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Grooming in an Unregulated Profession


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#1 tangerine

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 09:45

I have recently had to report a case of grooming to social services and I am very concerned that our profession as private music teachers continues to remain unregulated. For obvious reasons, I can't go into details, but the young person concerned is being groomed by a young music "teacher" who has no formal qualifications or training and has a suspected history of previous abuse (having changed their name after the previous incident). 

 

I teach the young person about whom I am concerned, but it was their friend's mother who reported serious concerns to me. Fortunately I work in school as well as at home, so I've had plenty of safeguarding training as well as background checks, and therefore took the necessary actions after consultation with a couple of colleagues.

 

Why is it that in this day and age of tighter and tighter child protection regulations that anyone can set up as a private teacher without any background checks? Children can be taken into their homes and left there without supervision, thus being placed in a very vulnerable situation. 

 

Fortunately social services took the concerns seriously and are investigating, but they too seemed unaware (and rather shocked) that our profession is unregulated. I am prepared to take this further and will be contacting my local MP about it (whoever it may be in a couple of weeks!) as I feel there is a massive safeguarding loophole here. Of course, it doesn't just apply to private music teachers, but to any private tutor.

 


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#2 BadStrad

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 11:35

Regulation would be as pointless and expensive as DBS checks. All it tells you is that person X hasn't been charged with doing Y. It encourages mistrust and paranoia and the idea that everyone is potentially guilty until proven innocent by some slip of paper.
The DBS (CRB as was) system was not designed to clear individuals as "suitable" for work with vulnerable groups but to remove those who pose a known risk.

Take the Soham murders of the two little girls. DBS checks wouldn't have stopped that as the murderer knew the girls through his girlfriend not his job.

Yes of course there is the argument that "honest people have nothing to fear" but why should they have to pay for a useless piece of paper and probably some membership fee of some "professional body" (like the GTC) which gives very little in return.
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#3 maggiemay

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 11:58

Yes, that’s my understanding too - that Ian Huntley would have sailed through a DBS check, as he had no history. The whole exercise is at best largely cosmetic, at worst, as you say, encourages paranoia.


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#4 thara96

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 12:03

I doubt regulation will work. The murder that led to the creation of the DBS scheme seems to be one for which the perpetrator did have previous offences but system failures resulted in him basically getting off unscathed despite having a record. Such a scheme has it's own drawbacks or cons if you will. The purpose in my opinion should be not only to identify those who are obviously unsuitable to work with children at all but to also to identify those who could be trusted and train them accordingly. You did the right thing reporting it to social services as well. 

This is why I don't trust private music tutors. I recently hired one to teach my little girl flute at home and I am always in the kitchen listening to what he says and does quietly, the doors are left open. 


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#5 BadStrad

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 12:17

Yes, that’s my understanding too - that Ian Huntley would have sailed through a DBS check, as he had no history.

There had been several allegations against him, but he was never convicted, so a DBS check (or the forerunner "99" list) would not have flagged him as a danger.
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#6 BadStrad

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 12:40

...to also to identify those who could be trusted and train them accordingly.

That is probably why the system is as it is. It would be darn near impossible to screen people in such a way. When educational psychology services are stretched to the limit who would be funding the new criminal psychologists to screen wannabe tutors and where would you start? The grade eight sixteen year old who is doing a bit of tutoring to save up towards uni? The seventy year old guy who's been teaching for decades in the village where everyone knows everyone and everything about them? And who's going to pay for whatever training it is you think they need? Not the sixteen year old, not the pensioner. It would be hugely expensive (even if suitably qualified psychologists were available) and
it wouldn't be cost effective to the tutor examples given or anyone else come to that. And that assumes there was some fool proof test that could be administered. Which there isn't.

To give some context - the 2007 list 99 contained around 5000 names from a population of around 61 million.
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#7 elemimele

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 13:06

I'm very, very sceptical too. Making life-changing decisions about a person based on what you think they might do in the future is a bit scary. Protecting children and vulnerable adults is massively important, but we have to be very careful about a system that allows a psychologist to brand someone as a pervert without their having done anything. I don't think I trust psychologists enough! It's not even something a person could fight if they felt they'd been misdiagnosed; who's going to go to court and admit openly that they've got that decision hanging over them? What parent would accept them as a private tutor after they'd won their case anyway? What happens if the court's decision is basically "you're strange, weird, but we have to give you the benefit of the doubt"? It would be unfair and unjust from start to end, despite its genuine good intent.

The most valuable thing we can do is help kids to recognise where to draw their personal boundaries, and to know how to respond when someone attempts to cross a boundary. And to make sure every kid or vulnerable adult has trusted individuals from whom they can seek help, and to take them seriously when they do. I do think the world is improving on that front - the police do some really good public relations work and awareness training in schools, and schools try too. Parents can do their bit, but it's a difficult compromise to strike between leaving a kid in naivete or creating total paranoia.

Regulation works on technical skills that can be examined (dentists are good at doing fillings...) but it's pretty rubbish on ethics and morality.


