Private Music Teacher Support is a new series of articles to help the private music teacher.
Finances, insurance, child protection and connections.
Working as a self-employed musician from your own home has many obvious advantages but can be lonely. Though it is wonderful not to have to travel to work and terrific to use your own equipment and facilities, welcoming pupils into your music room, it is important that financial safe-guarding and administrative precautions and procedures are set-up securely in advance of lessons so that music making can proceed calmly, enjoyably, and efficiently.
This new series of articles is designed to offer supportive suggestions and ideas which could be helpful to private teachers who may feel that the isolation and lack of daily face to face contact with like-minded colleagues can at times make them vulnerable.
Public Liability Insurance
Many teachers may well wonder why they need public liability insurance at all. After all, the chances of accidents happen are limited, aren’t they? I have found that students in particular can be rather blasé about the whole thing- especially if they only teach one or two students. But the truth is that accidents can and do happen.
What if you spill hot coffee on a child’s hand and cause a burn? What if a student trips over a computer cable at your desk next to the piano? Children in particular can be less aware of domestic furniture in settings away from their family homes, and we need to be prepared for the unexpected…
We live in a constantly changing world with all kinds of potential hazards, and though it would be wrong to assume the worst will happen, music teachers owe it to themselves to set up effective protection that ensures financial security if accidents with pupil (Heaven forbid) happen in your home. Well-known piano teacher Susan Bettaney is very clear about how important this is:
‘From past experience, I strongly recommend taking out Public Liability
Insurance. It gives vital protection against any accidents to visitors while
on your property which could prove very stressful and costly. We need peace
of mind these days!’
Photo: Susan Bettaney
Paying annually for insurance is one of the first things we should do as private tutors working in our own home. Having done quite a bit of research into costs, it has been gratifying to discover Insure4Music, a company that offers direct support to private music teachers for as little as £21.60 per annum. This is for professional indemnity cover of £1 Million (you can pay a little more for cover up to £4 or even £5 Million).
I phoned up the customer service team on 08000 469 859 and was told that the cover had covered me wherever I may travel within the UK. For the payment of an additional 66p per annum the cover would be extended to cover me anywhere in the world. Service was friendly, efficient, and within five minutes of the call I received a detailed quote via email.
Though many colleagues already have public liability insurance via other means and companies, I cannot recommend www.insure4music.co.uk too highly. The whole procedure lasted less than six minutes on the phone- a small amount of time for reassurance and security that no private teacher can surely afford to set up.
Of course, there are other insurance policies that have to be considered by music teachers too. Insure4Music offers good deals, but, as with anything else, individuals are advised to do research, shop around and come to their own conclusions. When arranging a home insurance, mention that you are working from home as a piano teacher. Ask if the insurance is more expensive and what is the amount. Claim premium amount of the home insurance if working from home
Teachers working alone should look into professional indemnity insurance as well as business interruption, contents, portable equipment, buildings, employers liability (if you are running a tutoring business or employ others) and personal accident insurance. Space forbids more than a brief summary of each:
Professional indemnity insurance
Though we may consider it paranoid to imagine a parent dis-satisfied with the exam mark their child achieves after private lessons with you, there is no doubt that professional work nowadays is far more heavily scrutinised than ever before. Perhaps the fashion for blaming teachers when expectations are not met has stemmed from across the Atlantic, where a tradition for suing individuals has long been in place?
Certainly, it is all too easy for busy self-employed private teachers to forget to check changes to scale requirements for grade exams, or even to present the wrong repertoire for a competition. Having a professional at the ready to support you in these circumstances- i.e., a solicitor – could well prove beneficial.
Maybe all teachers should estimate what the very worst scenario could be in these circumstances, then take out insurance accordingly. Even though we may scoff at the apparent trivial nature of forgetting to check an update exam syllabus, there is no question that it only takes one individual parent to threaten legal action for trouble to ensue.
Of course, claims of this nature will almost certainly prove to be totally unjustified, but that is beside the point: the accusations made against you will need to be fought, and it is simply much cheaper and less time consuming to have an insurance policy in place than to have to work though lawyers.
Business interruption insurance
It only takes a burst pipe or a failed boiler for your home studio to be temporarily out of action. This could mean having to find and pay for alternative facilities in order to avoid cancelling lessons- something with potentially serious financial implications. It may be beneficial for you to have insurance cover in place to make up for loss of revenue that could ensue whilst you are trying to find somewhere else to teach.
Of course, this is far more generic cover that will be familiar to the general public as well as music teachers, but for the latter it has to include not only lost and stolen goods but also repairs to our instruments, recording equipment and computers. A word of warning though in advance- colleagues have found it quite challenging at times to get this for working at home. Worth being patient and taking time to survey the market widely for suitable options.
Portable equipment insurance
This is especially important for private teachers who travel into students’ homes and of course includes not only any instruments that may be carried but also mobiles, laptops, iPad and so on.
As mentioned under business interruption above, we never know when damage to the room we teach in may occur. One of my colleagues was horrified a few years back to enter his music room first thing in the morning and find that the ceiling had collapsed onto his precious model A Steinway, not only completely destroying it in the process but also making it impossible for the room to be used for that day (and indeed that month’s) heavy schedule of teaching. Buildings insurance pays the repair and rebuilding costs if the place you teach in is damaged by accident, flood, or fire.
Employers liability insurance
If you are employ others or run a tutoring business this cover is required by law. It is also invaluable if an employee says working for you made them ill or caused them injury. Enough said.
Personal accident insurance
Though there are obviously many benefits to being self-employed and working from home, one of the major disadvantages is vulnerability when illness or injury strikes. It is important to have cover in place so that compensation and even medial bills can help you survive when times become challenging.