Being a tutor is a privileged position. You are invited into someone’s home or teach in your own home. Unlike school settings, with clear policies and guidance to follow, you are made vulnerable by working alone with a child. As a tutor, there are easy ways that you can make yourself as safe as possible when working with your students.
What is Safeguarding?
Safeguarding has evolved from traditional child protection. It encompasses all the ways that children and vulnerable adults can be protected to live free from neglect, harm and abuse.
Abuse can take many forms and is often hidden from sight.
Types of Abuse
· Neglect: Not meeting a child’s physical and emotional needs that affect the child’s health or development.
· Grooming: Building a connection with a child or young person for the purpose of abuse or exploitation.
· Extremism: Active opposition to the rule of law and fundamental human rights.
· Sexual Abuse: Sexual activities with a child under the age of sixteen or with an adult who has not given informed consent.
· Emotional Abuse: Ill-treatment of a child causing damage to their emotional development.
· Physical Abuse: Physical injury to a child or not preventing injuries from occurring.
· Self-abuse: Ways a young person tries to hurt themselves.
Safeguarding became big news in 2002 with the Joint Chief Inspectors’ Safeguarding Children Report and then with the Victoria Climbié Inquiry (2003) after an eight-year-old girl was tortured and murdered by her guardians.
Shocking cases from the death of abused 17-month-old Peter Connelly (Known as ‘Baby P’) in 2007, to the ongoing independent review of historic child sexual abuse allegations in football, have made safeguarding of vital importance to everyone working with children and vulnerable people.
Simple Steps for Safe Tuition
What seems like a friendly hug or an innocent game may not be received in the manner you intended. It is your responsibility to establish clear boundaries and make simple adjustments for your own and your students’ safety.
1: Avoid Being Alone
When working in the family home, keep doors open between rooms and ask for an adult to stay within earshot of your tuition session. If you tutor in your own house, you could have a place for the parent to wait whilst their child is with you.
2: Establish Boundaries
Talk openly to your students about how they should behave towards you. Whilst you are not their schoolteacher, you are also not their friend. Remind them what is and is not appropriate when you need to.
If you are uncomfortable about how a student is behaving towards you, speak to their parents about what you feel needs to change. Be clear and precise, offering practical suggestions.
3: Maintain Personal Space
Maintain a distance between you and your student when you are working together. Avoid ‘trapping’ them into a corner as this will make them feel uncomfortable working with you. Allow them space next to you that you do not move into.
Avoid touching your students unless socially appropriate (such as high-fives and handshakes for fantastic work).
4: Don’t Keep Secrets
Be open with your students to make sure they know everything they tell you will be discussed with their parents. Don’t fall into the trap of knowing something and keeping it a secret for them, even if it seems innocent. Encourage your students to talk about school and friendship problems with their parents, rather than you.
5: Keep to Topic
It is easy to get side-tracked from your planned lesson and discuss your student’s everyday life. Allocate a short time at the beginning of your lesson to discuss their news from the week. Keep to safe topics and get your lesson back to learning as soon as possible.
6: Put it in Writing
You may feel more comfortable putting a simple agreement in writing to share with families about the working relationship between you and your student. This can be a helpful way of approaching safeguarding to prevent any problem before it arises. You could include a list of simple requests that will ensure safety.
7: Communicate Safely
Check your security settings on social media channels to check that your account is private. It is advisable to refuse friendship requests from students online.
Keep your communication to parents only and do not contact your students through social media channels. Ever give a student your phone number or email address.
8: Only Meet During Tutoring Sessions
Tutoring sessions should be agreed upon by you and parents, taking place in an agreed location. Do not arrange to meet a student outside of these agreed sessions.
Do I need a DBS check to be a tutor?
You can apply for a basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, for a fee, to check your criminal record.
Some families may feel more comfortable knowing that a tutor has been checked for recent convictions or only choose tutors with a DBS check but it is your decision whether you feel this will benefit you.
I’m worried about a child, what do I do?
Tutors get a unique insight into the way families work. You could see something in a child or parent’s behaviour that worries you, so it is important that you know what to do if you feel a child is at risk.
It is uncomfortable to think about children being in danger, but sadly estimates by the NSPCC suggest that 1 in 5 children have experienced severe maltreatment.
If a child confides something to you that makes you feel that they might be at risk of harm, look for guidance from Citizen’s Advice or the NSPCC. Remember that it is rare for a child to lie about such things and you mustn’t wait until you are certain. If you feel a child is in immediate danger, call 999 or the NSPCC hotline.
Stay Safe as a Tutor
· Keep doors open
· Have an adult within earshot
· Maintain personal space
· Be open and honest
· Keep privacy settings high on social media
· Communicate with parents
· Meet in an agreed location
· Be clear about safeguarding
· Trapping a child into a corner
· Physical contact
· Keeping secrets
· Contacting students on social media
· Meeting outside of tutoring sessions
· Giving out a personal phone number and email address to students
Tutors have the unique opportunity to form close relationships with their students. Simple steps are effective in ensuring everyone’s safety. Think about the changes you could make to your sessions to promote the safeguarding of your students.
Do you have any safeguarding tips from your own experience as a tutor?