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#8 HelenVJ

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 14:22

Yes, private teaching is still an unregulated profession, so the onus is on parents to do at least a minimal amount of research as to the prospective teacher's experience, training and qualifications. It sounds as though this wasn't done in tangerine's case. Also any teacher working in a school will have an up to date DBS clearance, so this could provide some level of reassurance. And of course, as has been mentioned, a DBS piece of paper by itself proves absolutely nothing.


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#9 Dorcas

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 14:49

I have recently had to report a case of grooming to social services and I am very concerned that our profession as private music teachers continues to remain unregulated. For obvious reasons, I can't go into details, but the young person concerned is being groomed by a young music "teacher" who has no formal qualifications or training and has a suspected history of previous abuse (having changed their name after the previous incident). 

 

I teach the young person about whom I am concerned, but it was their friend's mother who reported serious concerns to me. Fortunately I work in school as well as at home, so I've had plenty of safeguarding training as well as background checks, and therefore took the necessary actions after consultation with a couple of colleagues.

 

Why is it that in this day and age of tighter and tighter child protection regulations that anyone can set up as a private teacher without any background checks? Children can be taken into their homes and left there without supervision, thus being placed in a very vulnerable situation. 

 

Fortunately social services took the concerns seriously and are investigating, but they too seemed unaware (and rather shocked) that our profession is unregulated. I am prepared to take this further and will be contacting my local MP about it (whoever it may be in a couple of weeks!) as I feel there is a massive safeguarding loophole here. Of course, it doesn't just apply to private music teachers, but to any private tutor.

 

Licenced teachers have also been known to go too far, and lose their jobs.  It is also just a suspicion, and could be unfounded.


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#10 ma non troppo

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 16:01

I'd agree that it would be pointless and unviable to regulate our profession. And yes, with private tuition it is up to the parents or guardians to do their homework and follow their gut instinct.


We're not brain surgeons; lives are not at stake with regards to our expertise or otherwise. If you're not good you won't keep and get pupils - word soon gets around.

I don't know how you guard against abuse, other than being vigilant and taking appropriate action when you see something untoward. All the checks in the world may not catch a paedophile - they are often very crafty.
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#11 BadStrad

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 16:18

All the checks in the world may not catch a paedophile - they are often very crafty.

Exactly. As a pyschologist friend once commented, "serial killers don't get to be 'serial' if they can't blend in."
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#12 RPassacaglia

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 10:54

As others have said, it would be pointless and ineffective, and it’s not like we don’t already have enough red tape and expense as freelancers to deal with. All the scandals I’ve known about in the area where I went to school as a child have involved school teachers and their pupils, rather than private tutors. I would have thought the situation with private tutors was ideal because the parents are always able to sit in on the lesson and see exactly what is going on. When I teach children in my home, the parents are always there. When I teach in pupils’ homes, again the parents are there. I can’t see the problem unless the parent chooses to leave the child alone with the tutor, which is a bit silly if they haven’t done any background checks and don’t know the tutor.

Edit: I am a member of a professional body which does require background checks and I advertise that fact, so parents can always choose whether to go with a tutor with background checks or one without. Or as I said above, just sit in on the lessons.
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#13 Dorcas

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 11:50

As others have said, it would be pointless and ineffective, and it’s not like we don’t already have enough red tape and expense as freelancers to deal with. All the scandals I’ve known about in the area where I went to school as a child have involved school teachers and their pupils, rather than private tutors. I would have thought the situation with private tutors was ideal because the parents are always able to sit in on the lesson and see exactly what is going on. When I teach children in my home, the parents are always there. When I teach in pupils’ homes, again the parents are there. I can’t see the problem unless the parent chooses to leave the child alone with the tutor, which is a bit silly if they haven’t done any background checks and don’t know the tutor.

Edit: I am a member of a professional body which does require background checks and I advertise that fact, so parents can always choose whether to go with a tutor with background checks or one without. Or as I said above, just sit in on the lessons.

 

Well said.  EPTA and other professional bodies like the MU and ISM, and there will be others, offer DBS checks.   


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#14 Piano Meg

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 16:49

I agree with all that's been said about the problems with regulation.

 

But I do think there's a problem, in that some (maybe most) parents wrongly assume that there is regulation. And, in the current climate, maybe that's a fair assumption. When I've told friends that there's no regulation in music teaching, they've been surprised, and I've certainly been astonished by a few parents who meet me once, then drop off their 6 year old for a lesson (essentially with a stranger they found on the internet!) and drive away for the duration. No new pupil has ever asked to see my DBS (or CRB before it), and only one parent has ever asked me for a reference.

 

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I do think parents need to be educated on the lack of regulation, so they know to take precautions. Musicteachers.co.uk is quite good in that it now shows verified qualifications and memberships (and for free too - well done, them - perhaps to avoid responsibility for any false advertising) - I can't remember if they verify DBS as well or not. But maybe we need to consider other ways to get the message out there.


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#15 BadStrad

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 17:47

Given the number of times the lack of regulation seems to come up in the media, I'm surprised anyone thinks that it exists.
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