Jenny runs an after-school percussion group arranged through the local Hub. With an age range of 13 to 16, everyone gets on well. However, Jenny had noticed a change in behaviour in one of the pupils named Kim. Kim was getting angry when things went wrong; she also was losing weight.
One evening, Jenny asked Kim to stay behind after class to see if she could find out the cause of this change. Kim eventually admitted that her mother had been drinking a lot lately and had lashed out at her on occasion. Kim asked Jenny not to tell anyone as she was afraid people would make fun of her. However, Jenny explained she couldn’t keep the matter to herself and why she was obliged to pass the information on to the appropriate authority, which she did.
Jenny had not come up against this sort of situation before but, fortunately, had taken part in a Child Protection Awareness Training workshop organised and delivered by the MU through the Hub a few weeks earlier. The workshop included information on current legislation and the group undertook several exercises about how to deal with a range of situations.
Thanks to this training, Jenny was able to respond to Kim’s situation and was confident in her subsequent actions. To help clarify what she had learned in the workshop, Jenny went on to take the online Child Protection in Music course – https://platinum.educare.co.uk/music
The Musicians’ Union recommends that members who teach are up to date with the legislation regarding safeguarding children.
The MU has developed a bespoke online CPAT course, Child Protection Awareness In Music, which was developed with the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) in partnership with ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) and MusicLeader.
A series of videos created as part of this valuable online course can be viewed below.
Below are some case studies surrounding child protection issues, highlighting the importance of having Child Protection Awareness Training.
You might not be the only one with concerns
Tina Smith, a guitar teacher working in a Secondary school, noticed that Lewis, a year 11 pupil who usually enjoyed his music lessons, started to turn up late and sometimes missed a lesson completely. He was looking increasingly anxious and tired and so Tina eventually asked him if everything was OK. Although Lewis said everything was fine, Tina was not satisfied.
Tina had never had to deal with something like that before. However, last year she attended an MU child protection workshop where such situations were discussed and advice and guidance was given to teachers on how to deal with them. Tina learned from the workshop that she couldn’t ignore her gut feelings even if they turned out to be unfounded and so she decided to raise her concerns about Lewis with the class teacher. She also made a note of her concerns to her line manager. Tina knew that the as an MU member she could contact the MU for reassurance and also that there was a NSPCC free helpline to support her if she felt the situation hadn’t been handled correctly.
The class teacher had identified similar behaviour in the classroom and was grateful that Tina had raised her concerns about Lewis with the school. It turned out that Lewis was becoming stressed by the volume of his GCSE coursework and he just needed to be supported and understood by his teachers until his GCSEs were over. After his exams Lewis went back to enjoying music and his guitar lessons again.
Emotional abuse – not the usual suspects
Anya Rozenthuler, a singing teacher who runs an extracurricular Saturday morning choir for gifted and talented pupils in a junior school, had grown increasingly uneasy about Jessie, one of the youngest and most recent members to join the choir. Anya noticed when Jessie was talking to her mother at the drop-off and collection times that Jessie’s behaviour was very compliant and that her mum was unusually vocal about what a prodigy her daughter was turning out to be. These remarks left Anya feeling uncomfortable, especially as she noticed that as soon as the mother left, Jessie’s whole demeanour changed. She became anxious and subdued and would frequently say she had lost her music when the time came to audition for parts.
Anya was nervous about raising the issues with Jessie’s mother, as she knew her mother was a local GP. Anya didn’t think her mother was the ‘type’ to be emotionally abusing her daughter and so she pushed her concerns to the back of her mind.
A couple of weeks later Anya attended an MU child protection workshop where she was surprised to hear one of her colleagues had experienced a similar situation. Anya learned that child abuse exists across all sectors of society and that the concerns she had were valid and needed to be acted on.
Knowing the facts, she felt much more confident with discussing her concerns with her line manager. The line manager helped her think about the conversation she might have with the Jessie’s mum. Anya was surprised how well this went and how Jessie’s mum responded to her concerns. Jessie’s mum explained that she had been so busy with work lately that she hadn’t been picking up on Jessie’s anxiety but now she said she realised that her comments weren’t helpful. They asked Jessie what she wanted and she said she would like to come along just to sing but not to take any of the lead parts. Once relieved of the pressure to perform Jessie relaxed and was able to really give her all to the sessions.
Physical abuse – the importance of sharing concern
Jamie Sheriff, a percussion workshop leader, works in a couple of the local secondary schools running one-off workshops on African drumming. One day, Shabbana, a year 13 pupil in one of his lessons, turned up late for the workshop and appears flustered. As she started playing, her sleeve rode up and James noticed a cluster of bruises on the underside of her forearm. Later, when Shabbana packed away the drums, Jamie asked her how she got the bruises. Shabbana said that her brother had grabbed her arm to stop her from stepping out in front of a car. Jamie wasn’t entirely convinced Shabbana was telling the truth but then remembered that Shabbana’s brother used to get into all sorts of scrapes when he was a teenager so he thought perhaps he was making a fuss about nothing.
