Safeguarding and child protection for tutors

Last updated: 09 Sep 2020
Introduction

Tutors can become an important part of a child or young person’s life. Over a period of time tutors can build up a strong, trusting relationship with children and their families and play a key role in providing support.

Tutors can have varied roles. They may:

  • work with groups of children
  • work on a one-to-one basis
  • regularly visit children at home
  • work in their own home with children.

Like anyone who works with children, tutors have a responsibility to promote children’s wellbeing. It’s important they are able to recognise and respond appropriately to any concerns, and help keep children safe.

It’s also vital to make sure children and young people are safe during a tutoring session. This includes making sure all tutors have undergone the necessary checks, and steps are taken to mitigate any risks during sessions.

Tutors, parents and children need to be clear about professional boundaries and appropriate behaviour to avoid any potential misunderstandings or allegations.

We’ve put together some short films and supporting information about the safeguarding and child protection measures tutors need to have in place. This includes:

  • what policies and procedures you need to have in place before you start working with children
  • practical tips for making sure your sessions are safe, whether it’s in your own home, the child’s home, at a place of work or online
  • how to recognise child protection concerns
  • what to do if you are worried about a child
  • how to respond if a child tells you they are experiencing abuse
  • a summary of relevant child protection legislation and guidance across the UK.

These resources will be helpful for all tutors, whether independent or part of a larger agency. Schools who are asked to help parents select a tutor for their child may also find the principles of best practice useful.

Safeguarding advice for tutors

Why not listen to our podcast episode where we discuss the role tutors have in safeguarding children and the challenges they face?

Play the episode

 

Policies and procedures

Safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures

Whether you’re a large tutoring organisation or an independent tutor, you need to have safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures in place before you start to work with children.

What are safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures?

Safeguarding is the action that is taken to promote children’s welfare and protect them from harm. Child protection is part of the safeguarding process. It focuses on protecting individual children who might be at risk of harm.

You need to have safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures in place. This will help ensure you know what to do if there are any concerns about a child’s welfare. It also helps reassure parents and carers that you are taking all the necessary steps to keep their child safe.

By following your policies and procedures, you can help ensure you mitigate any safeguarding risks that may arise during your sessions, and avoid any misunderstandings or allegations about your conduct.

Writing a safeguarding and child protection policy and procedures

Your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures should set out:

  • what steps you will take to keep children safe
  • how you will respond to any child protection concerns.

> See our guidance on writing policies and procedures

Codes of conduct

A code of conduct allows you to set out clearly how you or the tutors you employ should behave. It might also be helpful to have a code of conduct for the children you’re working with.

This helps reassure parents and carers that your behaviour will be appropriate at all times, and that you will maintain professional boundaries with their children.

> Have a look at our example behaviour codes for adults and children

Vetting and barring checks

It’s important to make sure that everyone working or volunteering with children and young people is safe to do so.

Any organisations who employ tutors or help tutors find work, should ensure the tutors have undergone the necessary checks.

This includes:

  • checking references
  • carrying out criminal records checks to ensure that people aged 16 or over have nothing on their record that makes them unsuitable to work or volunteer in roles that have contact with children.

Independent tutors should also undertake criminal records checks. It’s best practice to show parents and carers an up-to-date criminal records check certificate before you start to work with their child, and provide parents or carers with the contact details for at least two referees.

If you’re self-employed in England, Northern Ireland or Wales, you can:

  • request a basic check for yourself
  • ask an organisation you’re working with to apply for an “enhanced with barred list” check for you, if they are able to check and verify your eligibility and documentation.

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) provides information about criminal records checks in England and Wales (DBS, 2020)1.

More information about criminal records checks in Northern Ireland is available from Access NI (Access NI, 2020)2.

If you’re self-employed in Scotland you can request a PVG check for yourself. The PVG scheme provides information about how to get a PVG check (Mygov.scot, 2020)3.

> Find out more about how to carry out vetting and barring checks

> Learn what to do if vetting and barring checks raise concerns

Managing allegations

If a family raises concerns about the way a tutor has behaved, this needs to be taken seriously and dealt with sensitively and promptly. You should have a written procedure in place for managing allegations of abuse, which you can refer to if you need to.

Make sure parents and carers know who they can talk to if they have any concerns about their tutor’s conduct. Bear in mind that if you are an independent tutor, they may be uncomfortable speaking to you directly. It may be helpful to share your process for responding to allegations with parents and carers at the beginning of your relationship with them. This will make it clear that you will take any concerns seriously and respond appropriately.

> Find out more about how to manage allegations of abuse against someone who works or volunteers with children

Training

Everyone who works or volunteers with children needs to be trained to recognise and respond to the signs of abuse.

> Have a look at our introductory child protection courses

References

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) (2020) Criminal record checks when you apply for a role. [Accessed 03/09/2020].
Access NI (2020) Access NI for individuals and self-employed. [Accessed 03/09/2020].
Mygov.scot (2020) My PVG. [Accessed 03/09/2020].
Steps to take during sessions

Steps to take during sessions

Setting expectations

As an organisation or independent tutor, it’s good practice to agree expectations with parents and carers before the tutoring begins.

You should agree:

  • what activities will take place during sessions and what the tutoring will cover
  • where sessions will take place
  • whether there is any extra support the child needs, for example if they have a special educational need or disability (SEND) or additional needs
  • where parents or carers will be during the session (ideally they should be within earshot so that you are never completely alone with a child).

This discussion is a good time to explain your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures. You might also want to have a child-friendly version that you can share.

Creating a safe environment

It’s important to create an environment where children and young people feel safe and able to learn.

Whether you’re in your own or somebody else’s home, a tutoring centre or a school, make sure you and the child are both are comfortable with the environment.

