NSPCC: Private tutors should be subject to more rigorous vetting

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As the new school year approaches we know that many parents will be considering private, independent tuition to supplement their child’s education.

But as parents search for private tutors NSPCC Northern Ireland believes they should be aware that vetting standards which apply to school teachers and other professionals do not currently apply to independent tutors.

Tutors supplied by a reputable agency are often subject to criminal record checks by their employer. However the same level of checking is not routinely undertaken when self-employed tutors are directly engaged by parents.

This is in stark contrast to employees such as accountants, vets and also traffic wardens, whose work does not directly involve children but who still require a basic background check on entry into their various professions.

It is absurd that you need a basic criminal record check to issue a parking fine, manage finances, or treat animals, but not to work with children as a self-employed tutor in private settings where children are inherently vulnerable.

Children have a right to be educated in safety and parents need to know that every care has been taken to ensure that predators cannot practise as private tutors.

In the absence of statutory requirements, the NSPCC has issued advice and guidelines for parents.

• We recommend that parents take these steps to check that tutors are suitable.

• use tutors obtained through reputable agencies and ask if background checks have been undertaken; or

• carry out their own reference checks and speak to previous employers;

• interview prospective tutors to satisfy themselves that any risk to their children is minimised.

Parents should also make sure that their children understand how to keep themselves safe from abuse, for example by teaching them the “PANTS” rules. More detailed advice is available at nspcc.org.uk where you can see our new and well-received Pantosaurus video. This special resource helps facilitate the discussions on safeguarding that all parents need to have with their children.

Our NSPCC Helpline is, as always, available on 0808 500 8000 to advise parents and others who have concerns.

Neil Anderson, National Head, NSPCC Northern Ireland