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Important documents for singing teachers

Five documents every singing teacher needs

Your singing studio is most likely equipped with all the vocal props you need to do your job. But do you have the right paperwork to protect you and your business if something goes wrong? ALEXA TERRY looks at five essential documents vocal coaches should have on file.

1 Public liability insurance

Imagine this: Little Tommy Tompsett’s lesson finishes and his dad arrives to collect him. When Mr Tompsett steps inside your studio, he trips on a microphone cord and falls, breaking his ankle.

While public liability insurance is not a legal requirement, it would helpfully cover costs if Mr Tompsett makes a legal claim against you.

Public liability insurance is available from many providers and associations. Both the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and the Musicians’ Union (MU) offer public liability insurance as part of their subscription packages, providing coverage of up to £10 million.

2 Professional indemnity

Professional indemnity insurance covers you in the event of an accusation of negligence or irresponsible behaviour. For example, despite your best efforts in class, Tommy Tompsett (him again) fails his Grade 4 singing exam.

Upon receiving the results, Mrs Tompsett claims he was ill-prepared and decides to initiate legal action against you. The MU provides members with public indemnity cover of up to £1 million. The ISM, in partnership with the Alan Boswell Group, provides members with similar cover for an annual fee of £58.

3 Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

The DBS is a safeguarding process that helps protect vulnerable groups from unsuitable parties. Having a DBS certificate is not a legal requirement but it is a mark of professionalism (one that will particularly reassure the parents of younger students).

There are three different types of DBS checks.

  • Basic: Anyone can request and pay for a basic DBS certificate. The information on the basic DBS is limited and shows any current, unspent criminal offences.
  • Standard: A standard DBS certificate contains more information than the basic version. It is usually requested by an employer as part of the hiring process. An individual cannot request a standard DBS for themselves.
  • Enhanced: The enhanced DBS is usually requested for those working with children or vulnerable adults and is the most detailed of the three levels. Again, only an employer can request this enhanced check.

For the self-employed singing teacher, a basic certificate is better than nothing. However, there are ways those who work with younger singers and vulnerable adults can obtain an enhanced DBS. Teachers can ask their local council to request it on their behalf. Alternatively, ISM offers this service for their members for a fee of about £60.

The DBS has an Update Service whereby standard and enhanced certificates can be kept up-to-date for an annual fee of £13. It is possible to transfer certificates from one role to another if you are moving “within the same workforce, and where the same type and level of certificate is required” (source:

4  Information Commissioner’s Office Certificate (ICO)

Singing teachers process personal client information such as contact details, medical histories and video recordings of lessons.

It is important for teachers to notify clients of what information they collect and their intentions for recording it (this is best done through a privacy policy). For more on how to audit data and what to include in a privacy policy, check out ISM’s checklist.

Organisations that exercise such data processing are required by law to pay an annual data protection fee to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Singing teachers can expect to pay around £40 to £60 (this is tax-deductible). If you are unsure if this applies to you, take this five-minute questionnaire.

5 First Aid

It’s beneficial for singing teachers to know how to respond if there is an emergency in the studio – just think of Mr Tompsett with his broken ankle.

St John’s Ambulance runs an Emergency First Aid at Work course covering resuscitation, choking and seizures. A one-day course costs about £150.

Vocal coaches may also find mental health first aid training valuable. Both St John’s Ambulance and Applause for Thought provide training on this (read our review of their Mental Health Awareness course here.)

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