Undertaking remote teaching safely

Last updated: 21 Aug 2020 Topics: News Type: News
Introduction

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), schools have had to make significant changes to the way they operate.

As the new academic year gets underway across the UK, schools are welcoming back children and young people. This might be the first time teachers have seen some children face-to-face since lockdown began. But things are still not quite back to normal. Depending on where you are in the UK, your school might be operating a mixture of in-school and home learning. If there’s a local lockdown, you may find that most children are learning at home. And if children and their families need to self-isolate for a period of time, you will need to make provision to teach them remotely.

Safeguarding and child protection remains as important as ever, especially as the usual child protection systems are under increased pressure. And whether you’re teaching face-to-face or in a virtual classroom, it’s important that you take steps to ensure children are protected.

We’ve updated our information to help you carry out remote teaching safely. It includes:

  • safeguarding considerations for remote teaching
  • recognising and responding to child protection concerns
  • providing extra support when needed
  • a summary of government guidance across the UK.

Other teachers and tutors who don’t normally work in schools may also find the principles of best practice in these resources useful.

Remote teaching

Remote teaching

If your school is teaching children remotely, you should consider what safeguarding measures you need to put in place. These should be included in your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures.

> Find out more about how to keep your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures updated during the pandemic

Here are some things you need to take into account:

Which platform will you use?

Always make sure the platform you are using is suitable for the children’s age group, stage of development and ability. Set up school accounts for any online platforms you use (don’t use teachers’ personal accounts). Double check the privacy settings.

> Visit Net Aware, created in partnership with O2, for information about privacy settings on the latest social networks, apps and games (including video calling apps)

Consent

You should make sure parents, carers and children understand the benefits and risks of online lessons and get written consent for children to be involved. Talk to your staff about how you plan to deliver remote lessons – are they comfortable with teaching online?

> Tailor our example consent form to your needs

Live streaming

If you plan to record or livestream lessons via an online platform, you need to assess any risks and take appropriate actions to minimise harm.

> Read our information to make sure you know how to livestream safely

Maintaining professional boundaries

Teaching online is different to teaching face-to-face. But adults should always maintain professional relationships with children and young people.

Remind staff of your code of conduct and make it clear how you expect them to behave.

If you’re recording or live streaming lessons, make sure teachers are in a neutral area where nothing personal or inappropriate can be seen or heard in the background.

> Look at our example behaviour code for adults working with children

Adult to child ratios

It’s best practice to have at least two adults present when working with children and young people. This applies both on- and offline.

The number of adults you need for online lessons will vary depending on the children’s age and stage of development, and the activities being carried out.

For example, if you’re using ‘breakout rooms’ on an online platform, you need to consider how will these be supervised.

> Read our recommended adult to child ratios for working with children

Contacting children at home

Sometimes staff might need to contact children individually, for example to give feedback on homework. Staff should only contact children during normal school hours, or at times agreed by the school leadership team (DfE, 2020).1

Any one-to-one sessions, for example pastoral care meetings, should be risk assessed and approved by the school’s leadership team (DfE, 2020). Make sure staff know what safeguarding measures to take if they are having a one-to-one conversation with a child.

> Read our information about one-to-one contact

Use parents’ or carers’ email addresses or phone numbers to communicate with children, unless this poses a safeguarding risk. Use school accounts to communicate via email or online platforms, never teachers’ personal accounts.

Make sure any phone calls are made from a blocked number so teacher’s personal contact details are not visible.

If staff members are accessing families’ contact details at home, ensure they comply with the Data Protection Act 2018.

References

Department for Education (DfE) (2020) Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19). [Accessed 05/08/2020].
Child protection and wellbeing

Child protection and wellbeing

Child protection concerns

If children aren’t seeing trusted adults at school every day, it’s even more important that staff are able to identify any child protection concerns and take appropriate action.

For example, concerns may arise when:

  • a staff member sees or hears something worrying during an online lesson
  • a child discloses abuse during a phone call or via email.

Remind all your staff of your safeguarding and child protection policy and procedures. Make sure they know how to recognise and respond to the signs of abuse.

> Find out how to update your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures during coronavirus

Remember that anyone can contact our helpline for advice if they are worried about a child’s wellbeing. Our trained professionals will talk through your concerns with you and take action to protect the child if necessary. You can call us on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

> Find more about recognising and responding to abuse

Online safety

Children and young people are likely to spend more time online while social distancing measures are in place. Talk to them regularly about the benefits and risks of the online world and give them space to ask questions and talk about anything that worries them.

> Find out more about online safety during coronavirus

> Take our online training about keeping children safe online

Children who need extra support

Your school should be aware of any children who need extra support while they are learning at home. This might be because:

  • they have additional needs or special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
  • their families need extra support
  • they have mental health issues
  • they are at risk of abuse and neglect.

Think about how you will keep in regular contact with these children, support their learning and monitor their wellbeing.

> Find out more about safeguarding children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

> Find out more about supporting children and young people’s mental health

Guidance

Guidance

Across the UK, there is government guidance to help schools carry out remote teaching safely.

In England, the Department for Education (DfE) has published guidance on Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (DfE, 2020a).1

The DfE has also provided examples of remote education practice for schools during coronavirus (DfE, 2020b)2 and guidance on adapting teaching practice for remote education (DfE, 2020c).3

In Northern Ireland, the government has published guidance for schools on supporting remote learning (Department of Education, 2020).4

Education Scotland has published a range of guidance for practitioners to support online remote learning (Education Scotland, 2020a).5

This includes advice on learning and teaching online (PDF) (Education Scotland, 2020b).6

The General Teaching Council (GTC) in Scotland has also provided guidance for teachers on online teaching (PDF) (GTC, 2020).7

In Wales, the government has provided distance learning support for practitioners, senior leaders and parents and carers (Welsh Government, 2020a).8

This includes guidance on live-streaming safeguarding principles and practice (Welsh Government, 2020b).9

Keeping up-to-date

> Subscribe to our CASPAR email to keep up to date on the most recent guidance during the coronavirus pandemic

> Read our coronavirus briefing for on the safeguarding and child protection guidance for schools across the UK during the pandemic

References

Department for Education (DfE) (2020) Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19). [Accessed 05/08/2020].
Department for Education (DfE) (2020) Case studies: remote education practice for schools during coronavirus (COVID-19) [Accessed 05/08/2020]
Department for Education (DfE) (2020) Adapting teaching practice for remote education [Accessed 05/08/2020]
Department of Education (2020) Circular 2020/5 - guidance for schools on supporting remote learning [Accessed 05/08/2020
Education Scotland (2020) Practitioner support for online remote learning [Accessed 05/08/2020]
Education Scotland (2020) Learning and teaching online: advice for practitioners (PDF)
General Teaching Council Scotland (GTC Scotland) (2020) Engaging online: a guide for teachers (PDF)
Welsh Government (2020) Distance learning support [Accessed 05/08/2020]
Welsh Government (2020) Live-streaming safeguarding principles and practice for education practitioners [Accessed 05/08/2020]