At an MU child protection workshop, Jamie received some information about the signs of physical abuse and the importance of needing to share any concerns with another member of staff in order to get another perspective. From the workshop Jamie realised that there might be more to Shabbana’s story. He knows that it isn’t his role to make a judgement about what may or may not have happened but it is his role to pass on what he as observed and talked about with Shabbana.
Equipped with the new knowledge from the workshop, Jamie decides to speak to his line manager about his concerns even though the incident had happened several weeks ago. He also learns useful information about how to frame a question should he suspect abuse in the future. He knew that by keeping quiet there was a chance that Shabbana might be at further risk.
As a result of raising his concerns about Shabbana, his line manager contacted the school about Jamie’s concern. The school already had a safeguarding plan in place for Shabbana. They thanked Jamie for his vigilance and professionalism and asked him to make a retrospective note of what he observed and the conversation he had with Shabbana.
Facebook – teacher/pupil boundaries
Noah Goldstein, a 22-year-old rapper and DJ, runs songwriting workshops with youth groups and sixth form colleges. Last year he attended an MU child protection workshop because the charity he had recently started working for had asked him to go. When it was suggested that Noah attended the workshop he was quite reluctant as he didn’t understand what child protection and safeguarding children could possibly have to do with his work. He saw the young people he worked with more as young adults and some of them came to his gigs and were his Facebook friends.
During the workshop there was a presentation on current safeguarding legislation. Noah learned that the term ‘child’ applied to anyone under the age of 18. This was something that came as a shock to him as he hadn’t really thought about it before. There was also a discussion about Facebook and the issues that it can cause. Hearing other teachers’ and the workshop leader’s views he realised how important it was to have good boundaries in order to prevent an allegation of abuse or inappropriate conduct from a student. Noah decided that if he wanted to keep a good reputation and protect himself he would need to draw clearer boundaries between him and his students.
In the light of what he learned in the workshop he decided to change the privacy settings on his Facebook page and to be clearer in future with students about boundaries, which meant not inviting them to gigs. He also decided he needed to go back and ask both the charity he worked for and the school he worked in for a copy of their Child Protection/Safeguarding policies so he could be aware of all their policies around contact with the young people he worked with.
Sexual abuse – sexting
Sarah Sansome, a music workshop leader in inner city secondary schools, was working with a group of year 8 students towards a performance piece. As she was leaving she overheard a conversation between Jasmine (a pupil with learning disabilities) and Deepak about upsetting and obscene messages and images which Jasmine was getting on her phone from a group of year 10 boys. Sarah didn’t do anything at the time because she was already late for her next session but she went home thinking about the incident and wondered what to do about it.
One day Sarah saw an MU child protection workshop advertised in the MU magazine and decided it would be good to go as she had never been to a session for musicians and it was a long time since she had attended her initial training.
At the workshop she was able to discuss her concerns and realised that bullying in the form of ‘sexting’ was on the rise in schools and that she needed to report the incident she had witnessed, as holding on to the information could leave her in a compromised position, as well as not protecting Jasmine. Sarah also learned how children with learning disabilities and physical disabilities were much more vulnerable and more likely to be subject to abuse of all kinds.
The information she received at the MU child workshop helped Sarah to realise that child protection was everyone’s business and so she went back and found out what procedures she needed to follow in order to submit a report about the incident to both her line manager at the music service she worked for and the school’s designated child protection officer.
Inappropriate behaviour– grooming/harassment
Satnam Chayra is a peripatetic saxophone teacher and has one-to-one lessons with a 15-year-old female student called Nadia who has recently moved into the area.
One day Nadia turned up late to Satnam’s lesson carrying on a loud phone conversation with a friend as she walked into the teaching room. In the conversation Nadia gave details of sex between her and her ‘new boyfriend’, Phil. She then told her friend that Phil had just dropped her off at school in his new car and had given her a new iPhone. After the lesson Satnam taled to Nadia about her behaviour and the nature of the conversation being unacceptable but it seemed not to make a difference to her attitude.
The next day Satnam told his line manager, John, about what had just happened. John laughed off Satnam’s concerns and says ‘she lives in a fantasy world, that girl’.
Satnam attended an MU CPAT workshop and in the workshop Satnam was able to discuss his situation over coffee with the workshop leader who was very supportive. He was advised by the workshop leader to make a note of his concerns about both the girl’s safety and the effect her inappropriate behaviour was having on his ability to do his job properly, stating clearly that he felt harassed by it. Satnam left knowing he could get support from the MU with getting his concerns taken seriously and that he wasn’t making a fuss about nothing. The MU also suggested that Satnam could ask for a support worker to attend the lessons with Nadia to make things more comfortable and to ensure that Nadia kept appropriate boundaries.