  • Is there a desk or table to work at? Is this big enough so that you don’t need to sit too close together? (If you’re working online, you and the child should still both sit at a table or desk).
  • Is there anything inappropriate in the room that needs to be removed, for example posters with bad language or nudity? If you’re working online, do you have a neutral background?
  • Is there any confidential information in the room that should be removed (such as bank statements)?
  • If you’re in your own home, are there any personal items (such as photographs) that you should remove in order to maintain the professional relationship?

If you’re using a computer during a face-to-face session, or sharing screens online, be mindful of what a child might see on your computer - only open things that are needed for the session.

Other people in your home

You should consider the other people who live in your home – are they likely to wander into your session, or in the background of a video call? Make sure the child won’t hear or see anything inappropriate.

You should also check that nobody who lives in your household has been disqualified from working with children.

In England, anyone who lives in the same household as another person who has been disqualified from working with children, can also be disqualified from working with children in domestic premises.

In Wales, if somebody lives in the same household as another person who has been disqualified from working with children, they can be disqualified from working with children regardless of the setting.

This is called disqualification by association. See our legislation and guidance tab for more information about disqualification by association.

One-to-one working

In general, it’s best practice never to be alone with a child. But tutors may often need to work with a student one-to-one.

Here are steps you can take to make sure everyone feels safe:

  • work in a room that has windows and ensure curtains are open so other people can see in
  • never work in a bedroom
  • leave the door to the room open
  • make sure there is another adult within earshot and/or give parents the option of sitting in on the session
  • don’t allow parents to leave their child with you while they go out.
  • maintain a professional relationship (for example by working at a desk and dressing appropriately for work).

> Read our best practice information about lone working with children

Keeping parents and carers up-to-date

It’s good practice to keep notes about what you’ve covered in every session. You should also note down anything that concerns you.

Spend five minutes at the end of each session updating parents and carers on how the session went. This is also a good opportunity to discuss areas where you need support, for example if a child is displaying challenging behaviour, is struggling with a particular subject or is anxious about something.

Recognising concerns

Recognising concerns

Children or young people who have experienced abuse do not always realise what is happening or they may feel unable to speak out.

It’s vital that anyone who works or volunteers with children is able to recognise the signs that a child may have experienced abuse.

These might include:

  • a child or a family member saying or doing something that makes you concerned
  • changes in a child’s behaviour, for example becoming withdrawn and anxious or being angry and aggressive
  • a child seeming particularly tired or saying they haven’t slept
  • a child having physical injuries that are unexplained
  • a child talking about self-harming or seeming particularly anxious, stressed or upset
  • a child regularly running away or going missing from home or care.

If you are working with a child on a regular basis, it’s important to look out for any patterns of behaviour which might indicate something isn’t right.

> See our briefing on the definitions and signs of child abuse

> Read our practice example about recognising a safeguarding concern

> Find out more about child mental health

Working with vulnerable children and young people

Some children and young people may be particularly vulnerable to abuse. This might be because they:

  • have additional communication needs
  • speak a different first language to the adults who work with them
  • need intimate care or are isolated from others
  • are dependent on adults for care.

When working with vulnerable children, you need to consider how best to communicate with them and make sure their voice can be heard.

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

> Find out more about children and families at risk

Responding to concerns

Responding to concerns

You should never wait until a child or young person tells you directly that they are experiencing abuse before taking action.

If you think a child is in immediate danger, contact the police on 999. If you're worried about a child but they are not in immediate danger, you should share your concerns.

  • Follow your safeguarding and child protection procedures.
  • Contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or by emailing help@nspcc.org.uk. Our trained professionals will talk through your concerns with you and give you expert advice.
  • Contact your local child protection services. Their contact details can be found on the website for the local authority the child lives in.
  • Contact the child’s school. It’s good practice to inform the child’s school of any child protection concerns you might have. They may already be working to support the child and their family. Or if they have also noticed concerns, your information might help them take appropriate action.
  • Contact the police.

Only share your concerns with the child’s parents if doing so does not put the child at further risk.

> See our information about recognising and responding to abuse

What to do if a child tells you they have experienced abuse

If a child tells you they have experienced abuse, it’s important to respond appropriately.

Show you care, help them open up

Give your full attention to the child or young person and keep your body language open and encouraging. Be compassionate, be understanding and reassure them their feelings are important. Phrases such as ‘you’ve shown such courage today’ help.

Take your time, slow down

Respect pauses and don’t interrupt the child – let them go at their own pace. Recognise and respond to their body language. And remember that it may take several conversations for them to share what’s happened to them.

Show you understand, reflect back

Make it clear you’re interested in what the child is telling you. Reflect back what they’ve said to check your understanding – and use their language to show it’s their experience.

You should keep accurate notes about what the child has told you. Follow your safeguarding and child protection policies to report what the child has told you.

Never promise to keep what a child tells you a secret. Explain that you need to share what they’ve told you with somebody else who can help.

> Use our Let children know you’re listening resources to help you remember how to respond to a disclosure of abuse

> Look at our practice example about how to respond to a concern about a child’s welfare

Legislation and guidance

Legislation and guidance

Across the UK, government guidance highlights that everyone who works or volunteers with children and young people needs to take appropriate steps to keep them safe.

This is the same regardless of whether you work for a large organisation, a small community group or are an independent tutor.

> Find out more about the guidance setting out the safeguarding and child protection responsibilities of organisations, groups and individuals

There is also legislation and guidance about the safe recruitment of adults to work or volunteer with children. This includes:

  • vetting and barring checks
  • disqualification by association.

> Find out more about the legislation and guidance for safer recruitment in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales