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HMS guidance for COVID safe music making in schools 

Updated: 25/08/2021

This HMS guidance approved by the County Council Health and Safety team is based on information found in the following guidance and information: 

In addition, Music Mark have updated their Music Unlocked guidance which schools and instrumental teachers may find useful.

The government has moved the country to Step 4 of the roadmap which means moving away from stringent restrictions on everyone’s day-to-day lives, towards advising people on how to protect themselves and others, alongside targeted interventions to reduce risk.  

As COVID-19 becomes a virus that we learn to live with, HMS will continue to prioritise the safety of its staff, pupils and their families whilst reducing the disruption to children and young people’s musical education. 

This guidance explains how we plan to safely deliver music tuition in schools from September 2021 whilst reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  

An updated generic HMS risk assessment for music teaching in schools is available to download, just for your own reference and/or your records. You must still maintain your own school risk assessment for music tuition at your venue. 

Regular testing

HMS teachers and staff will be advised to continue to participate in the asymptomatic testing (LFD) programme with twice weekly home tests per week. This will be reviewed at the end of September as advised by central government in the schools guidance. 

Any staff member with a positive LFD test will self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. They will also get a PCR test to check if they have COVID-19. 

Where the confirmatory PCR test is taken within 2 days of the positive LDF test and is negative, it will override the LFD test result and the staff member will be able to return to teaching in schools as long as they don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms. 

Ventilation

Having sufficient space for any musical activity and ventilating it well remain the top two mitigations against transmission of Covid-19 and the more aerosol is created by any activity, the more important both become. 

Allowing more space between participants enables larger droplets to fall safely to the floor but crucially, it also allows aerosol to spread and dilute in the air in the room before another person breathes it in. 

When your school is in operation, it is important to ensure it is well ventilated and that a comfortable teaching environment is maintained.

We ask that schools identify any poorly ventilated music teaching spaces as part of their risk assessment and take steps to improve fresh air flow in these areas. 

HMS advises its teachers not to teach in any room with no ventilation - a suitable alternative teaching space should be provided in these circumstances.

Minimum ventilation should be agreed with the school as part of the site risk assessment; however, a basic guide of adequate ventilation would be a room with natural ventilation (open window and door) or mechanical ventilation (but not systems that simply recirculate the same air in the room). 

Mechanical ventilation is a system that uses a fan to draw fresh air or extract air from a room. These should be adjusted to increase the ventilation rate wherever possible and checked to confirm that normal operation meets current guidance and that only fresh outside air is circulated. 

If possible, systems should be adjusted to full fresh air or, if this is not possible, then systems should be operated as normal as long as they are within a single room and supplemented by an outdoor air supply. 

Where mechanical ventilation systems exist, schools should ensure that they are maintained in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations.

Opening external windows can improve natural ventilation, and in addition, opening internal doors can also assist with creating a throughput of air. If necessary, external opening doors may also be used (if they are not fire doors and where safe to do so). 

Consideration should be given to balance the need for increased ventilation while maintaining a comfortable temperature. 

Singing

Whilst there are no longer any restrictions on singing in schools, singing should still favour quality of sound and quieter singing which would generate fewer airborne particles.

You may also wish to limit the duration of singing sessions and not over-emphasise diction.

Close contacts and isolation

HMS teachers will self-isolate straight away and get a PCR test (a test that is sent to the lab) on GOV.UK as soon as possible if they have any of these 3 symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

They will also self-isolate straight away if:

  • they've tested positive for COVID-19 – this means they have the virus
  • someone they live with has symptoms or tested positive, or NHS Test and Trace contacts them as a close contact (unless they are not required to self-isolate as they are fully vaccinated or not able to be vaccinated for medical reasons)

From 16 August 2021, school age children and fully vaccinated individuals (those who have received 2 doses of a COVID vaccine) will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

Young people and double vaccinated individuals identified as close contacts will continue to be advised to take a PCR test. HMS fully supports this approach and strongly advises its staff to take a PCR test if contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact.

All teachers who test positive following a PCR test will still be legally required to self-isolate, irrespective of their vaccination status.

Any teacher who is not fully vaccinated but has been informed they’re a close contact will only self-isolate if contacted by NHS Test and Trace. They will be advised to get a PCR test in this case.

All teachers who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive COVID-19 case will be advised to:

  • let anyone they have been in close contact with in the past 48 hours know that they might have COVID-19 – this might involve them contacting your school to inform any pupils
  • get a PCR test and/or continue to take part in the regular LFD testing programme

COVID-19 symptoms that develop before a teacher leaves home to teach

All HMS teachers are aware of what COVID-19 symptoms to look out for including a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. HMS expect that schools will reinforce this message at their sites. 

If any HMS teacher develops a COVID-19 symptom, they will self-isolate immediately, inform the school/s they teach at and HMS of the situation and follow the public health advice on testing and self-isolation. 

If self-isolation is required, and the symptoms are mild, the teacher may wish to deliver lessons online (where possible) or may reschedule the lessons later in the academic year. A credit will be given to the pupil/school if any missed lessons are not rescheduled due to teacher absence. 

COVID-19 symptoms that develop whilst at a school or centre

If a teacher develops any COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, whilst at a school site, they will advise a contact at the school that they are going home immediately. HMS teachers in this situation will take care to minimise walking through the school and maintain 2m social distancing from all other people.

If self-isolation is required, and the symptoms are mild, the teacher may wish to deliver lessons online (where possible) or may reschedule the lessons later in the academic year. A credit will be given to the pupil/school if any missed lessons are not rescheduled due to teacher absence. 

Hygiene and cleaning

Frequent and thorough hand cleaning should now be regular practice by all HMS teachers. Our staff will continue to ask that pupils clean their hands before and after any music lesson with soap and water or hand sanitiser. 

All HMS teachers are reminded to follow the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach to coughs and sneezes, especially as we near the winter flu season. 

Teachers have been advised to put in place and maintain an appropriate cleaning schedule. This should include regular cleaning of areas and equipment (for example, twice per day), with a particular focus on frequently touched surfaces e.g. door handles and music stands. All HMS teachers have been provided with wipes to complete this task although we ask that schools support this measure by providing additional cleaning materials where possible. 

Any shared equipment (e.g. drumsticks, kits or piano keyboards) should be cleaned between students, using basic detergent wipes or sprays. 

Staff and pupils will use their own instruments in schools, with the exception of drums, percussion and keyboards. Drummers will use their own drumsticks. 

Staff will wipe down their instrument, stand any other equipment using disinfectant wipes or soapy water before and after lessons.  Pupils will be asked to do the same. 

At the end of the session, teachers will wipe down all equipment and also the teaching room’s door handle and light switch. 
Staff should wash hands before and after handling any pupil instruments when tuning them or writing in a practice book, where this is required. 

Social distancing

Whilst all social distancing guidance has been removed in Step 4, HMS are advising teachers to keep a minimum distance of 1m in spaces where adequate ventilation can be achieved, although a 2m distance is better, just to be safe. 

There is usually no particular reason to be closer than 2m to a pupil in most teaching situations. 

Teachers are no longer advised to use a screen between them and any pupils, however HMS supports any teacher who wishes to continue to use a screen, especially woodwind, voice and brass teachers. 

Face coverings

Face coverings are no longer advised for pupils, staff and visitors either in classrooms or in communal areas. 

The government has removed the requirement to wear face coverings in law but expects and recommends that they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where you may come into contact with people you don’t normally meet.  

Teachers will liaise with schools on face covering guidance in corridors etc. however HMS recommends that peripatetic staff moving between schools continue to wear a face covering in communal areas where social distancing is more difficult. 

HMS does not advise its staff to wear face coverings in lessons, provided adequate ventilation and a sensible distance between teacher and pupil can be achieved.

Teachers are asked to remain aware that as part of any outbreak management plan, face coverings may be reintroduced for a temporary period where advised by a director of public health. 

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable staff

Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people are advised, as a minimum, to follow the same guidance as everyone else. It is important that everyone adheres to this guidance, but CEV people may wish to think particularly carefully about the additional precautions they can continue to take. 

HMS staff who are CEV will be invited to review their individual risk assessment and have a 1:1 meeting with their HMS Performance Manager/Line Manager to discuss their return to work in September and safe working practices where necessary. Support will be discussed and provided by HMS. 

Staff are encouraged to raise any concerns with their Line Manager.

Additional advice on supporting CEV staff is available on the Govenment website here.

Bubbles

Teachers are aware that as part of any outbreak management plan, ‘bubbles’ may be reintroduced for a temporary period where advised by a director of public health.

Teaching in large groups

As social distancing rules and the use of bubbles in schools has been removed, there are no longer any restrictions on the number of pupils that can take part in group lessons or which pupils can take part in any session. In cases of local outbreaks, some restrictions may be temporarily reintroduced as a last resort. 

Teachers are advised to consider the number of pupils in a room with reference to the ventilation of the space, sensible distancing between pupils and ensuring pupils continue to practice good personal hygiene. 

