Since most state schools closed their doors to students in the middle of March, the demand for home learning has boomed. Many parents are juggling full-time work with trying to educate their children and are facing the prospect of children not being back in school until September. It’s therefore hardly surprising that websites offering online tutoring at all levels from Reception through to A-level have seen a huge spike in interest.
Website Safety Concerns
Concerns have been raised about children’s safety when parents engage the services of an online tutor. By law, anyone who wants to work in a school as a teacher, teaching assistant or even in the school office needs a DBS check. These checks are seen as legally essential to safeguard children and stop people with an extensive criminal past from being employed in the school system. However, the same rules do not apply to private tutors or tuition services. This is true whether a child is seeing the tutor in the child’s home, the tutor’s home, a third space or over the internet.
Of course, many teachers boost their income by working as private tutors in the evening or at weekends. These people will have a DBS check through their main job, and there is no risk of them working with children in an online setting. There is a loophole around other people offering tutoring services without any checking whatsoever. There are increasing calls from professional bodies and parents to close the loophole as soon as possible.
These issues don’t just affect parents in the UK. Parents across Europe have been adjusting to home schooling their children too. Europol, the agency which oversees policing across the EU, has flagged up figures which show an increase in activity by people searching for child abuse images and material during the coronavirus epidemic. The executive director of the organisation has highlighted online learning platforms, and unregulated tutors as one of the areas of most concern.
Lack of Regulation
The issue has highlighted a mismatch in the law in the UK. In most cases, teaching children falls under the banner of “regulated activity”, as defined under Child Protection law. Anyone engaging in that regulated activity by applying for a job as a teacher or nursery worker, has to obtain an enhanced DBS certificate. However, the private tuition industry is not regulated in the same way, meaning that agencies are unable to demand that tutors get an enhanced DBS. Tutors who are operating independently are unable to obtain enhanced DBS certificates too. Tutors can apply for a basic DBS Check, but these certificates show a lesser level of detail.
As a parent, the most sensible advice is to be aware of the lack of regulation in the tutoring industry, and to be aware of the issues around DBS certificates, or the lack of them. It’s probably better to use a teacher working part time as a tutor if you can. If not, parents can take sensible precautions such remaining in the room with the child for online sessions or tutoring in a kitchen or dining room rather than a bedroom.