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?
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.
It’s important to make sure that everyone working or volunteering with children and young people is safe to do so, whether this is taking place online or face-to-face.
Any organisations who employ tutors or help tutors find work, should ensure the tutors have undergone the necessary checks.
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.
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.
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 also consider whether any other adults who live in your household are suitable to be around children. Think about whether you need to take any steps to mitigate this, for example if it would be more appropriate to use a different location for your tutoring sessions.
In England and Wales, 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 certain settings. This is called disqualification by association.
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
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).
It’s best practice never to work in a bedroom. But if you’re working online, this might not be possible. Think about extra steps you can take to mitigate any risk, for example blurring out the background so the bedroom can’t be seen on camera.
You might want to record some of your online tutoring sessions. For example, you might want to record a student playing a piece of music and watch it back with them so they can reflect on their performance. Or your students might want to use recordings for revision.
But there are things you need to put in place before you record a tutoring session.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.