In the UK term safeguarding refers to the processes of keeping children and vulnerable adults safe from harm. This includes:
- Protecting children from maltreatment
- Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
- Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
- Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility, and anyone who comes into contact with children and their families has a role to play – even members of the public. Educators have a particularly important role to play in safeguarding as they are likely to spend more time with the child, and are therefore likely to notice signs of maltreatment at an earlier stage. This is particularly true of music educators who work in a 1-2-1 situation, as their full attention is on the individual child at all times, rather than being divided between a group or class. Any suspicions or disclosures should be reported at the earliest opportunity to the appropriate person or authority (which will vary depending on the context in which you teach).
In addition to the standard safeguarding responsibilities of any educator to report neglect and harm, as music educators we have specific responsibilities towards our pupils in terms of safeguarding them against physical damage arising from their musical studies. It is crucial that we ensure that our pupils adopt safe techniques for playing the instrument(s) they are learning, in order to guard against any long-term physical discomfort or injury. For some instruments – particularly wind and brass – there are also issues of hygiene to take into consideration to ensure that our pupils do not suffer any ill effects from their music lessons. Lastly we must also consider our pupils’ auditory health and take necessary precautions to ensure that their hearing is not damaged during the course of their musical studies.
It is an unfortunate fact that music educators can be at risk of potential safeguarding allegations because they often teach one-to-one in an un-monitored environment. Such allegations can be extremely stressful and career limiting, so it is of paramount importance that music educators follow standard safeguarding procedures to avoid the likelihood of such allegations arising. These include such considerations as teaching with the door open, or in a room with a glass pane in the door, not touching pupils unless it is absolutely necessary and you have parental permission to do so, not taking lone children in your car, not communicating with pupils via messaging apps or social media unless your school or setting has a policy that encourages you to do this via a closed network that is for educational purposes only. It is also advisable to maintain an up-to-date DBS certificate as proof of your suitability to work with children and young people.