further support is needed, you can also arrange six sessions of structured telephone counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Managing performance anxiety

Your students may feel nervous about playing music and performing again after such a long period of remote learning. If you’re keen to support their wellbeing and help them to improve their performance, the ISM Trust has produced Performance anxiety: A practical guide for music teachers, an essential resource written two experts in the field of performance psychology, Gregory Daubney CPsychol MSc and Dr Alison Daubney PhD. Aimed at music teachers working across all contexts, the guide includes easy-to-use strategies to integrate into your teaching, which assist with your student's development over time. You can buy the guide in print or digital format, and get 20% off as an ISM member.

The ISM is here for you

At the ISM, we are committed to ensuring that our members have the tools and information they need to work safely and confidently, as well as providing a voice for the entire music sector to champion and protect music-making in the UK. Both members and non-members can find out more about our work, hear exclusive interviews, and take advantage of professional development opportunities in our free online conference Building for the future, taking place on Saturday 24 April, 10am – 5pm.