Risky business: Assessments for safety

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Risk assessment in music education

For many educators, one of the main obstacles to resuming one-to-one music tuition is completing effective risk assessments during the coronavirus pandemic.

With complex government guidance and understandable caution from school leadership and parents alike, this important paperwork has taken on new significance. Your risk assessment should help minimise the risks of coronavirus transmission through your teaching practice.

But anyone who works with young people will be so used to the process of risk assessments that there’s a danger of over-familiarity. So here are some top tips for how you can use risk assessments to turn your pandemican’t into a pandemican.

The science of wellbeing

It is worth remembering that, currently, music tuition will never be entirely free of risk and your students must trust that you have made all efforts to assess and minimise it. To fulfil this, you must complete a two-part risk assessment.

First you need to identify what could cause transmission, how likely those things are to happen and who is at risk. Then think about what you can do to stop the spread of the virus. Within this framework, you should create a checklist to establish a set procedure which mitigates the risks of contamination before, during and after lessons. Consideration must also be given to the health of your students and other people living with them as well as their travel arrangements.

The key element of the scientific guidance is that coronavirus spreads between people through water droplets containing the virus. For the general public, that might mean breathing in someone else’s sneeze and cough. Or instead, you may touch a contaminated surface and then transfer it into your own body by touching your eyes or mouth.

While many of these same risks still remain (particularly through sharing equipment), music teachers must consider the varying risks presented by different musical activities. For example, singing and instruments that require breath present a higher risk of spreading water droplets. In practice, that means a back-to-back or side-to-side layout in lessons when playing or singing, rather than face-to-face. While wind and brass players should be positioned so that the air from their instrument does not blow into another player.

To summarise the latest research into coronavirus and what it means for music, the ISM has produced a study which draws together all the information from around the world in a straightforward way.

Spread the joy of music. Not the virus.

Producing a risk assessment is only one step in the process. In order to keep yourself and your pupils safe, you need to share how you plan to keep everyone safe and how other people can play their part. If you are a peripatetic teacher working in a school, they are responsible for the risk assessment with your involvement and you should see the results. That means, if you work in multiple locations and are permitted to travel between them, you should be aware that each school may have its own procedures.

Finally, be sure to check the latest government guidance (which varies between the devolved nations) and whether there are any specific local restrictions. In an ever-changing situation, it is important to distinguish between statements of the government’s intention and confirmation that an announced change has been made.

Forward planning keeps people safe and effective processes build confidence. It is essential for the continuation of music education that effective processes are put in place in order to minimise the chance of transmission. So while risk assessments may seem like an additional administrative burden, please do keep yours updated.

Find out more

You can view the ISM’s recent risk assessment webinar or read our advice on writing a risk assessment. We also offer specific COVID-19 guidance for teachers in schools and private music teachers, and a resource on instrument hygiene.

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