Undertaking remote teaching safely

Last updated: 20 Apr 2021 Topics: News Type: COVID
Introduction
Teacher teaching students remotely through computer

Although coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions have changed and all children should now be in face-to-face learning, schools might still need to offer remote teaching for children who are self-isolating.

Just like with face-to-face teaching, safeguarding and child protection is vital when teaching remotely. It's important that you take steps to ensure children are protected.

Our information to help you carry out remote teaching safely includes:

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

> Find out what measures you need to take if you’re a tutor who doesn’t work in an education setting

Remote teaching

Remote teaching

You should consider what safeguarding measures you need to put in place when teaching children remotely. These measures 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:

Recruiting suitable staff and volunteers

Anyone working or volunteering with children, whether face-to-face or online, needs to be recruited following safer recruitment principles to help ensure they are suitable to work with children.

> Find out about recruiting safely during coronavirus

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

Livestreaming and recording sessions

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

You need to think about how to carry out your sessions in a way that meets your needs and the needs of the children you’re working with.

Decide whether you’re going to do a livestream or record a session for children to watch later.

Recorded webinars might be more suitable if children and families need flexibility about when they learn at home. Livestreaming might help teachers engage with children to help them learn and monitor their progress.

If you’re livestreaming a lesson or activity, think about whether you will ask children to turn their cameras on.

Some children might not feel comfortable turning their webcams on. They may be shy, unsure of the technology or have had a bad experience using video calls in the past. Some children, parents and carers may be uncomfortable with classmates being able to see into their home. And some might want to hide something going on at home, such as abuse and neglect.

Every child is different. Some children might be more confident about asking questions with their cameras off, and others might prefer it with the camera on.

If a child doesn’t want to turn their camera on, try to find out why. Consider whether you need to check in with them and their family separately to make sure everything is okay.

Make sure your school has clear child protection procedures for staff to follow if they are concerned about anything they have seen on a video call.

> Use our Safeguarding in Education Self-Assessment Tool (ESAT) to make sure you’ve got all the right safeguarding and child protection measures in place

> Find out more about livestreaming

If you’re planning on recording a livestreamed session, there are several things you need to consider.

> Find out more about recording live online sessions

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. You should also make sure that children are in a neutral area if they can be seen on camera.

> 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.

You should also think about how your staff will check on children’s wellbeing while they are spending more time at home. Consider how best to do this in a way that is suitable for each child and their family, and also helps you make sure the child is safe and supported.

School staff should only contact children during normal school hours, or at times agreed by the school leadership team (DfE, 2021)1.

Any one-to-one sessions, for example pastoral care meetings, should be risk assessed and approved by the school’s leadership team (DfE, 2021)2. Make sure staff know what safeguarding measures to take if they are having a one-to-one conversation with a child, and what to do if they have any concerns about a child’s welfare.

> Read our information about one-to-one contact

Make sure staff know how to respond if a child tells them that something isn’t right at home.

> Find out how to respond to disclosures of abuse

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) (2021) Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19). [Accessed 16/04/2021].
Department for Education (DfE) (2021) Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19). [Accessed 16/04/2021].
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 some restrictions remain 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.

You can find a summary of this guidance in our coronavirus (COVID-19) briefing on safeguarding guidance and information for schools.

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