The following day Satnam had another conversation with John who passed on Satnam’s concerns to the person in the school with designated child protection responsibilities who then talked to Nadia and her social worker. They were grateful that Satnam had taken the situation seriously as Nadia’s social workers were then able to give Nadia some extra support and advice around the sexual exploitation issue.
Never too late to report a disclosure
Martin McDonald, a flute teacher at a boarding school, heard about the MU CPAT training through the MU magazine. The training is specifically for musicians who teach and so Martin decided to go along and have some training as it might be more beneficial than the more general training he had had in the past.
In the training he recalled an incident with a girl called Rhianna that happened when he was rehearsing the school band for an end of term concert. As she was packing away at the end of the night, Rhianna told him that she used to self-harm but she had stopped it now. At the time Martin remembered being a bit shocked by what Rhianna had said but he made very little comment to her and thought no more about it.
In the workshop he had time to rethink what had happened. He realised that Rhianna was making a disclosure and that the self-harm may or may not have stopped but the situation causing it may still be there.
Martin was advised to make a note of the date and time of the initial disclosure then to go back to the pupil and tell them of his duty to pass on the information to the person in school with child protection responsibilities who will need to speak with Rhianna to find out what support she might need.
Incidents around the school
Clinton Fopart-Ttimet time music teacher in an inner city Academy, attended an MU child protection workshop on the recommendation of another teacher in the school.
During the afternoon session, teachers exchanged stories about the changes in pupil conduct over recent years and some of the challenges of teaching today.
Clinton shared a story that happened to him one lunchtime. Amy, a year 11 pupil in the school, who he didn’t teach, came up to Clinton and asked him if knew what a ‘blow job’ was and if he did this with his wife. Clinton was flabbergasted and said, ‘Amy, either you know what you are saying to me which is really bad, or you don’t understand what you are saying, which is also really bad’. He explained to the group that it seemed to him that she had been asked to do this ‘as a dare’ by a group of older girls who he could see standing over in a corner watching and laughing.
At the CPAT workshop Clinton got the chance to share the story and discuss what else he could have done. With hindsight he realised that it would have been good practice to share the incident with his Head of Department so they knew exactly what had happened and could approach Amy to reinforce the fact that her behaviour was not only unacceptable, but that it was also potentially risky for her to be approaching adults she didn’t know and using sexualised language. They could also deal with any potential bullying by older pupils towards Amy.
Although the incident had happened too long ago to do anything about it now, it did promote a lot of discussion about how to respond to some of the challenges that occur outside of the classroom and the importance of good communication with the Head of Department as well as keeping written notes of all potential safeguarding incidents no matter where in the school they might occur.
Inappropriate dress in lessons
Marios Doucas, a young music teacher who teaches cello from home, attended an MU safeguarding workshop after doing the MU NSPCC online course. The course made him realise that there was much more to safeguarding than he originally thought.
During the afternoon session, there was an exercise on the do’s and don’ts of good practice of music teaching in the classroom and safeguarding children. He realised that one of the issues he had with teaching at his home was around how students dress. There was one particular pupil, 13 year old Irina, who regularly turned up wearing a short skirt for lessons.
Marios explained that, although it was making him feel uncomfortable, he didn’t want to draw attention to it by talking about it with her. Discussing it at the workshop, he realised that he wasn’t the only teacher who had been unsure about what to do in this type of situation. The discussion made him realise that from this point forward he needed to have a clear written agreement with all new parents before the lessons began about the right equipment and dress for pupils attending the lessons.
As a result of sharing and discussing his issue with other teachers and the workshop leader he felt much more confident about what to do.
He resolved to talk with Irina’s parents about the dress issue as part of his weekly report back to them. He decided to phrase it in terms of Irina’s ease of movement and comfort when playing the instrument.
Risk assessing the teaching situation and forward planning
Paul Ennis, a piano teacher with considerable experience and based at home, attended a recent MU Child Protection workshop to update his skills.
During the course of the workshop he discussed a number of challenges around safeguarding and teaching from home, which have affected him over the years.
Most recently, Paul had been teaching a 5 year old student, Ruby. Her mum, Jane, had stayed for the first lesson. On the second lesson, seeing that Ruby was enjoying the lesson, Jane decided to pop to the local shop.
A moment or two after Jane left Ruby wet herself. Paul was at a loss as to what to do. He had forgotten to get Jane’s mobile number as the original plan was that Jane would sit in with Ruby.
Paul had never had to deal with a situation like this before. Luckily his wife was at home and asked Ruby if it would be OK to clean her up and find her some dry things to put on until her mum came back.
The incident that Paul shared made the teachers at the workshop really think about the importance of doing a thorough risk assessment of the home environment for teaching.
Paul realised that he needed to make his arrangements for contacting parents clear and also the need for insisting parents of young children sit in the car outside the lesson in future in case they were needed. That would avoid Paul or his wife and Ruby being put in a potentially compromising position.