Sharing instruments

Avoid sharing instruments and equipment wherever possible - name labels can be used on equipment to help identify the designated user, for example, a violin case or Djembe drum. 

Sharing of woodwind / brass instruments must not take place, including using a different mouthpiece on the same brass instrument. 

Sets of ‘non-blown’ instruments (e.g. violin, cello, guitar, djembe etc.) can be used by another class, as long as they are cleaned appropriately before and after use, preferably by the pupil using the instrument. 

Performances

Performances are now able to go ahead. Please refer to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport guidance for creating COVID safe performance opportunities at your school. 

Mitigations and Control Measures

In addition to the use of measures outlined above, the following measures are effective in reducing transmission risk: 

  • Limiting numbers of participants;  
  • Setting up rehearsal spaces before participants arrive;  
  • Setting up ensembles to allow more space between players/desks;  
  • Playing one to a stand;  
  • Managing arrival and departure times and breaks to limit mingling;  
  • Issuing copies of music to individuals to reduce parts being handed around;  
  • Shorter sessions between ventilation breaks;  
  • Keeping the volume down when playing blown instruments or singing;  
  • Not insisting on music theatre levels of diction when singing;  
  • The group leader using a microphone to avoid shouting to be heard;  
  • Enhanced cleaning of the venue and equipment;  
  • Frequent hand washing and use of viricidal hand gels. 

It is unlikely that you would ever apply all these measures to an activity. The mix of mitigations will depend on the circumstances of each activity. It may also change over time, depending on the prevalence of infections in the local area and the perception of the underlying risk. 

Instrument specific cleaning guidance

All instruments present a risk of contact transmission.

This is similar to the risk of transmission via door handles, handrails etc around the school. Instruments that are only used by one person should be cleaned as usual but with additional care.

If instruments are used by more than one person (e.g. classroom percussion) or taken in and reallocated (e.g. at the end of a whole-class programme or hire period), meticulous cleaning is called for. 

Some processes described here are not intended to be taught to or carried out by pupils. Not all will be practical or even desirable every time an instrument is played.

The guidance is written with normal school and student instruments in mind. It is not intended for higher quality or antique instruments. 

More detailed guidance on cleaning instruments can be found on the Incorporated Society of Musicians website.

Woodwind and Brass

Disinfectant wipes and/or sprays are effective but bear in mind that most instruments contain multiple materials. Some disinfectant products will damage the pads of woodwind instruments and varnished or polished finishes. Hot, soapy water is just as effective as disinfectant wipes.

Instruments or parts of instruments made entirely from plastic may be submersed.  The same applies to brass instruments but take the valves out first and set them aside. Recorders can even be cleaned in the dishwasher in the top rack.  

Do not immerse or soak woodwind instruments with cork joints or with keywork as it may damage pads: this includes flute head joints, as it will damage the handcrafter playing, woodwind instruments should at minimum be dried in and out with swabs or pull-throughs to limit microbial growth.  

Fully drying even small brass instruments is not practical but it is extremely important to clean the mouthpiece using an appropriately sized mouthpiece brush, to ensure that all dirt and debris are removed.  

Piano

Piano keyboards must be cleaned before and after each use. Plastic piano and electronic keyboards can be sanitised with disinfectant wipes (unplug electronic equipment first).

Do not spray them as residues may harm key mechanisms. It is a good idea to dry keys off afterwards. Ivory keys will be damaged by most disinfectant products.

Clean them with a cloth dipped in soapy water and wrung out; leave the residue on for thirty seconds and wipe with a dry cloth. 

Drums

Handles and straps of percussion instruments and beaters should be wiped similarly. Primary school percussion trolleys may not be practical for now unless all instruments and the trolley can be cleaned after each use.

Instruments might be allocated to classes or set aside for 72 hours between uses to avoid cross-contamination. Schools will need to respond according to their stocks, circumstances and needs.  

Strings / guitar

For wooden instruments, follow manufacturers’ instructions or test your cleaning product on an inconspicuous surface. You may want to wipe the chinrests of violins or violas, but it probably is not necessary (pure sweat is not thought to carry viruses). The neck and fingerboard and the lower end of the bow of all bowed strings may also be wiped. 

Music Tech

Knobs, buttons, sliders etc on ICT equipment, amplifiers, backlines, CD/MP3 players and so forth should be wiped with antiseptic wipes. Do not use sprays or soaked cloths, to avoid liquids getting inside equipment.  

Areas such as the home button on iPads and the mesh of microphones are particularly bad for harbouring microbes. As prevention is better than cure, using a pop screen with microphones will reduce contamination.  Always unplug equipment from the mains before cleaning. 

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